Thursday, March 11, 2010

Clip Show

I've been getting some positive feedback on the last Rolling Stones post, although I was unsure of the actual execution of the writing.  I feel as though the actual point may have gotten away from me.  I actually do love the Rolling Stones as I hope the energy (maybe force?) of the writing may have shown.  I have absolutely been on a thread of writing about time, youth and embracing age and the moment recently.  I am trying to figure out where this is going to take me as I'm also sketching out the humble beginnings of this new story I'm working on.  It has taken the shape and design of a novel-sized story, but we will see where it goes to.  Anyway, no use explaining anything, that's not what writing is about - it's about the objects and the writing itself.

This space was mainly to serve as a clip show for the music writing I have done so far in light of the insane, off the charts compliments I have gotten for that bit of writing I posted last night.  So, to recap, the following artists have had their heads on the guillotine on the blog:

Bob Dylan

Van Morrison

The Rolling Stones

The Walkmen

Beach House

Talk Talk

Animal Collective

Gene Clark


Paul McCartney

Not a bad assembly of names, reviews and dissections there.  I am going to continue on with these digressions into music writing, yet I will always give you that sports and nonsese balance. I promise.  If it doesn't rain out this weekend, video footage will be shot and soon shared - I swear.  Anyway, some upcoming music topics: John Phillips' John the Wolfking of LA, Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago, Fleetwood Mac Tusk, The Strokes vs. The White Stripes: Whereforearthou 2001?, and Beck's Mutations.

Finally, please visit this man's Youtube videos as he is able to capture some of the madness and he is also one of my dear friends.

Always new content.

Now, the next installment of From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt:

“Dad,” James said. “It’s your turn.”

Ben O’Donnell smoothed back his hair.  He always enjoyed the thrust that hair, when pushed back, gave to the palm of his hand.  He stretched his legs out and felt a pain underneath his ribcage.  One of the things he hated most about getting old was the disconnected pain.  Little things like that, although painful, amused him – even though he knew the human body in and out, in ways clinical and sexual, he still would never be able to explain why for some reason when he stretched his leg his chest hurt.
Ben stood. “Thanks for warming the crowd up.”

All four of his children and Eve looked at him.

“Bad timing.”

The thought of his brother standing at the back of the room gave Ben pause.  He did not look behind, however.  He pulled the lapels of his suit jacket, running his fingers – his thumb especially - along their smooth edge, and stepped forward.  His hands fell to a natural position by his waist and he locked them together.  Out of habit, he bowed his head.  A faint memory, something gold, touched the tip of his mind and he felt drawn to look at his brother.  However, he did not and kept walking toward the dead body of his wife.  When he reached the kneeler he crossed himself.  He almost smiled thinking how a motion, remembering a murder upon a solid piece of wood, felt so fluid and comfortable.  Ben O’Donnell then knelt.  He looked at his wife lying down in a strange new bed that he felt she would never have approved of and closed his eyes. After remaining in that position for a few moments, he rose to his feet.  He crossed himself again and stood looking at his wife’s dead body.  Then, Ben nodded his head, wished he had worn a hat and walked back to the seat he had been sitting in.  He felt the eyes of his children on him.  A flash from a night when he was younger came to him.  There was music and light, there were handsome faces, but nothing seemed definite to him.  A familiar dread rose in his stomach.  He pushed his hands into his pockets and appreciated the comfort and familiarity of the posture.  Ben sat back down in his chair and stretched his legs out once again, this time crossing them over each other – right over left.  He admired the shine on his pointed black shoes.  This time the back of his leg hurt.  This time he knew it was tightness in his calf.

Douglas Bryant’s hands were crossed behind his back right above his rear.  He pushed himself off the wall uncrossing his hands as he did so.   He placed his hands together and walked toward the front of the room.  As he walked, he thought about how strange it was that Ben O’Donnell knelt for such a short time.  It was well known that he adored Rose and always had.  If he hadn’t, he never would have stopped drinking the way he did – the way she wanted him to.  The fact that he knelt briefly added to the doubt Douglas Bryant had about Ben O’Donnell’s devotion to his late wife.  It surely would not have been her wish to defer from the traditional Catholic funeral ceremony.  It struck Douglas as a lack of planning and order.  He felt his hairline itch.  The air of carelessness that Ben O’Donnell had given off angered him.  How could so many people trust him as a doctor?  Douglas understood how they could trust Connor.  Connor was reserved, respectable, thoughtful and orderly.  But Ben, Ben was none of those things.  Perhaps if he had been any of those things he would not have killed Connor’s daughter.

Douglas Bryant shook his head.  He remembered that he was conducting business.  He faced those who remained and took a breath.

“We will now begin the procession to the place of rest.  Those of you who will be joining the procession, kindly exit out to the front. We will be bringing the casket out to the hearse.  You may follow the hearse once we have begun. Thank you.”

Douglas Bryant turned toward the O’Donnells.

“Ben, Tom, James. You three will help us carry the casket?”

James stood. “I don’t know if dad is feeling well enough.  He’s been a little sick.”

“I see,” Douglas Bryant said.

Ben stood up as well. “I’m fine.  I can carry a piece of wood.  I don’t know what you’re trying to say, Jimmy.”

“Ben,” Eve said, touching Ben’s hand. “James didn’t mean anything. You haven’t really been yourself is all.”

Douglas Bryant watched as Ben O’Donnell looked down at Eve.

“Thanks, darling.  But this is myself.  This is who I am.  And I am who she made me too.  I feel strong as ever.”

Douglas saw Ben squint at James O’Donnell, but he couldn’t help notice as Connor walked in their direction.  Connor pushed his greyish brown hair behind his ears as he approached.  Douglas always forgot how tall he was.  Connor stopped and stood next to Ben.  Ben looked behind him and saw Connor standing there.  Douglas Bryant felt the importance of the moment.  He watched as Ben switched his posture in relation to his brother.  He pulled the lapels of his jacket together and his chest seemed to get broader.  Connor had some strange power over Ben.

“I’ll help carry the casket, Ben,” Connor said.

Ben smiled. “You will, will you?”

“Yes, I will,” Connor said, pushing his hair behind his ears once again.

“Thank Erin for me,” Ben said.

“You can thank her later.” Connor turned his head in the direction of the casket.  “Let’s just carry on.”

“Yeah, sure,” Ben said and he looked at his children. “Are you all going to say hello to your Uncle Connor?”

All four children and Eve greeted him.  Douglas Bryant didn’t feel as though he belonged among them all; he felt as though he were intruding.  He hated to feel that way, he always wanted to be humble and cognizant of the boundaries and courtesies of any social interaction.  However, Douglas shook off his pride and humility because he knew that he had a job to do; he had to continue with the ceremony.

“Well,  Connor, thank you for offering your services.  Now if you will, whomever will be carrying the casket please follow me.”

Ben looked at each of his children.  He then turned and looked at his brother.  There was something in him that wanted to speak.  Ben felt the alcohol flush in his face and he thought of himself on the day he had let Lucy die.  It was the him from that day that wanted to speak.  That him had been muffled by years, memories, simple chores, the day to day difficulties of paying mortgages, college bills, insurance, remembering to eat fruits and vegetables  and keep his blood pressure low,  however, that him never ceased wanting to speak, to say that he’d loved Lucy like a daughter.  He’d loved her because she was his neice, because she had alluring blue eyes even for a child, because she had a small tight smile with white teeth, because she was just a little girl and he’d had two of his own and knew how weak his heart was against their beauty and charms.

“Well, there’s six of us here,” he said, looking at Connor. “Why don’t we all carry it.”

Connor pushed his hair back behind his ears and nodded.

“Very good.” Douglas Bryant  was pleased with the order and the way the number of people fell into place.  There had to be three pall bearers on e ach side. He almost smiled as he walked briskly over to the casket.  Douglas stepped onto the raised platform where the casket lay.  As he stood behind its open panels, he resumed an air of complete solemnity.  There was a familiar tingle throughout his body as he touched the panels.  There was something about the sensation that was reminiscent of self pity, however Douglas Bryant had always liked to think that it was an appreciation of the moment.  A taking in of the loss of life and the importance that the person in the casket once had.  Yet after so many years of seeing wakes and conducting them, there was something of a show in it no matter if anyone ever watched.  And Douglas Bryant enjoyed that, because he never had a chance to put on a show in any other avenue of his life.  So when he grew solemn and hung his head, touching the tarnished wood panels of a casket, the sensation inside was self pity.

Douglas shut the panels of the casket.

Liza saw the casket shut on her mother.  She felt scared for a moment that she wouldn’t see her mother’s face again.  However, she remembered her grandmother’s funeral.  There was a last chance to see the person before they were buried, at least in the only other ceremony she had seen  or remembered.  She wasn’t old enough to remember Lucy’s funeral.  What she did remember, was driving to her grandmother’s house during her eleventh summer to take her over for a day on the sound.  Her grandmother lived right on Shore Road looking at the harbor.  They pulled up to the house and there was a strong warm breeze blowing, the flag on the pole in the back of the house was flapping rapidly.  The shepard dogs from the house next door were running along the lawn and barking.  Liza had always wanted to go and play with those dogs, they looked so well behaved.

She followed her mother up to the back steps.  The wooden screen door was open.

“Mom,” Rose said.  As a child, Liza enjoyed to hear her mother say, “mom.”  It amused her to think that her own mother had a mother and that at one time her mother was a little girl too, who had to listen to her mother and who cared about silly things like doll hair and boys.  There was no answer, however, so they opened the door and walked into the kitchen.  The kitchen was in order as usual, there was a bowl of fruit on the table.

“Mom,” Rose repeated.  There was still no response so they walked into the main hallway. “Hello?”  Liza held her mother’s hand.  Her mother turned off into the parlor room with the windows that looked out onto the harbor and the boats that floated there.  When they walked into the parlor, Liza saw her grandmother laying on the sofa, her face was buried in the arm.

“Grandma?” Liza said.

“Shhh,” her mother said.

There was a tea set on the table in front of the sofa.  Three cups were set out, as well as the shining white teapot her grandmother always used, the one wit the big blue ribbon painted along the top of the pot.  One of the cups was filled with tea.  Rose went over to her mother and poked her gently.


Liza touched the teapot.  It was still slightly warm, like a roll in a bread basket at a restaurant that a child waits so earnestly for when she is out to dinner.  Liza looked up and her mother was kneeling next to the arm of the couch, where her grandmother’s face was now turned upwards.  Liza saw her grandmother’s eyes were closed, her mouth open.  Rose began to cry.

Liza touched the casket.  The wood was slick and cool.

“Alright everyone,” Douglas Bryant said. “Please line up on each side.  Let’s have two men and one woman on each side for symmetry.”

Ben frowned at Douglas Bryant.

“Yes, Connor and Ben you stand at the back of each side, then let’s have Liza and Maggie in the middle, with James and Thomas at the back.”

Liza stood behind James and in front of Uncle Connor.  She looked across the casket at Maggie. Maggie glanced at her and, keeping a serious face, turned forward.  From in front of Liza, James turned around.  He pet her on the top of her head gently.  Then he looked at Funeral Director Bryant.

“Wait, what will Eve do?” he asked.

“She can walk alongside with me.  Now, are we ready?”

Ben mumbled and grunted and they all bent down to prepare for the lift.  Liza let her brother and her uncle lift first, then she put her hand under the casket to help hold the weight.  It was much heavier than she imagined.  They began walking away from the stage and toward the door.  Liza focused on James’ jacket and thought back to her first reaction to their grandmother’s death.  When she had touched the tea kettle, it first struck her child’s mind that death could happen so swiftly.  Her grandmother had made the tea and she was alive.  Her grandmother had died.  The tea was sitting warm.  Before that moment, death seemed to her like a concrete and planned event.  Not planned, but it was an event, not something that came and passed n the middle of the day.  People became sick and then died, they had heart attacks, there were plane crashes and car accidents that killed people or you were hit by a bus or drowned.  Death was separate from normal life. But, she thought, feeling the weight and the movement of her feet as they exited the room of the wake, death always coexisted with life and they were in fact never really separate.  Life and death supported one another. In a way, they understood each other more than any two things in the world – maybe not as much as her parents understood each other, though.  And the tea that sat on the table that day, still warm and drinkable, told her that.

No comments:

Post a Comment