Literary Review en Dudeness Is <span>Dudeness Is</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/dusty-wright" lang="" about="/users/dusty-wright" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Dusty Wright</a></span> <span>April 10, 2019 - 08:15</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/779" hreflang="en">essay</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><figure role="group" class="embedded-entity align-center"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="812" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-04/star-dude.png?itok=UYf9CE0h" title="star-dude.png" typeof="foaf:Image" width="665" /></article><figcaption>Photo Credit: d. Bindi</figcaption></figure><p>"My dad's a cooler dude than your dad!" bragged my ten-year-old daughter Mina to one of her friends on her phone.</p> <p>Wot? I'm a dad and a dude? Hey, that's pretty cool. I still play music, but I thought Quincy Jones was "the dude." After all, he did release an album in the '80s called <em>The Dude</em>. But where did my daughter pick this "dude" tag up? From my wife? (Doubtful, she might not have married me if she believed I was a dude.) Probably from the Scooby Doo cartoons we watch together. Or from her older brother and his crazed sidewalk skateboard pals in our 'hood. Or maybe she caught <em>The Big Lebowski</em> at her one of her friend's apartments.</p> <p>In the end it didn't matter, 'cuz I suddenly became obsessed with defining what makes a guy a dude. And more importantly, did I possess any of the dude DNA? </p> <p>Fast forward...</p> <p>"Hey, dude!" I grimaced, turned, and saw two tanned, healthy young men in their late teens in baggy, neon surf gear fist-punch each other and continue their conversation. I shuddered and continued reading my morning paper in some nondescript restaurant in Venice Beach. I was on the West Coast for my friend's wedding and a little business, away from the comfort and sanity of my family and home in New York City. Five days into my excursion had left me weak for good deli and something other than surfer lingo.</p> <p>This dude thing had reached critical mass. Dudes everywhere were chasing me. Even on the radio as David Bowie's early '70s anthem, "All the Young Dudes" blasted from my rental car's speakers.</p> <p>Malibu, Huntington, the Valley, and San Diego -- the entire Pacific Coast was crawling with them. From Sunset Strip to the Santa Monica Pier, I couldn't travel anywhere without hearing that word.</p> <p>I decided to query my waitress about this dude thing; after all, she'd been talking to the two surfers.</p> <p>Much to my dismay she said she didn't know much about it, but volunteered that her friend Buddy "probably-definitely qualified as an expert dood."</p> <p>Buddy!?! Now there was a name I could appreciate. Love to meet the folks that decided that was a proper given name for a dude child. Come on. Nonetheless, if I were going to hack free this albatross clinging around my neck I'd have to confront the enemy, regardless of the consequences.</p> <p>I assumed that by polling people I'd reach a coherent working definition. And, perhaps in some delusional manner, determine if I fit the dude criteria for dude-dom.</p> <p>Over the next couple of weeks I randomly put forth the question -- "What is a dude?" -- to countless folks everywhere. From Los Angeles to Ohio to New York, I left them to ponder.</p> <p>Once I settled back in New York, I would collect the data and hopefully piece things together. (And keep in mind this was without any government subsidized art program backing me.)</p> <p>Much to my amazement, as I started to assemble this mythical character I discovered all sorts of shared qualities. And more often that not, these qualities were universals. So much so that the West Coast surfer had more in common with the East Coast Harlem tough guy than either would care to acknowledge.</p> <p>If you asked the average person on the street to bridge such seemingly opposites, it's doubtful they could find any common bonding material. Yet there existed essential elements that were easily interchangeable between characters as diverse as the Silver Surfer and/or Shaft.</p> <p>For starters, all dudes emanate a particular sensibility, lifestyle, and attitude. They neither wallow in squalor nor swim in ostentatiousness. And most importantly, they always remain righteously true to themselves first. Moreover, when possible, they seek out the truth, whether commandeering a woman to her full feminine sensuality or shooting the perfect game of billiards with their peers.</p> <p>I examined my past. Did I encounter any such beings while growing up in Ohio?</p> <p>Maybe they were the characters we referred to in school as "cool."</p> <p>If that was the case, I remember one of my classmates in elementary school definitely fit the profile. His name was Jeff Thompson. And come to think of it, he did possess a certain something, although I'd bet our teacher felt he was a troublemaker. But I don't ever recall him actually causing trouble. (He never started any wastepaper basket fires, but he did boast of masturbating at a prepubescent age.) He just seemed bigger than life.</p> <p>It is possible that dudes, in the purest sense, represent the essence of individuality. They don't copy anyone else. They don't dress like anyone else. They don't sound like anyone else. They exist within all dimensions of popular culture without being too trendy or too stylish. Just look at James Bond and all the leading men he's endured. While the Scotsman Sean Connery (image above) remains the quintessential dude amongst the Bond actors, Daniel Craig (trailer below) has breathed a much-needed dudeness into the contemporary 007 legacy. (Check out Sir Connery in Goldfinger!)</p> <p>A real dude lives on the cutting edge, taking his life in new directions daily while the rest of us just try to keep up with his predestined course. Again, who else but 007 could single-handedly save the world defeating evil in the catacombs of Rome and, in the next moment, sit with the Queen looking unhassled, relaxed, and fabulous.</p> <p>A true dude is free of ego and all of the destructive elements associated with it. He would never say, "Hey, baby, look at me, am I not the most dynamic fella you've ever encountered?" He doesn't have to announce his own self-worth. Those around him will usually do it for him.</p> <p>A real dude doesn't aspire to anything except being at ease with himself. Whether he's feeding ducks in a pond or strolling in a summer rainstorm without an umbrella, nothing is too banal about experiencing the simple side of life.</p> <p>As stated, he is a guy who embodies many desirable qualities. Many folks view him as dangerous, aloof, coy, cute, clever, charming, tough, handsome, endearing, righteous, free, timeless, spiritual, and true.</p> <p>He is not necessarily the most handsome or the most spiritual, but rather the perfect blend of all these qualities. He may be a hero to some and provoke envy in others. And this depends on the individual's perception.</p> <p>Who else but a dude would even attempt surfing a thirty-foot wave and pull it off and ride it all the way to the shore?</p> <p>He doesn't hide behind his clothes. He's got his own style. Check out any cool urban movie, like Shaft or Superfly, to highlight this point. Do you honestly think that rapper Snoop Dogg would have graced Starsky &amp; Hutch without some serious cuts? Or that Curtis Mayfield would've wasted his time writing the theme song for anything less then a perfect dude-heavy flick like Superfly? Ditto for Isaac Hayes and the very righteous Shaft.</p> <p>Anything a true dude wears merely adds to his totality, whether he's chillin' in his tattered old button-fly denims at a BBQ during the day or playing baccarat in his tailor-made tux in Monaco at midnight.</p> <p>A real dude is not without emotion, though many people may be fooled by his leather-tough shell. But once you get beyond his veil of 'tude, you'll find a soft side underneath.</p> <p>He could be cheering for his favorite baseball team on Saturday and crying over the beauty of his sister's newborn baby on Sunday. Moreover, it's not the silly vibe of Ashton Kutcher in <em>Dude, Where's My Car? </em>It's the cool "abide" of Jeff Bridges in the Coen Brothers' epic dude paean <em>The Big Lebowski</em>.</p> <p>So there I was, left with a much broader understanding of what a dude was, is, and probably will always be.</p> <p>Did I possess any of that stuff? Since I've never surfed, this prevented me from drawing any relevance from the beach scene. And I've never been known as a tough street guy, even though as a kid I played two-hand touch football in the street in Akron, Ohio.</p> <p>Yet, I always felt I could be engaging, even when people feigned interest in my opinion. And most of my closest male friends agreed that all guys were "dudish" from time to time. So I guess I could be, too.</p> <p>Maybe all you needed to do was borrow a little -- "Bond, James Bond" -- from time to time. You know, you've been milling about some boring social function when your gaze meets some femme fatale trapped in some mindless chatter with some oafish chap. You imagine yourself offering her an expensive glass of champagne from a bottle you've hidden in the kitchen from the rest of the party. It's got to be better than the designer drink this affable clown offered her. Now if you only had the balls to approach her, maybe you could fulfill your fantasy.</p> <p>Nonetheless, my observations lead me to one universal conclusion:</p> <p>He represents the quintessential man -- a total Utopian state of malehood. Moreover, he is the apex of perfection in man; perfection that no man will ever reach. And he always abides by being truly comfortable with himself in each and every situation in his life.</p> <p>If Adam was the first dude, does that make Jesus the perfect dude?</p> <p>Country dude Kris Kristofferson thought so and even wrote a very dude-worthy song about him called "Jesus Was a Capricorn." Besides, who would argue with Kris, as he's still one of coolest older dudes on the planet.</p> <p>But what about Or Krishna? Or Buddha? Or Muhammad? Or Ghandi? </p> <p>Or your favorite teacher? </p> <p>And what about Dads? Can they be dudes, too?</p> <p>Sure. Just ask my daughter.</p> <p>As for dudettes? Well, that's another story. Best check with my wife.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3841&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="AfC0M5_LuSKB0XFcaqv3ukIzLOAo2Mg0lQ0wtvOXQts"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 10 Apr 2019 12:15:13 +0000 Dusty Wright 3841 at Happy Halloween 2018! <span>Happy Halloween 2018!</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/dusty-wright" lang="" about="/users/dusty-wright" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Dusty Wright</a></span> <span>October 30, 2018 - 20:56</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/614" hreflang="en">short story</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="1600" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-04/tree-legend.png?itok=kEcoOKIW" title="tree-legend.png" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo credit: Dusty Wright</figcaption></figure><p><em>The Legend of The Sassafras Monster</em></p> <p>Native Americans -- like many indigenous cultures -- believe in the spirits of nature and so the natural world inspires them. It would come to pass that many, if not most of their myths and legends would been passed down and ingested by "white" settlers who decided it was easier to conquer "Native Americans" then co-exist in their natural world. And with any myth or legend, sometimes the facts get twisted and  turned into something that the original story teller, or witness as it may have been, never intended to share with anyone else for fear that the myth or story would become true. Such was the "myth of the Sassafras Monster." But I digress... one must first understand that this story starts with nature and in particular a tree -- the sassafras albidum also called Ague Tree. A species of Sassafras tree native to eastern North America, from southern Maine and southern Ontario west to Iowa, and south to central Florida and eastern Texas. It occurs throughout the eastern deciduous forest habitat type, at altitudes of sea level up to 1,500 m. It's aromatic leaf, bark and root are used as a flavoring, used in traditional home medicine, and as a tea. It was once used to flavor root beer, too. And for certain Native American tribe, it was part of their sacred rituals. It was believed that essence of sassafras could bring health and wellness and offer safe passage during certain "manhood" rituals. And this is where my "monster" story begins.</p> <p>I grew up in Northeast Ohio and heard about the Sassafras "monster" from my Grandfather Mac, my mom's father. He had heard about the "monster" from his grandfather who had fought alongside some of the Chippewa during the Civil War. One of the Chippewa braves had heard about a strange ritual from his father who was a member of the tribe where the legend began.</p> <p>Grandpa Mac told my brother David and I the story one dark and stormy Halloween eve. I had just turned thirteen and my younger sibling was ten.</p> <p>The year was 1777, a year removed from 1776 and the new Americans "declaration of independence" from their British tormentors; it was the first year of nationhood. The country was giddy with the future. But what of our Native American brothers and sisters? How would it impact their daily lives, their rituals, their journey? What would become of their freedoms?</p> <p>It was late spring during the month of May. Outside a small village in Ohio, on the banks of the Cuyahoga River, a river very much needed by the Chippewa (Ojibwe) tribe for their livelihood. It was not only their fresh water supply, but it was bountiful with fish and fowl. It also served as part of a young brave's rite-of-passage manhood ritual. For example, in many Native American cultures, the transition is often ceremonial, featuring some feat of bravery or strength against pain, such as success in a first hunt, or surviving painful tattooing or piercing. But the Chippewa's "Vision Quest" / Right of Passage was something that could provoke fear even from the older braves that had endured the ritual many decades previous. Just as important as the quest, the young Native American boys were forbidden to share their "journey" with any of the other boys about their experience for the rest of their lives. Only the elders were permitted to discuss things with them.</p> <p>During the typical vision quest, a young boy fasts, prays, and seeks his spirit helper which usually presents itself as an animal, and which becomes the young boy's lifelong aide and guide. In some places, vision quests are supervised by, or discussed afterwards, with elders. Many tribes would include local terrain -- hidden caves, small islands in the middle of lakes, remote wooded areas removed from their tribe's camp -- as part of the vision quest. The Chippewas favored a certain tree indigenous to the region of their river and water camps. The mighty sassafras. It was that genus of tree that was included in their "brave" ritual. Legend has it that a young brave-to-be was strapped to the trunk of the largest sassafras tree found many, many miles from their camp. And <i>only</i> on a "new" moon night. The darkest night of the lunar cycle.</p> <p>In the early dawn light of one of the darkest days of a late spring day in May a young Chippewa boy known as Broken Tooth from the Sandy Lake Chippewa tribe and son of Biauswah, the chief of the Sandy Lake <a href="">Chippewa</a>, was summoned before his people. Today he would begin his journey into adulthood and the beginning of his quest to become a "brave." He was led from the camp by a "guide" --  Ahmik  (aka Beaver) -- with only a few meager provisions for their two-day long journey into the thickest and darkest region of a heavy forest far from the safety of their encampment. That thick forest could spook even the bravest Chippewa as many believed that the "lost" ghosts of their ancestors and spirit beasts haunted that forest.</p> <p>When the young brave was far enough away from their teepees, his "guide" would locate the biggest sassafras tree he could find and at dusk lash the young pre-teenager to the trunk of the tree. He would be left alone for the entire evening, left alone to summon his spirit animal for protection from the ghosts and real life predators (bears, mountain lions, etc.) roaming the forest. A fire was built to help illuminate the area and to keep any feral beasts away. Moreover, the fire also helped the nearby guide navigate the darkness of the forest if he needed to "assist" the young brave-in-training especially if he heard a cry for help.<b> </b>Rare that a guide was ever summoned as that could have been construed as a sign of weakness during a rite of passage.</p> <p>But on this particular vision quest, only an hour from daybreak, a faint cry from Broken Tooth was heard by his guide Ahmik. Startled, Ahmik cautiously made his way towards the "tree" in case a bear might be lurking nearby. Imagine his shock when he arrived at the tree just as dawn was starting to rise and Broken Tooth was not there. Yet the twine that had lashed Broken Tooth to the trunk of that massive tree remained tight and unbound. It was if the young teen had been swallowed whole by the sassafras for nourishment. The tree's knotted face looked down on the brave as though it was smiling at him; holding some dark satisfying secret.</p> <p>Broken Tooth's body was never found, ever. Not a trace. Ahmik was convinced that the sassafras had indeed consumed Broken Tooth. And that his soul was damned to haunt that forest for eternity! In fact, that tree was never used for any Chippewa rituals ever again. And before the year was out most of his tribe fell victim to a smallpox outbreak that would wipe them out. The few who survived were convinced that a Broken Tooth Sassafras curse caused their demise.</p> <p>For my tough-as-nails grandfather Mac that "tale" provoked a rising curiosity and a need to test his own mettle, try his hand at self-exiled bravery. It was a hot summer morning in August 1913, a new moon loomed after dusk. He convinced some of his young teenage friends to go camping at an old hunter's camp near Chippewa Lake in northeast Ohio. It was a magical place that his father had brought him to a few years before to go deer hunting. On the hike out to the camping site he shared the "Broken Tooth" story with his cocky pre-pubescent friends. They were in no mood for make-believe, but they still remained intrigued by the promise of testing their "manhood." One in particular, the toughest of the lot -- Colin O'Hurley -- taunted the group that it was all a myth and that my grandfather was looking to prank them. But Grandfather Mac remained steadfast and threw it back at Colin, stating that he was "probably too chicken to be lashed to a mighty sassafras tree on this moonless night." The other boys joined in and dared Colin to take the "sassafras" challenge. If he was indeed the toughest amongst them, he would certainly let them tie him to a sassafras in the middle of the woods. Colin laughed them off, stating it would be easy-peasy.</p> <p>After finally arriving at the old cabin the boys quickly set up their temporary camp -- built a fire, spread out their sleeping bags, smoked some cigarettes, ate some beans from a can, and started teasing Colin about tying him up. Mac pulled out some clothing line rope from his rumsack and smiled menacingly at Colin. As there was still a few hours of summer daylight, Mac suggested they hike a few miles down from the cabin near an old abandoned stone quarry tucked away in a wooded area. He was certain the quarry would be lined by a few dozen sassafras trees! The boys pressed Colin until he finally agreed.</p> <p>They couldn't wait to tie up the cocky Colin and leave him to "satisfy the hunger of the sassafras monster." They built a fire for their friend, teased him some more about wetting himself in the middle of the night, lashed him to the tree, and left their friend all alone in the fading dusk light.</p> <p>They laughed and joked all the way back to the cabin, certain that Colin would be taught a lesson, knock his ego down a few pegs...</p> <p>In the wee hours of dawn the boys awoke in the cabin, quickly got dressed, and set off to "rescue" Colin. But a pea soup-thick fog had descended over the wooded region and it hindered their ability to travel with speed and ease. From their approaching vantage they could barely make out which sassafras tree that had been used. Pressing on they finally spotted that beastly tree. But they could not make out if the ropes still entwined their brave comrade. As they stumbled forward they yelped for Colin, announcing their arrival. Suddenly some faint moaning could be heard and the noise stopped the boys cold in their tracks. They cautiously moved towards tree. A few weak embers glowed in the remaining ashes of the fire that had built the night before.</p> <p>As they circled towards the front of the tree, they stopped dead in their tracks...</p> <p>The ropes clung tightly to the trunk of the sassafras tree yet their beloved comrade was gone! They were stunned. They started screaming for him. But Mac was frozen. His mind racing. Could it be true? Was Colin swallowed by that hideous tree?</p> <p>They searched that quarry and surrounding forest for most of the day calling out for their "brave" friend, praying he might be hiding from them. That he had somehow pulled the most amazing prank of all. When it became apparent that he could not be found the boys returned to their cabin and nervously agreed that they would have to summon help. They quickly packed and hiked to the local sheriff's office. Thinking it was all a hoax the sherif was slow to respond to their search and rescue request. But ultimately search parties were deployed and once the local authorities realized that their friend was indeed missing a call was put into the local FBI field office to investigate Colin's disappearance. Mac and his friends were all subjected to heavy interrogation, too. But the boys never deviated from their story. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, but alas no clues to Colin's disappearance were ever uncovered.</p> <p>A year later Colin's parents held an empty casket service for their missing son. The boys were devastated.</p> <p>Colin's case remains unsolved to this day. In the end everyone who'd gone camping on that tragic night believed that the "sassafras monster" must have swallowed their friend and that his restless spirit still haunts the forest around Chippewa Lake.</p> <p>Regardless of the veracity of the myth, I shudder every time a new moon descends upon the land. And I never venture into a forest were a sassafras tree might be looming. Especially on a new moon night!</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3788&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="8-Q4o7quWFtOjKrm1Z5tnOFQYf5_QQwyIxBdjGtkNH4"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 31 Oct 2018 00:56:30 +0000 Dusty Wright 3788 at Class Distinction <span>Class Distinction</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/dusty-wright" lang="" about="/users/dusty-wright" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Dusty Wright</a></span> <span>December 16, 2017 - 02:09</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/761" hreflang="en">science fiction</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity align-center"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2018/2018-06/dispossessed.jpg?itok=Na_Xh5rT" width="430" height="648" alt="Thumbnail" title="dispossessed.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>The concept of ownership -- items, people, ideas -- is the heart of master storyteller Ursula Le Guinn’s 1975 masterwork <em>The Dispossessed</em>. Winner of the Nebula and Hugo awards, the highest lliterary awards for science fiction writers, this story transcends that genre’s boundaries. It is a story of a man Shevek, a physicist/anarchist, from the arid and socialistic planet Anarres who creates The Principle of Simultaneity -- instantaneous communication -- something that will revolutionize interstellar communication between all worlds. This is a tome about philosophical and ideological differences and how one views what is truly the best utopian society or how two neighboring planets occupied by anarchists and capitalists view/exploit Shevek's discovery.</p> <p>The book's narrative timeline is non-linear, so one may feel compelled to reread certain passages or chapters, but once you understand the author's intention and cadence the rewards of the narrative will unfurl in perfect order. In fact, I reread the opening chapter several times to unlock a deeper understanding of the protagonist's predicament. <!--break-->When Shevek travels to the sister planet of Urras hoping to share his discovery, away from the grips of jealous and fearful colleagues, he comes to understand that utopian ideas and political systems all must deal with "ego" for better or worse. Jealousy is also an issue when ego takes over. And power most always corrupts, even in the most benevolent societies. Moreover, enslavement can be both physical and spiritual, and material possessions can just as easily enslave a society as political despots. </p> <p>Buy and read this book and her other classic novels <em>The Lathe of Heaven</em> and <em>The Left Hand of Darkness</em>. You will be handsomely rewarded.</p> </div> <section> </section> Sat, 16 Dec 2017 07:09:59 +0000 Dusty Wright 3652 at Walk on the Wilder Side <span>Walk on the Wilder Side</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/dusty-wright" lang="" about="/users/dusty-wright" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Dusty Wright</a></span> <span>September 13, 2017 - 07:37</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/768" hreflang="en">non-fiction</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div> <p> </p> <p><em>Lou Reed: A Life</em></p> </div> <div>Anthony DeCurtis (Little, Brown and Company)</div> <div> </div> <p>Lou Reed has to be one of the most audacious and iconic rockers to have committed his dark muses to his music and poetry. And writer/professor Anthony DeCurtis's new must-read bio of Mr. Reed perfectly captures the ethos of this misanthropic rocker. Let's be clear, Lou's outrageous life story is truly stranger than fiction. But then again, so are many of our most celebrated artists, especially those who not only create but also live on the edge/fringe of society, pushing their artistic vision on, for the most part, a rather pedestrian audience.</p> <p>From Lou's humble middle-class upbringing on Long Island that included his life altering electro-shock treatments to his dying breath, his life was filled with passion and for pushing people, fans and critics alike, to explore the darker side of life; to if not to "walk on the wild side," at least explore it. Make no mistake, Lou's work was groundbreaking. His art-rock band The Velvet Underground remains one of the most influential bands ever. The music is timeless, the subject matter startling and disturbing; it's easy to understand why many consider them the true originators of the entire alt-rock genre.</p> <!--break--> <p>Mr. DeCurtis was one of the few critics that Lou actually respected. To his credit, he's dug deep. He's interviewed Lou's childhood friends, past lovers and wives, former managers, many of the musicians he played with, <em>et al</em>. In doing so, he exposes how Lou operated -- how he created his music, how he lived his life, who he deeply loved, and how he maintained his artistic vision until his final days. Most Lou fans know of his relationship with his Syracuse University mentor and creative writing professor Delmore Schwartz, but who knew that Lou had pet dachshunds? That he loved doo wop music. Or that he was a hopeless romantic and, even at his worst social behaviour, longed to maintain a sense of "home" life with a "wife" when he wasn't on stage. I didni't know that Lou's cherished transsexual lover Rachel was referred to as "Lou's babysitter" by those close to him.</p> <p>Long Island lawyer Alan Hyman, one of his oldest friends and the drummer in his college band L.A. and the Eldorados, states, "One of the things about my relationship with him is that he liked to shock me. He really liked to say provocative things and see what my reaction would be." That would certainly define Lou for the rest of his days. Five decades earlier, songs such as "Heroin," "Waiting for My Man," or "Walk on the Wild Side" were obviousily shocking when they were released. And yet five decades later, those lyrics and music can still produce strong reactions. In fact, few rock bands today are this bold and dynamic. In today's sanitized PC culture, one would have to look at rap music to witness such brutal honesty. </p> <p>Lou Reed had a very "rich" life, and Mr. DeCurtis shares just how remarkably rich it was.</p> </div> <section> </section> Wed, 13 Sep 2017 11:37:10 +0000 Dusty Wright 3623 at Wicked Wilson! <span>Wicked Wilson!</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/dusty-wright" lang="" about="/users/dusty-wright" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Dusty Wright</a></span> <span>May 15, 2017 - 11:27</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/112" hreflang="en">book review</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/430" hreflang="en">Tony Fletcher</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/431" hreflang="en">Wilson Pickett</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src=";start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <div><em>In the Midnight Hour: The Life &amp; Soul of Wilson Pickett </em>(Oxford University Press)</div> <div>Tony Fletcher</div> <div> </div> <p>The art of writing bios is no easy feat, but for British-born/NY-based scribe <a href="" target="_blank">Tony Fletcher</a>, well, he makes it seem all so easy even though his research is exhaustive. His bios on R.E.M (<em>Remarks Remade - The Story of R.E.M.</em>), Keith Moon (<em>Dear Boy: The Life of Keith Moon</em>), The Smiths (<em>A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of The Smiths, </em>to name but a few, are must-reads. His latest on the turbulent life of R&amp;B legend Wilson Pickett -- <em>In the Midnight Hour: The Life &amp; Soul of Wilson Pickett</em> -- may be his best yet. </p> <!--break--> <p>For the charismatic '60s crossover icon "Wicked" Wilson Pickett, Fletcher pulls no punches with interviews with his family, business partners, musicians, etc., to shed light on his troubled legacy. Amazingly, this is the first-ever bio on the R&amp;B maverick who had some 50 Billboard charting songs, including well-known hits like "Mustang Sally," "In the Midnight Hour," "Land of 1000 Dances," "634-5789," and "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You." The book lays bare in detail Wilson's troubled soul and how he let his over-consumption of life, all the good and bad, leech into his own personal life causing stress and strife for all who entered his orbit. </p> <p>The book also serves as a social commentary -- civil rights movement, the rise and crossover of R&amp;B music -- of a certain era and for those of us who remember that time period it comes as no surprise. And if you're a guitarist, what a treat to learn about all the amazing musicians who played on his records. Greats like Steve Cropper, Reggie Young, Duane Allman(!), Bobby Womack (who co-wrote songs with him), the very funky Dennis Coffey (wah-wah on The Temptations' "Psychedelic Shack," et al.); even NYC-based guitar hero Marc Ribot, a Tom Waits staple, toured with him in the '80s. But towards the end of his life, the Rock 'n' Roll Hal of Famer would succumb to the demons that fueled his life, spend time in jail, find religion (again), and suffer health problems. Pickett would eventually succumb to a heart attack in early January 2006 at the age of 64. Thankfully, Mr. Fletcher has documented his numerous conquests as well as his failures in this most-excellent bio. </p> <p>Check Tony's <a href="" target="_blank">website</a> for upcoming readings/events and new offerings. </p> </div> <section> </section> Mon, 15 May 2017 15:27:46 +0000 Dusty Wright 3573 at The Street Writing Man <span>The Street Writing Man</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/user/460" lang="" about="/user/460" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Robert Cochrane</a></span> <span>March 5, 2016 - 11:35</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/553" hreflang="en">celebrity obit</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Tony Warren 8th July 1936-1st March 2016</p> <blockquote> <p>"The first <em>Coronation Street</em> writing team contained some of the biggest homophobes I've ever met. I remember getting on my feet in a story conference and saying: 'Gentlemen, I have sat here for two-and-a-half hours and listened to three poof jokes, a storyline dismissed as poofy, and an actor described as 'useless as he's a poof'. As a matter of fact, he isn't! but I would like to point out that I am, and without a poof none of you would be in work today.'"</p> </blockquote> <p>So reflected the writer and television dramatist Tony Warren on his early uphill, but routine struggle with homophobia of late 1950s Britain. It was a brave and brazen stance given that homosexuality was still illegal. He also stated later that "the outsider sees more, hears more, and has to remember more to survive" and that in those days if you were gay you needed to be three times better than your competitors in order to succeed.</p> <!--break--> <p>Tony Warren was by nature both homosexual and an observer in a world that sought to exclude, persecute and ridicule him and his kind. I saw him once in the 1990s address the crowds in Sackville Park Manchester during the gay Mardi Gras. With genuine emotion in his voice he stated that in 1964 'If I even dared to hold the hand of a friend I would have been arrested and now here I am looking out at thousands of you doing just that.' He hadn't changed but the world around him certainly had.</p> <p>Innovators are all too quickly absorbed into the mainstream they once challenged. It is hard to believe how ground breaking his proposal for a television drama set in a small street bookended by a public house and a corner shop actually was. Britain in the '50s had been staunchly middle class, a drawing room or stately home tableau dominated the stage and burgeoning medium of television. Warren wasn't an angry young man, but his position from the margins made him a determined one. By the sheer force of his drive and personality, this child actor turned knitting pattern model turned children's dramatist, succeeded in getting the provisionally titled <em>Florizel Street</em> commissioned and the set built in the winter of 1960, for the thirteen episodes he had penned. It became <em>Coronation Street</em> the longest running soap opera in the world, fifty six years and counting, and a blueprint influence on countless generations of actors and writers. It broke the mould but created a larger &amp; more realistic one.</p> <p>What made it all the more unusual, apart from it's suburban setting, was it's instantly recognisable population of strong, eccentric and at times terrifying women. There was Ena Sharples, the sharp old battle axe played by the redoubtable Violet Carson in a hairnet, and with a face like a very angry bag of spanners who frequently clashed with the glamorously common Elsie Tanner, who being no better than she ought to be and having a shining heart of pure but vulnerable brass. They in their turn experienced the withering wrath of Annie Walker, the haughty landlady of the pub who harboured hotel-like aspirations, but was riddled with all the insecurities of her desire to reach beyond her social confinement. She was wonderfully realised by Doris Speed, a fright in real life, the typical drag dragon woman with a penchant for leopard print. These actresses are now long dead, but they inhabit the collective memory as the archetypes the so brilliantly represented, a testament to Warren's insight, and eye for detail and pathos.</p> <p>A child of wartime, Warren was brought up by a regiment of women abandoned by husbands who'd enlisted. From his viewpoint under the table he'd listen to these ordinary viragos discuss their worries and their woes, absorbing their mannerisms and gestures. He once told me he'd based Mrs Sharples on his grandmother who was a fierce lady because she hadn't been born beautiful, and there-in lay the grit of her character and the seed for a dramatic pearl. Warren adored women, he felt comfortable with them which is precisely why his creations rang true, but with great success came immense pressure. He found it difficult relinquishing his creation to a committee of script writers, and drink and drugs became the crutches that would ultimately fail him, and when they did he fled to a hippy commune in San Francisco, only cropping up in sensationalised tabloid reports in the English press for the depth of his drunken downfall. It seemed that this talented architect of tragedy and amusement was lazily scripting his own chaotic demise, but the against all the odds of negative expectations, he got sober, and amazingly maintained it for the rest of his life.</p> <p>By the 1990s he was back at Granada Television as a consultant to <em>Coronation Street</em> and in that decade penned four hugely successful novels. His next project was to be his autobiography, a warts and all confection that would detail his affair with Brian Epstein, the Beatles manager, and feature walk on parts from Noel Coward, Burt Bacharach, and Sir John Betjeman, the poet laureate who in his final years of dotage regarded the soap opera characters as real people bemoaning to Tony his sadness at the trials and tribulations Hilda Ogden was having with her work-shy husband Stan. Alas the warts proved too taxing, he found the process of excavating the details of his often painfully eventful life distressing and the project begun with his usual boyish gusto, was quickly abandoned.</p> <p>I was with him the night he met the singer Morrissey at a Waterstones book-store event for Michael Bracewell's <em>Englands Dreaming</em>. At one point I could see him scrutinizing Bracewell in his rather quizzical way. The object of his gaze was wearing an old dress shirt which in it's day would have had the cuffs restrained by links, but on this evening they were distractingly flapping around the wrists of their languid, gesturing wearer, which was no doubt the desired impression. Tony leant across and whispered: "What's the score with Michael Bracewell?" and after my expression of uncertainty, he sniffed as an aside "Only a bi-sexual could dress that badly!" He was more forgiving and kindly about his encounter with Morrissey, a major <em>Coronation Street</em> devotee, observing that he's been surprisingly down to earth and nothing like he'd imagined.</p> <p>Tony Warren was made an MBE in 1994, and his life was dramatized by the BBC in the play <em>The Road To Coronation Street</em> to mark fifty years of the series. In 2008 he was the recipient of an honorary degree from Manchester Metropolitan University for his achievements in television and creative writing. He even had a building named after him in Media City. He lived long enough to be thus venerated, but would have disputed any attempt to apply the term venerable. A witty, modest man who viewed the world with a sense of bemused resignation, he became a part of the mainstream, still observing it astutely from the wings.</p> </div> <section> </section> Sat, 05 Mar 2016 16:35:54 +0000 Robert Cochrane 3384 at Music and Sex #10: Writing and Rachel Redux <span>Music and Sex #10: Writing and Rachel Redux</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/romanakleff" lang="" about="/users/romanakleff" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Roman Akleff</a></span> <span>November 24, 2015 - 02:04</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/799" hreflang="en">new fiction</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p><img alt="" height="309" src="/sites/default/files/images/selectric.jpg" style="width:300px; height:232px; float:right" width="400" /></p> <p> </p> <p><strong><em>Music and Sex: Scenes from a life </em></strong>-<strong><em> </em></strong>A novel in progress (<a href="/literary/music-and-sex-scenes-life-first-installment" target="_blank">first chapter here</a>).</p> <p>Like his bandmates, Walter was relieved that the group could lapse for a while as midterms approached. He had to write a paper for Lit.Hum. that he hadn't started yet. He decided to do it on More's <em>Utopia</em>, since he'd been familiar with it since high school thanks to AP English and thus had already read it all instead of just the sections on the syllabus. He like More too, as a person, though granted that was based on the play <em>A Man for All Seasons</em>. The stubbornness of his position in regard to Henry VIII was something Walter identified with, though he doubted he'd be willing to be executed over anything no matter how right he thought he was.</p> <!--break--> <p>He wanted to write something good enough that Professor Starr wouldn't be disappointed with him. The prof had always seemed to enjoy Walter's contributions to class discussions, which were a big part of the grade. Unlike his experiences in his Poli.Sci. electives, Walter could hold his own in Lit.Hum. discussions, where almost everybody was a freshman just as he was. But Professor Starr had offered criticisms of the papers Walter had written the previous semester, so he wanted to be perfect this time. Picking a familiar book for his paper topic might help.</p> <p>Professor Starr had said of most of what they'd read this semester that it was intended as criticism of the author's society. Probably it was safest to use that idea as an approach to writing about <em>Utopia</em>. There was his title: <em>The <u>Utopia</u> as Social Criticism</em>. Should he narrow the focus? He had to write at least five pages; perhaps better to not narrow yet.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">Thomas More's <u>Utopia</u> has earned him many reputations through the years, as a Communist, among other things. In this work, he depicts an island in the New World which is governed by principles and laws that are an antithesis to those of the Old World. It is inhabited by contented people who lead happy lives because their community is ideally organized. Yet, this is fiction: More has created these laws, which contrast severely with the established laws and customs of his own civilization, in order to show that the laws of 16th century England were producing undesirable effects and desperately needed reform, not because he felt that the laws that he describes in his imaginary world are ideal. There can in fact be no Utopia (which means "Noplace") when civilization develops, as it must, in piecemeal fashion. For a society to develop so perfectly would require the evasion of both chance and the subsequent logical organization of the situations that occur haphazardly. In its formation and development, Utopia resembles an artist's clay model, shaped by the artist's design. It is a controlled, in fact very nearly a closed, environment.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">This circumstance is acknowledged in the history of the foundation of the nation by Utopus. Upon conquering a peninsular nation of undeveloped savages, "he immediately had a channel cut through the fifteen-mile isthmus connecting Utopia with the mainland, so that the sea could flow all around it." (p. 70) From then on, he had a free hand in guiding the fortunes of his new territory, for Nature had provided him with every convenience. The harbor was impervious to enemy attack, the island had every natural resource needed, with the single exception of iron, and apparently was full of the most malleable, receptive savages that could be desired.</p> <p>After a couple of hours, Walter had managed to go on like that for another seven pages, with about a third of that being indented quotes. His favorite was:</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">In fact, when I consider any social system that prevails in the modern world, I can't, so help me God, see it as anything but a conspiracy of the rich to advance their own interests under the pretext of organizing society. (p. 130)</p> <p>It was time to wrap it up with a conclusion:</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">The <u>Utopia</u>'s role is thus as a basis of comparison, to show us which of our errors are correctable by showing up their superfluous nature. This is the Rawlsian position which says Utopias exist to shame us into realizing how lacking our actual societies are in comparison. With More's constant juxtaposition of the Old World vs. the New, this intent is fairly obvious.</p> <p>On Monday morning, he turned in his paper at Professor Starr's office. Later in the day after Music Hum., Rachel asked Walter for another tutoring session to get ready for their Music Hum midterm. He hesitated briefly, then agreed to once again go to her apartment on Tuesday. He had been so disappointed by her having a boyfriend that he'd had an impulse to turn her down. Accepting seemed potentially awkward, but it would bring him a little money. And although their first afternoon together hadn't led to the kind of relationship he wanted, it wasn't as though he hadn't enjoyed it at the time. After all, she might break up with her boyfriend someday, and then Walter could be perfectly positioned to replace him.</p> <p>Just as on his first visit, she tossed her keys out the window to him. He thought she looked like she was wearing a robe. He assumed that, if that were the case, she'd be changed by the time he'd finished climbing all the stairs to her top-floor apartment. But no: when she opened her door, she was still wearing a robe. He didn't know what to think, so he just kept quiet and waited to see what would happen. Rachel smiled and asked, "Cat got your tongue?" He smiled back, but said nothing.</p> <p>"Pussy wants your tongue," she whispered. He smiled again, his disappointments drowned in anticipation. This would do until a real relationship came along. She dramatically opened her robe wide, holding a campy pose; she'd been utterly naked under her robe. He dropped to his knees, slid his hands up the backs of her thighs, cupped her bare buttocks in his hands, and pushed his face into her dirty-blond bush. Rachel squatted slightly to open her thighs, and Walter's tongue flicked out into her fur, seeking her slit, soon found. Remembering his lesson from Janie, he licked up and down, found Rachel's clit, and circled around it, occasionally fluttering his tongue-tip directly on it. Rachel grabbed his hair and pressed herself against his face. His nose was now squashed into her pelvis and he had to gasp for breath through his mouth in between licks, but he kept a rhythm going and soon could feel her legs trembling. "Oh god, oh god, oh god," she chanted breathily. Her legs shook more, and her fingers pulled his hair painfully.</p> <p>Relief for Walter's scalp came when she commanded, "I've gotta lie down." As she backed up the few steps to her bed, finally shrugging off her robe along the way, she added, "Jesus fucking Christ, you're good. How'd you learn to do that?"</p> <p>"Practice," he joked.</p> <p>Sprawling back on the bed, up on her elbows, she inquired, "How are you doing? Was that fun for you?"</p> <p>"Yes." He grinned.</p> <p>"Did it turn you on?"</p> <p>"Hell yeah."</p> <p>"Let me see!"</p> <p>Walter unbuttoned, unzipped, and stepped out of his jeans and his briefs at the same time, proudly displaying his rock-hard erection. He was still wearing not only his shirt but also his jacket; he quickly shed those as well.</p> <p>"Put that beautiful cock right here," she commanded while pressing her breasts together, "so I can watch it spurt."</p> <p>Climbing onto her mattress, he straddled her chest and she wrapped her soft, voluminous cleavage around his throbbing flesh. Her skin was so smooth that no lubrication was needed, and within minutes he had climaxed.</p> <p>"Oooo, you gave me a pearl necklace, how nice!" Rachel exclaimed.</p> <p>"What?" Walter grunted, confused.</p> <p>"That's what this is called," she explained, gesturing to the drops of white fluid on her neck. "A pearl necklace." Walter laughed.</p> <p>Rachel excused herself to wash up, and Walter re-dressed and took out his materials for this week's lesson. When Rachel returned, he had his notes and cassette tape of examples all ready. She donned her robe again and he launched into his mini-lecture as though he were not sitting on a bed with a barely dressed woman who had just brought him to orgasm with just her chest.</p> <p>"We've been comparing Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. I assume we will have to be able to identify examples of their music on the midterm. So let's try that." Walter started the tape and the first movement of a Haydn piano sonata played. After a minute, he queried, "Who wrote this?"</p> <p>"Mozart?"</p> <p>"Close, but no -- Haydn." He fast-forwarded the tape. "Who wrote this one?"</p> <p>"Mozart."</p> <p>"Right!" More fast-forwarding brought forth an early Beethoven piano sonata, and she correctly identified the composer again.</p> <p>"But I was guessing. I said Mozart the second time because you'd already played Haydn so I didn't think you would play him twice in a row, and then when you confirmed it was Mozart, I guessed Beethoven next because you hadn't played him yet. Really, I can't tell those three pieces apart."</p> <p>Walter realized that teaching required more than just understanding the topic. Perhaps paying closer attention to Professor Hatch's presentation would be edifying in that regard. He thought to himself to the accompaniment of the Beethoven sonata's continuation.</p> <p>"Okay, do you remember what sonata-allegro form is?"</p> <p>"Maybe."</p> <p>"Can you describe it?</p> <p>"Fast opening movement, slow middle movement, fast last movement?"</p> <p>Holy shit, Walter thought, what was she thinking about during class? Did she not take notes? It wasn't as though he had heard any more about sonata form than what Professor Hatch had said to the class. Oh well, her lack of attention was getting him paid, and laid. Hey, that rhymed. Well, not really laid. Okay, focus.</p> <p>"It's about the structure of the first movement, which is generally fast, as you say, though sometimes with a slow introduction, though that doesn't really count. Anyway, because the first movement is often Allegro, that's why it's called sonata-allegro form, though a composer could use this structure for any movement, and some have. Also, this form is not only used in sonatas, but also for symphonies and string quartets. Sonata-allegro form was invented in the early Classical period when music was evolving into a more strongly chordal style. There are three sections in a sonata-allegro form: the exposition, when the theme or themes are played first; the development section, when thematic or motivic material from the exposition is moved through different keys and varied, and the recapitulation, when the themes come back as a sort of book-end to the exposition. The way these three composers handle these sections can help us recognize who's who."</p> <p>Rachel was staring at him with a glazed look on her face, her mouth slightly opened. He must be boring the crap out of her. God, she was sexy. He wanted to kiss her, but restrained himself. </p> <p>"Maybe you should be taking notes so you remember this," Walter suggested. A frown briefly darkened Rachel's face, but she rose and went to her desk, returning with a notepad.</p> <p>"Could you please write down what you just said?" Rachel requested. Walter was about to tell her no, she had to write it down, that was how it was supposed to work. But why was that how it was supposed to work? It didn't have to. Anyway, if he wrote it down, it would save time. But would she be able to read his sloppy handwriting?</p> <p>"How about if I type it? My handwriting is messy."</p> <p>Her face brightened. "Sure!" She stood and walked to her closet, lugging back a huge green typewriter with a chord dangling from it. Compared to his mother's little non-electric Underwood that he'd been allowed to bring to college, her typewriter was twice as large. Seeing that it seemed heavy to her, he took it from her halfway to the desk. It was easily three times as heavy as the Underwood. He set it on the desk, noticing its centered IBM logo, and plugged it in while she rummaged in her desk for typing paper.</p> <p>"This paper is strange," he commented.</p> <p>"It's erasable!"</p> <p>"I've got to get some of this," he said, thinking of how many times Sunday night he'd had to choose between starting a page over or slathering on Wite-Out. Hell, once he had even hit the wrong letter to start a word and then sat there until he figured out a word starting with "c" that he could use there. "Where did you buy it?"</p> <p>"I don't know. My father gave it to me."</p> <p>Walter sat and typed what he'd said so far, then tried to lecture and type at the same time. "Haydn's expositions are often monothematic."</p> <p>"What's that?"</p> <p>"They only have one theme. Mozart's expositions have two themes, with the first one being masculine in character and the second one feminine. Beethoven's themes are generally shorter, more like motivic cells than melodies. That actually makes them easier to do interesting things with in the development section." When he had finished typing that, he demonstrated by replaying the taped examples and pointing out how they fit what he'd said. "But these are just generalizations. Haydn sometimes has two themes, and Beethoven's exposition themes are sometimes longer and more melodic. There are also differences between them in how they use harmony, but Professor Hatch hasn't really talked about that much, so I don't think you have to know that for the midterm."</p> <p>And with that, the hour was finished and he was soon walking downstairs, ten dollars richer.</p> <p>At Wednesday's Lit.Hum. class, papers were returned. Walter flipped to the last page to see his grade and was stunned by the B- circled there. Handwritten next to it was, "The fluency of your writing does not quite conceal the haphazard quality of your structure. Your paragraphs change subject in midstream. The whole paper gives the effect of having been dashed off in a couple of hours. Your intelligence deserves better!"</p> <p>Well, it <em>had</em> been dashed off "in a couple of hours," so that was a fair cop, but Walter had thought the relatedness of everything touched on made it all one big topic. Apparently not. Maybe he should have narrowed the paper's focus after all. </p> <p><em>Roman AkLeff says of </em>Music and Sex,<em> his third attempt at a novel: "Lots of the events depicted in this book happened, to varying degrees. Some should have happened but didn't until now. Though it's mostly set in the 20th century, </em>Music and Sex<em> aspires to be a </em>Bildungsroman <em>for 21st century sensibilities, in that the main character doesn't finish coming of age until he is several decades into adulthood."</em></p> </div> <section> </section> Tue, 24 Nov 2015 07:04:01 +0000 Roman Akleff 3335 at Music and Sex #9: Debut <span>Music and Sex #9: Debut</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/romanakleff" lang="" about="/users/romanakleff" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Roman Akleff</a></span> <span>November 1, 2015 - 23:50</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/799" hreflang="en">new fiction</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p><img alt="" height="225" src="/sites/default/files/images/Columbia-Fraternity-Row.jpg" style="width:300px; height:225px; float:right" width="300" /></p> <p><strong><em>Music and Sex: Scenes from a life </em></strong>-<strong><em> </em></strong>A novel in progress (<a href="/literary/music-and-sex-scenes-life-first-installment" target="_blank">first chapter here</a>).</p> <p>Walter got a call from Tony about getting together and, while they were chatting, complained about the guitarist situation.</p> <p>"Hey, I know a guy who wants to be in a band. He's been bitching about everybody here playing guitar so there aren't enough bands to go around. You should talk to him."</p> <p>Walter did so within minutes of getting the guy's phone number. Albert Imperatori, or as he styled himself, Emperor Albert, listened to Walter's explanation of what the band was aiming for, and its repertoire, and said, "I'm in. Better have a rehearsal tonight if you've got a gig tomorrow, right?"</p> <!--break--> <p>They did, everything went well enough and without drama, and with Paulie out of the way, they could play the songs he refused to play, so their set got longer. Suddenly, magically, it looked like everything had fallen into place.</p> <p>Phi Ep was nice in an old, worn way -- high ceilings, lots of wood with character, old lighting fixtures. After they'd brought all their gear across the street, Gabe, who'd gotten them the gig, led them on a little tour. They would be playing in the front room on the first floor at the top of the stairs, or the second floor if you considered the floor underneath to not be the basement, which it wasn't, since there was a basement under it, but Gabe called the real first floor the basement, so whatever. People lived on the real first floor and on what was actually the third floor; the floor they'd be playing on had the living room in the front and the kitchen behind that, which made it perfect for a party.</p> <p>Gabe's tour included a few introductions to residents, all of whom seemed friendly and psyched for the party. Then they went back downstairs and set up, with a rudimentary sound check -- there'd be no PA, no sound guy, so they'd have to balance everything themselves.</p> <p>Walter immediately ran into a problem. Somehow, either his electric piano or his amp was picking up radio transmissions, apparently from a taxi service. He fretted over it for a while, unable to figure out why or to stop it; finally Garrick said, "I kind of like it -- very avant-garde. Stop worrying about it and go with the flow." Sure, why not?</p> <p>They started on time, not because they already had a crowd -- though five friends and a few residents didn't seem so bad -- but because adding the tunes Paulie had previously vetoed gave them a forty-five-minute setlist after all. While they were banging through "Just Like Me," their set opener, Paulie came in. When Albert soloed, Paulie heckled him. When Garrick sang the out chorus, he was heckled too. When the song was over and Albert -- who used light-gauge strings, and thus had to re-tune after every song -- held up the band with at least two minutes of micro-adjustments, interspersed with taxi dispatcher announcements coming through Walter's amp -- Paulie really cut loose. "What is this shit? Play already. You suck so bad, it doesn't matter whether you're in tune or not. Get it over with as fast as possible and spare us."</p> <p>And then the largest human being Walter had ever seen in person walked away from the punchbowl table and moved towards the stage until he was standing right behind Paulie. "Who is this asshole?" the man-mountain inquired.</p> <p>"A disgruntled ex-member," Walter replied.</p> <p>"Alright then." Man-mountain put his hand, which was the size of a baseball glove, on Paulie's shoulder and said, "Let's go outside," then started walking towards the door. Paulie, slowly propelled that way in spite of his resistance, shouted, "Let go of me, you big ape!" This only got him pushed faster. When they were out the door, somebody by the punch yelled, "Big Ben strikes again!" and there were cheers. Dave counted off, the band launched into "Submission," and the cheering got louder. When the song was over and Albert started tuning again, Garrick filled the musical gap by chanting, "Big Ben! Big Ben!" over and over. Ben, who had returned without Paulie, raised his punch up in salute and there were more cheers. For the rest of their set, Garrick filled the space between songs by telling the most horribly dirty jokes Walter had ever heard, such as, "Why are women's pussies and assholes so close together? So you can carry them like a six-pack." They all got cheers from the frat guys.</p> <p>When their set was over, they moved their instruments to the side, got cups of punch, and looked around for their friends. Walter's only pal present was Carlton, who said, "Nice job." "Thanks for coming!" Walter replied, briefly but silently wondering why more of his other friends -- say, Martial or Marcus -- hadn't shown up for this milestone performance, until realizing that most of his friends, and all his closest friends, were musicians who either had their own gigs on a Friday night or had perhaps felt obliged to attend a different friend's show instead.</p> <p>He saw Albert standing by himself, none of his friends having made the long ride uptown from NYU, apparently. Wait, not even Tony who was also Walter's friend? "Where's Tony?"</p> <p>"He said he was going home to Long Island this weekend."</p> <p>"Hey, you did a great job on just one rehearsal, thanks!"</p> <p>"Glad you liked it. Um, can you give me cab fare? I couldn't carry my amp and guitar on the subway and then play because it makes my hands tired and my fingers shake."</p> <p>Walter had, as always on Fridays, taken enough out of his account to last the weekend. He gave Albert twenty dollars. It meant no record shopping in the Village that weekend, but he was more than grateful enough to Albert that it seemed a good trade-off. Albert thanked him and then left with his equipment. That made Walter think about his own situation. Garrick had helped him carry his keyboards and amp across the street, but he was eagerly chatting up the only woman in the room who wasn't clinging to a resident. Carlton was still hanging around, though, and agreed to help Walter. They both wanted to hear the headliner, so they rushed across the street, dumped it all back in their room, and then returned just in time to see Garrick get slapped by the woman he'd been talking to, after which, red-faced, he stalked out silently, acknowledging nobody. Easy for him; he didn't have any equipment -- even the mike he'd used was Walter's.</p> <p>The rest of the evening was good music, lots of punch, and Walter's realization that of course a frat was not a good place to meet women. Then Carlton pointed out that he didn't want Walter barfing on the bedroom floor again, so they stopped drinking and, once the music finished, went back to their home away from home, lovely Carman Hall.</p> <p>The next day, Walter called Albert to set up their next rehearsal, at which they planned to start working on the original material with Garrick's words and Walter's music. To his surprise, Albert quit instead, saying it was too far to travel and that Garrick wasn't a good singer and told awful jokes. Walter, stunned, just thanked him for having helped them out.</p> <p>He immediately called the other band members, each in turn expressing disappointment but saying that with midterms on the horizon, they were in no rush to restart with another guitarist even if one were available. Walter was especially surprised by how unfazed Garrick was. He wondered if the slap had something to do with it, but diplomatically refrained from raising the topic. Since he'd left with his gear before it happened, he supposed that Garrick might not even know that Walter had witnessed it.</p> <p>At the Marlin that night, the musician crowd was abuzz with the news of the Paulie/Big Ben incident. Even though nobody there had been present to Walter's knowledge, it figured that the Phi Eps and the musicians were sharing intelligence, and that the widely disliked Paulie's comeuppance met with approval. The buzz also served to let the music crew know that The Living Section had had a successful debut, and Walter felt he had risen in their esteem as a result. For the moment, he remained mum about the guitarist situation.</p> <p>Eventually, he saw that Roland and Jessica were sitting at the back. Walter had never seen either of them in the Marlin before. There was another guy at their table who he vaguely recognized; Roland was deep in conversation with the stranger, and they were apparently not including Jessica, or she was not interested in being included; she progressed from looking bored to looking miserable. At one point she noticed Walter looking at her; he quickly averted his gaze.</p> <p>Jimbo and Martial came in and greeted Walter by buying him beers; later he reciprocated. After at least an hour of beer and banter, with Walter occasionally checking the back table in his peripheral vision, he saw movement -- all three were standing, then Jessica abruptly and awkwardly sat again.</p> <p>"You're drunk!" Roland hissed. "Just stay here until you can walk." He and his friend stalked out, leaving Jessica looking shocked and sad.</p> <p>"What a dick!" Jimbo said.</p> <p>"Do you know her?" Martial asked.</p> <p>Walter nodded. "Excuse me, I'm going to see if she wants some help."</p> <p>He sat down at her table. "On behalf of all other men, please accept our apology for the behavior of that one." It was the only sentence that had run through his head on the short walk over that hadn't been immediately dismissed. She smiled at him and whispered, "Thanks."</p> <p>"Are you okay? Want some help walking home?"</p> <p>"I...I don't know. I guess...I was bored, they weren't talking to me, so I guess I drank a little more than usual. I'"</p> <p>"It happens. I bet everybody in this bar has done that at least once. I know I have. Nothing to be embarrassed about."</p> <p>"Roland is...particular. He -- can we leave?"</p> <p>Walter stood and held out his arm to her. She pulled herself up and clung to him as they slowly made their way through the crowd, Walter saying "excuse me" every few feet. Once they were out on the sidewalk, going up Broadway, she began moving better.</p> <p>"You don't seem too drunk," he observed.</p> <p>"The fresh air's an improvement."</p> <p>Walter wanted to ask why Roland treated her like that. He wanted to tell her that if he, Walter, were her boyfriend, she would be protected, not abandoned. But he didn't dare. He didn't think she wanted to discuss it, for one, and it didn't feel like the right setting for a declaration of love. Love? How could he love her when this was only the second time they had talked? Yet he did feel protective towards her. Confused, he figured his best move was to keep quiet, not taking any chances, and see whether she might be attracted to him in the future.</p> <p>As they approached 114th Street, Jessica let go of his arm. Almost immediately she stumbled and grabbed him again. When they walked into Carman, she hesitated and looked around as they walked to the elevator. Once it came, Walter pushed the button for 11. "No," she blurted. He looked at her in surprise. She had a look of fear. "Can I make a phone call from your room?"</p> <p>"Sure," he answered, wondering who she would call. Roland? He pushed the button for 10.</p> <p>Once in his suite, she made a beeline for the Centrex phone in the inner hall, if by "beeline" one meant nudging him in the direction she wanted to go while still clinging to him for support. She dialed four digits and waited.</p> <p>"Hey Angela, do me a big, big favor. Go outside and inconspicuously check whether Roland is hanging out in his doorway or in the lounge." There was a pause in which Angela was presumably talking. "Um, I guess go towards the stairs and if you don't see him, go back to the phone and tell me. But if he is, come down to 10. Uh -- Walter, what room is this?"</p> <p>"1013."</p> <p>"1013." Pause. "I don't know, we'll talk about it."</p> <p>She stood there, leaning against the wall, with the phone to her ear. In a minute, there was a knock at the door. Walter answered it. The woman at the door walked in and said, "He's in the lounge, right in the center."</p> <p>"Oh my god, what do I do?"</p> <p>"Well, you could just ignore him. What the fuck happened?"</p> <p>Jessica recounted the evening's events. When she was done, Angela said, "Thank you, Walter. Unlike Roland, you are a true gentleman."</p> <p>Walter smiled and responded, "Happy to help," but then he saw Jessica, who looked on the verge of tears, and he stopped smiling. Angela made a motion with her head, and Walter took the hint and went into his room. Carlton wasn't there. Walter closed the door and sat on his bed, trying to hear the conversation in the hall, but couldn't. After a few minutes, there was a knock and both girls came in. Angela spoke. "Is it okay if Jessica sleeps here? We're sort of assuming once she starts sleeping, it'll be hours before she wakes up, so probably all night."</p> <p>"Okay."</p> <p>"Thanks. You're awesome. I can't go back upstairs for a while, so can you come keep me company in the lounge?"</p> <p>"Sure."</p> <p>"Which bed is yours?"</p> <p>Walter pointed. Angela gave Jessica a hug and then grabbed Walter's hand, dragging him out. She continued to the lounge, which was empty until they both sat on the couch. She faced him.</p> <p>"Thank you. You seem like a nice guy. Please stay a nice guy and don't take advantage of Jessica's condition."</p> <p>Walter nodded.</p> <p>"Say it."</p> <p>"I would never do that."</p> <p>"I hope not."</p> <p>Walter turned on the TV. Mary Tyler Moore was on 11. They watched it wordlessly to its end.</p> <p>"Okay, I think it's been long enough. If Roland isn't still there, I'll come back and get Jessica. But if he is, and I don't come back, she'll sleep in your bed tonight. What will you do?"</p> <p>"I'll sleep at my desk."</p> <p>"Thanks for being a good guy." She put her hand on his shoulder and squeezed it while smiling, then left.</p> <p>Back in his room, Walter saw Jessica was sound asleep, or passed out. Was there a difference? He turned out the light and sat at his desk. By the light coming in the window -- the shade was up -- he could look over the desk and see her, lying on her side, he noted approvingly, having heard how Hendrix had died. She was near the edge; there was room for him to sleep on the wall side. His desk chair was hard and had a low back; to sleep, he would have to put his head on his arms on the desk, if he moved his piano off it, or on the piano. He had said he'd sleep at his desk, so he would. He wanted no misunderstanding. As much as he had a "type," it was "female musician." He'd been sorely disappointed that his interactions with Janie and Rachel had not led in either case to a relationship. Maybe the key was to build the relationship before going to bed. That was, after all, the way it was supposed to happen, or so he had been raised. And surely Jessica would break up with Roland, and become "available." Probably he shouldn't do anything soon; tonight might have been too traumatic for her. So, he should just be available himself, and wait, and hope that she would realize what a nice boyfriend he would be.</p> <p>When the sun woke Walter in the morning, Jessica was gone. Still tired, he pulled the shade down and got into his bed. He could smell her faintly on his pillow. Carlton's bed was still empty.</p> <p>The next afternoon, when Walter went up to 11 to visit Garrick, he saw Jessica in the TV lounge and waved. No response. Maybe she hadn't noticed him -- though he thought she had. He knocked on Garrick's door. Olivier, the French roommate, answered and said Garrick wasn't in.</p> <p>Walter walked down the hall to the lounge and said "Hi" when he was right outside it. Jessica said nothing, and on entering two steps later, Walter saw Roland sitting to her right. "Looking for someone?" Roland sneered.</p> <p>"Garrick. Seen him?"</p> <p>"No."</p> <p>Walter walked away, thinking, again, that he just didn't understand women. He was starting to suspect that he never would. </p> <p>[<a href="/literary/music-and-sex-scenes-life-tenth-installment" target="_blank">next chapter</a>]</p> <p><em>Roman AkLeff says of </em>Music and Sex,<em> his third attempt at a novel: "Lots of the events depicted in this book happened, to varying degrees. Some should have happened but didn't until now. Though it's mostly set in the 20th century, </em>Music and Sex<em> aspires to be a </em>Bildungsroman <em>for 21st century sensibilities, in that the main character doesn't finish coming of age until he is several decades into adulthood." </em></p> <div id="cke_pastebin" style="position: absolute; left: -1000px; top: 3615.85px; width: 1px; height: 1px; overflow: hidden;"><em><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/images/Roman-AkLeff.jpg" style="width:62px; height:80px; float:right" />Roman AkLeff says of </em>Music and Sex,<em> his third attempt at a novel: "Lots of the events depicted in this book happened, to varying degrees. Some should have happened but didn't until now. Though it's mostly set in the 20th century, </em>Music and Sex<em> aspires to be a </em>Bildungsroman <em>for 21st century sensibilities, in that the main character doesn't finish coming of age until he is several decades into adulthood." </em></div> </div> <section> </section> Mon, 02 Nov 2015 04:50:50 +0000 Roman Akleff 3325 at Music and Sex #8: Rachel, Keith, and William <span>Music and Sex #8: Rachel, Keith, and William</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/romanakleff" lang="" about="/users/romanakleff" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Roman Akleff</a></span> <span>September 8, 2015 - 01:00</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/799" hreflang="en">new fiction</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <p><strong><em>Music and Sex: Scenes from a life </em></strong>-<strong><em> </em></strong>A novel in progress (<a href="/literary/music-and-sex-scenes-life-first-installment" target="_blank">first chapter here</a>). Warning: more highly graphic TMI.</p> <p>A weekend of fruitless fretting almost led Walter to agree that Martial had the right idea and the show should go on with no guitarist, and with just Walter on keyboards, but really all he'd come up with for sure was a new band name -- The Living Section, for the Wednesday arts portion of <em>The New York Times</em>. The other guys all agreed that was an improvement. However, he couldn't bring himself to propose to them what, in his head, he had dubbed the Martial Plan.</p> <!--break--> <p>The thing about the band was, it had to be fit in between all the stuff that going to college was actually about, such as attending classes. So on Monday, it was back to the usual schedule, which meant one of his favorite -- because it was both easy and about music -- classes, Music Humanities. The Spring semester was taught not by Professor Hatch, but by Ellen Harris. Fortunately she also had a sense of humor; everybody laughed when she related her story about being injured by a prop pistol onstage during an opera performance, and on being asked in the emergency room, "Where were you shot?", answering, "I was shot in the opera."</p> <p>Partly because of his height, Walter tended to sit in the back row of his classes. During Music Hum, this often resulted in Rachel Lofsky sitting in front of or alongside him. Hesitant and uncertain when called on in class, perhaps she was hoping to escape notice in the back, but she often slipped in just before class started, by which point the back row had been filled. Her preference for low-cut jeans meant that Walter was often treated to a view of her ass crack. He was reminded of the evolutionary explanation that he had read about in a sociology book saying that breasts evolved to mimic buttocks when our ancestors began walking upright. However true that might be, butt cleavage didn't excite him as much as breast cleavage did. Hence, sitting alongside Rachel was better, as she had a most ample bosom, which Walter enjoyed viewing in profile. Sometimes, depending on the angle at which she sat and what she was wearing, he saw some of that cleavage as well.</p> <p>After class had let out that day and he was walking down the stairs in Dodge Hall wondering what to do about the band, Rachel caught up with him, saying, "Walter, do you mind if I ask you a question?" </p> <p>"Go right ahead," he responded.</p> <p>"You seem to know so much about music. Would you tutor me in Music Hum? I'll pay you."</p> <p>"Sure, that sounds like fun." Walter would have said the same thing if she'd asked him to scrub her floors.</p> <p>"Thanks! When are you available?"</p> <p>"Tuesday and Thursday afternoons are good. Weekends, if I don't have something planned."</p> <p>"Tuesday's good for me too. Four PM? "</p> <p>"Okay."</p> <p>"Can we start this week?"</p> <p>"Tomorrow? Sure. I'll meet you at the listening room in Dodge."</p> <p>"Oh, I don't want to do it there. It would be embarrassing. Can you just come to my apartment?"</p> <p>"Have you got a cassette player?"</p> <p>"Yes."</p> <p>"Good. I'll bring tapes."</p> <p>Rachel lived off campus. She gave Walter her address (corner of West End Avenue and 106th Street) and also her phone number, "because you have to call from the payphone on the corner in front of the liquor store and then go to the 106th Street side and I'll throw my keys down to you so you can let yourself in." </p> <p>That evening, he made tapes of the repertoire that they were listening to in class. The next afternoon, a sunny and warm day, he walked down Broadway and kept going onto West End where Broadway curved and West End started. Rachel tossed her keys down to him wrapped in a sock. After he'd walked up to her fourth floor apartment, starting to sweat a bit by the end, he saw her standing barefoot in her open doorway, attired in cutoff blue-jean shorts and a button-down shirt knotted above her midriff.</p> <p>He followed her down the long hall of the shotgun apartment, all the way to the back, a large and sunny corner room. "Have a seat," she offered, pulling a chair out from a small desk against which an electric bass was leaning. There were no other chairs in the room; she sat on the mattress on the floor.</p> <p>He turned the chair to face the bed, sat, and got straight to the point. "Where's your cassette player?" He didn't see one in her stereo. Her big brown eyes locked with his and she answered, "It's in my desk." She leaned forward, and suddenly he was hyperaware of how her cleavage increased when she did that. Her long, dirty-blond hair swung next to him. Walter felt an erotic charge from her closeness.</p> <p>Rachel opened a drawer and pulled out a portable tape recorder. Walter noticed a large rubber penis in the drawer. Rachel noticed him noticing it. "I'm so embarrassed you saw my dildo!" she exclaimed. Walter's impression, though, was that she wasn't acting embarrassed at all, and her next words seemed to confirm that: "If I'm tense, I can't concentrate, so I need to relax myself at least once a day."</p> <p>Walter felt a <em>frisson</em> of shared naughtiness. "Me too. But I have a roommate, so I don't get to do it as much as I'd like."</p> <p>"That's awful! Do you want to do it right now?"</p> <p>"It seems like I always want to do it."</p> <p>"I mean, will you do it for me now? I'd like to watch."</p> <p>Walter was momentarily speechless. She filled the silence by saying, "I'll do it too, we can watch each other."</p> <p>That was too good an offer to turn down. "Okay!"</p> <p>Rachel untied and unbuttoned her shirt and pulled it off. She was wearing a plain white bra. Walter sat transfixed as she reached behind her back and unhooked the bra, shrugged her shoulders forward, and slid the straps down her arms. Her bounteous mammaries hung in front of his face at eye level, hypnotizing him. Soon her pants dropped to the floor as well. Surprisingly, she'd had nothing on under them. She reached back into the drawer and pulled out the flesh-toned dildo. She unrolled a condom onto its head as she stepped back and sat on the edge of the bed.</p> <p>"Aren't you forgetting something?" she said.</p> <p>Walter unfroze from his bedazzled trance and stood, quickly donning his clothes. He dropped them on the metal chair and sat on them, facing Rachel. She smiled at him and opened her legs. She ran her fingers down through the profusely hirsute patch there, spreading the light brown hairs apart, and rubbed the dildo head up and down the revealed lips, then pushed it between them. Walter felt his erection intensify its hardness, pointing straight up. He put his hand on himself and gently stroked it.</p> <p>Until he'd come to college, Walter had masturbated by grinding his crotch against a pillow. Lately he'd been experimenting with the new skill of whacking off with his hand while in the shower. It was still a novel feeling, made more so at the moment by the fact that he did not have warm water and soap to provide lubrication. Not that this lack was any impediment, not with a voluptuous naked woman in front of him stuffing a fairly large dildo into herself. Rachel started moaning, all the while staring intently at Walter's crotch. Her hand moved the artificial dick in and out at a faster pace, and her breasts jiggled. Walter could see her juices glistening on the plastic rod. He suddenly felt proud of himself, proud that, as he saw it, his cock could help inspire such a reaction. As he stroked himself, his thumb rubbed the pre-come oozing from his cock around the head.</p> <p>He wanted to touch Rachel, but feared endangering this magical moment. She had only spoken of watching. Somehow that suppressed longing intensified his sensations.</p> <p>The volume of Rachel's moaning increased, and one of her legs began to twitch. She lay back on the mattress and pumped harder. "I'm coming, I'm coming," she whispered hoarsely, arching her back up from the mattress, her weight on her shoulders. She squeezed her legs together and shuddered repeatedly.</p> <p>After a minute she turned on her side to face him. "Come for me," she urged. "I want to see you jizz."</p> <p>Walter tightened his hand around his cock and stroked faster. Usually his eyes were closed when he did this in the shower, some fantasy image held onto in his mind, but now his eyes locked with hers for a moment. Then she looked back down at his cock, and watching her watch him pushed him over the edge. A long rope of white liquid shot out towards her, splattering onto the wooden floor just short of the mattress. "Oh yeah!" she exclaimed. Then came another, travelling half as far, and then shorter spurts, then dribbles as he milked the last drops from his penis.</p> <p>"That was great!" Rachel enthused. She grabbed a box of tissues from the night table and wiped up his jism. When she tossed it in her battered metal wastebacket, it made a wet thump. She stripped the condom from the dildo and dropped it in the trash as she returned the dildo to its drawer.</p> <p>It was an old floor, with gaps between the wood planks. Walter was sure some of his sperm had escaped into the cracks, his genetic material thus to reside there for – how long? Was this a sort of latent immortality? Contrarily, he'd learned in the previous semester of Lit Hum that in the Middle Ages, orgasm was called "the little death." When sperm left your body, did part of your soul travel with it? Did he think these nutty thoughts only because his penis had just borrowed blood from his brain? Would he be able to talk about music intelligently?</p> <p>As it turned out, he would. Walter got dressed again and Rachel put her shirt back on, but only her shirt, though it was long enough when not tied to obscure her groin when she leaned forward. Walter then spent forty minutes playing the musical examples on his tapes and giving her practical advice on recognizing the composers, following the structure of a sonata-allegro movement, etc. He kept his eyes on the tape recorder as much as possible to avoid distracting himself, though when they were quiet while listening, he was wondering what his next move should be, because he was utterly smitten.</p> <p>Finally the last tape was finished (obviously he hadn't been playing them in their entirety). It was 5 PM, so he thought a dinner invitation would be natural enough. Maybe it was, but it didn't work.</p> <p>"Oh no, my boyfriend will be home from work in a while. I actually have to start getting dinner ready soon. How much do I owe you?"</p> <p>"Don't worry about it." Walter couldn't imagine taking her money after what they had done together, even if he was feeling utterly deflated by the news that she had a boyfriend and what she and Walter had done together was not the prelude to a relationship.</p> <p>"No, I insist!" She handed him a ten-dollar bill. "Is that enough?"</p> <p>Well, ten dollars was ten dollars. Or, in the Village, two or three used LPs. So he took it. "Thanks."</p> <p>"Thank <u>you</u>! See you in class."</p> <p>Walter slowly walked back uptown, not quite believing what had happened. Part of him was exhilarated, part of him was crushed. Instead of dinner with Rachel, he went to the cafeteria, then back to his dorm room. After eating, and after his rollercoaster afternoon, he was feeling contemplative, and nothing would do for that mood but to listen to Keith Jarrett's <em>Köln Concert</em>. He put it on and lay on his bed to listen. Carlton was out, so Walter didn't need to use headphones</p> <p>It starts so quietly, so tentatively, with a five-note figure in the right hand, a pause as the left hand grumbles, then the right hand repeats itself and continues, gathering courage for a heartfelt statement of yearning. As he listens, the yearning makes him think of Rachel. If not for her boyfriend, would she be the one? The density and intensity of the music builds; Jarrett has set up a groove, and the repetition of some elements along with the addition of further embellishments fills the air with more and more tension until suddenly a wild, effusive flurry of notes flies upward in an ejaculatory release. Then the process starts again, with new melodic and motivic materials.</p> <p>Just as, Walter thinks, he will find somebody else. This waxing rhapsodic amidst the coming and going of grooves goes on for awhile. Jarrett eventually hits on a particularly insistent vamp on a pedal tone; the pressure builds and builds further until Jarrett unclenches it with a move downward that undams the accumulated tension in a sudden release of orgasmic proportions. That's very nearly the end of the twenty-five minute improvisation, which diminishes quickly to a relaxed glow. It has been a magnificent emotional journey.</p> <p>The tonearm automatically moves back to its cradle and the turntable stops spinning, but Walter's thoughts continue to churn. If not Rachel, who? Nearly all the women he knows at Columbia/Barnard are in Music Hum or B-C Chorus. He wonders whether his liaison with Janie was noticed by anyone but Martial. Janie not having rejoined presumably means nobody's heard about it from her.</p> <p>Mara Shapiro, one of the sopranos in the choir, was certainly attractive, but Walter had never had the opportunity to talk to her for a natural reason, nor the courage to just introduce himself. Eleanor Eakins, the tall redhead, also a soprano, seemed to be dating the rehearsal pianist. Okay, going down the list from most attractive didn't seem productive. What women in choir had he had some interaction with who weren't taken? To his surprise, the answer was: none. He had not had a conversation with any current sopranos or altos. He had been too nervous or shy or cautious to take that chance.</p> <p>With both Janie and Rachel, he had been the passive recipient of attention. He had enjoyed the immediate results, but neither situation had lasted. Well, he wasn't sure what would happen with Rachel, but a relationship was apparently out of the question. Nonetheless, he wasn't sure he had the guts to take the initiative.</p> <p>Well, if he were to approach a woman in the choir, what would he talk to her about? What was a topic they would both be interested in? Logic said the safest bet would be music. But there would have to be more of a justification. "Hi, would you like to go to a concert with me?" He couldn't imagine being that bold.</p> <p>But he wrote music. He performed his music. What if he wrote some songs for soprano, and then asked a soprano to sing them? That could work. Not for the band; art songs, just him on piano and her singing. One-on-one collaboration.</p> <p>He would have to find some poems to set. He knew practically nothing about poetry. He would have to do something about that. One trip to the school bookstore later, he was choosing between <em>Six Centuries of Great Poetry</em>, edited by Robert Penn Warren and Albert Erskine, and <em>Modern Poems: An Introduction to Poetry</em>, edited by Richard Ellmann and Robert O'Clair. He noticed that the former had only British poems, and therefore he opted for Ellmann's volume. He was more inclined to modern poetry anyway; he himself was, after all, aiming to be a modern composer.</p> <p>Back in his room, he skipped the introductory chapters and dove into the first author collected, Walt Whitman, specifically "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry." Too verbose, too flowery. Next, Emily Dickinson. Certainly not verbose, but somewhat eccentric, and he wasn't at all sure of what she meant. Thomas Hardy was more on his wavelength, and Walter would perhaps look into him more at some time, but his rhythm and tone didn't match Walter's sense of a song lyric. Gerard Manley Hopkins struck him as too pretentious, and self-satisfied as well. Robert Bridges had a whiff of the self-consciously archaic. A. E. Housman was too rhymey. W. B. Yeats seemed uneven in inspiration, but a few of his poems were powerful in a brooding way: "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death," "Easter 1916," "The Second Coming." Nothing made him want to put it to music, though.</p> <p>Walter skipped ahead to Robert Frost. Some of his poems he had already read in high school. He liked them, sort of; they went down easy. But they were, again, too rhymey, sing-songy. Carl Sandberg's work he had also read and enjoyed before, but none of it asked him to set it to music. Edward Thomas's two inclusions didn't inspire him. Wallace Stevens seemed another wordy sort until he got to "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," which was completely different from any poetry he had ever seen before, not that that was saying much given his inexperience. James Stephens had a strong voice, but not for music. Three James Joyce poems made three completely separate impressions; perhaps he was worth investigating further. E. J. Pratt, another too rhymey, and what was with all these guys with two initials?</p> <p>William Carlos Williams. Walter liked Williams's rhythm, which was strong yet irregular, and Williams didn't rhyme, which he also liked. "The Red Wheelbarrow" was the most striking, but he couldn't imagine setting it to music. Still, this guy seemed promising. And Walter was starting to wonder whether the poems selected to represent each author were his best, or instead were trying to cover as many of his styles as possible in the space. D. H. Lawrence's bio was certainly interesting, but none of the poems seemed indecent, though obscenity charges had dogged him. A deliberate omission by the compiler? Anyway, though "The Ship of Death" was compelling, Walter was starting to notice that he was more attracted to the American authors than the British ones.</p> <p>Ezra Pound was interesting, but the poem Walter liked the most turned out to be a translation of a Chinese poem by Li Po. Walter thought he remembered reading a Pound poem in high school that wasn't here, something about growing old and being indecisive. He'd liked it, and made another mental note to investigate Pound's work further. Two selections each by Hilda Doolittle and Siegfried Sassoon were good but not song material. Robinson Jeffers was powerful, but his topics didn't lend themselves to lyrical songs. Edwin Muir seemed a possibility. Edith Sitwell didn't speak to him. Marianne Moore was fabulous, but not song material. John Crowe Ransom seemed deliberately archaic and Old World.</p> <p>T.S. Eliot, and it turned out that he wrote the poem Walter had misremembered as being by Pound: "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." But there had been an Eliot-Pound connection, so he didn't feel too stupid at the mistake. Anyway, the ending of "Prufrock" was his favorite part, so mysterious and doomy. A couple more poems seemed artificial. Then, a long introduction to "The Waste Land," so it must be important. Holy shit, it's fucking brilliant, although without the footnotes he wouldn't know what the hell half of it was about -- yet somehow it had an alluring mood even when its meaning was obscure. He couldn't imagine setting it to music, but wow.</p> <p>Perhaps because they were in the shadow of "The Waste Land," the next few poets made no impression. Wilfred Owen broke that jinx; writing about World War I, his mood reminded <em>Walter of All Quiet on the Western Front</em>, even though the latter was a novel.</p> <p>He'd never liked e.e. cummings all that much, and didn't change his mind now. He skimmed through many more, finally brought up short by Randall Jarrell's "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner," not that it was song material. Then back to skimming. Lawrence Ferlinghetti's one poem seemed promising; somebody else to look into. He should make a list, he thought; in lieu of that, he went to the table of contents and circled the authors who had made an impression.</p> <p>Then it was back to skimming, until Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" blew his mind. No wonder people at Columbia talked about this man as though he were a god. Not song material, but wow, again. And Walter noticed that its repetitions reminded him of "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry." The voice was more modern, but still, maybe Whitman had been an influence.</p> <p>Forty pages later, Gary Snyder's "Four Poems for Robin" stood out. Walter flipped back to the table of contents and circled his name. Etheridge Knight, who'd been in prison, had some vivid poems, not song material, but his haiku especially made an impression. Walter remembered haiku from fourth grade and noticed that Knight did not always adhere to the 5-7-5 syllables structure, but also that that didn't make them any less vivid.</p> <p><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/images/wcw-collected-earlier.jpg" style="width:200px; height:286px; float:right" />Next came a trip to the library, since he didn't want to spend a lot, based on such little evidence, on a bunch of books. There were big collections of Stevens and Williams, which he took out. He looked up Li Po and found more modern translations by Kenneth Rexroth in Chinese anthologies he'd both edited and translated. Walter couldn't find any Gary Snyder books, but he felt like he had enough to keep him busy, as his father liked to say.</p> <p>Back at his room, Carlton was studying at his desk. Walter put his headphones on, picked up where he had left off with Jarrett's <em>Köln Concert</em>, and dove into <em>The Collected Earlier Poems</em> of William Carlos Williams. Pretty soon he was sure he'd be turning some of them into songs: "To a Solitary Disciple," "To a Poor Old Woman," "This Is Just to Say" (he imagined combining those two, since they both hinged on plums), maybe "At the Ballgame," the short version of "The Locust Tree in Flower." He made a list, then went to sleep.</p> <p>[<a href="/literary/music-and-sex-scenes-life-ninth-installment" target="_blank">next chapter</a>]</p> <p><em>Roman AkLeff says of </em>Music and Sex,<em> his third attempt at a novel: "Lots of the events depicted in this book happened, to varying degrees. Some should have happened but didn't until now. Though it's mostly set in the 20th century, </em>Music and Sex<em> aspires to be a </em>Bildungsroman <em>for 21st century sensibilities, in that the main character doesn't finish coming of age until he is several decades into adulthood." </em></p> </div> <section> </section> Tue, 08 Sep 2015 05:00:18 +0000 Roman Akleff 3298 at Music and Sex #7: Battles of the Band <span>Music and Sex #7: Battles of the Band</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/romanakleff" lang="" about="/users/romanakleff" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Roman Akleff</a></span> <span>September 6, 2015 - 12:26</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/799" hreflang="en">new fiction</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p style="text-align:center"><img alt="" height="287" src="/sites/default/files/images/XK3-drawbar.jpg" style="width: 565px; height: 203px;" width="800" /></p> <p><strong><em>Music and Sex: Scenes from a life </em></strong>-<strong><em> </em></strong>A novel in progress (<a href="/literary/music-and-sex-scenes-life-first-installment" target="_blank">first chapter here</a>).</p> <p>As 1980 got going, Walter was distracted from Janie’s absence by progress on the band front. Garrick had found an electric guitarist, Tom O’Reilly. Though still lacking bass and drums, they decided to try putting together some new songs and practicing some covers -- because as TomO (as he styled himself) pointed out pragmatically, a good set of rockin’ covers would get them gigs at the frats that lined the south side of 114th St. Over a round of beers at the Marlin, a brightly lit bar that had less visual flair than a high school cafeteria, but the cheapest beer near campus, they decided to take turns suggesting covers.</p> <!--break--> <p>Walter led off: "For Your Love." He liked it because of its harpsichord riff.</p> <p>"Fuck that!" blurted TomO. "I was told we'd be covering <em>Nuggets</em>-type songs."</p> <p>"I love the Yardbirds!" Garrick responded.</p> <p>"I hate Eric Clapton," TomO explained. "I don't want to have to play his part every night."</p> <p>"Every night? You're quite the optimist," joked Garrick. "Anyway, Clapton hated that song so much that he left the band, so you should like it."</p> <p>"Never mind," said Walter. "How about something completely different? A rock version of 'Don't Stop Till You Get Enough'?"</p> <p>"How about, somebody with better taste than you picks the songs?" TomO sniped.</p> <p>"How about you go find yourself another band to be a cranky jerk in?" Walter replied venomously, and walked out, leaving his half-drunk beer behind. Garrick, he noted, did not follow him. He waited outside for a minute to make sure, then walked back to Carman. Carlton wasn't around, so Walter turned on his little Carlo Robelli electric piano and tried to work out the chords of "Wuthering Heights," getting the bass first and then laying in the harmonies. After about half an hour, he'd more or less approximated it. An idea was slowly growing in his head -- to find a soprano who could sing rock, so he could go in a different direction from what he and Garrick had been planning. It put him in a better mood.</p> <p>Later he went to the TV lounge and watched old sitcom re-runs. After an hour, Garrick came in, and looked at Walter sheepishly.</p> <p>"He's an asshole, I know, but it's not easy to find a guitarist who isn't already in a band."</p> <p>"So you're choosing him over me?" Walter said, incredulous.</p> <p>"What, I can't be in two bands?"</p> <p>Walter hadn't thought of that possibility. "If you've got time, I guess."</p> <p>There was an awkward silence, broken by Rhoda's laugh.</p> <p>"Do you want to hear what songs we're doing?"</p> <p>"Okay." Walter wouldn't admit it, but he had a certain masochistic curiosity about what had happened after he'd left.</p> <p>"'Just Like Me,' 'Submission,' 'Back Door Man,' '96 Tears,' 'Hang on Sloopy,' 'Grinding Halt,' and 'Heroin.'"</p> <p>"I'm not sure you can pull off 'Heroin.' You look too healthy," Walter joked. Garrick laughed, maybe a bit too much, but they both smiled.</p> <p>"What's 'Grinding Halt'"?</p> <p>"It's on the Cure album. You don't have that? You should tape mine. And I'll do 'For Your Love' with your band," Garrick said.</p> <p>"Let's get some new songs written, too," Walter responded.</p> <p>"How do we do that?"</p> <p>"Just give me your lyrics."</p> <p>Thus it was that Walter came to set a bunch of agitprop to music. The words begged for punk-rock accompaniment and to be declaimed more than sung, so he kept the chords basic and the melodic range narrow.</p> <p>When they next got together, Walter discovered that Garrick couldn't read music.</p> <p>"What am I supposed to do with this?" he said, waving the handwritten sheet music  Walter had just given him. "I thought you'd make a demo tape," he continued, his voice a mix of pleading and disdain.</p> <p>"I can do that," Walter answered placatingly.</p> <p>It required a bit of spending, though, as he had to get a microphone. Jimbo advised him to go to 52nd St., which he called "Music Store Row," and look for a used mike. At Manny's, he found a dented Shure for just $30, checked that it worked, and then could not resist wandering over to the keyboard area. He fiddled with some whoppingly expensive synthesizers; looked longingly at a used Fender Rhodes that, even at just $500, was still out of his reach financially; ignored the console organs that were both too pricey and too unportable, and then saw a very small Hammond. Its casing was dinged and its carrying handle was broken, but the price tag read $175. He checked his wallet, glad he hadn't done any record shopping since returning; the Christmas twenties from Granma Dolly, Aunt Shirley, Uncle Al, Uncle Side, Aunt Martha, Great-Aunt Phyllis, and Granpa Willie were still intact, and he had also begged $50 from his mother for "laundry and weekend meals," so he could do this. The salesman half-heartedly tried to talk him into something a little more expensive, but that Hammond -- an X1, he was told, which sounded more like an experimental aircraft -- was the only portable that was used and thus affordable. Walter halted the salesman's advances by saying, "I've only got $190."</p> <p>"What about that mike, then?"</p> <p>"I'll put it back."</p> <p>"Come with me, sir."</p> <p>It still amused Walter to hear grownups refer to him as "sir." He followed the salesman, wondering what was about to happen, but they just went to the register. Walter noticed that he seemed to be the only customer there; all the rest were in the guitar section, producing a cacophony of riffs and leads. The salesman leaned over the counter and whispered, "one-ninety cash," then looked at Walter expectantly. Hesitantly, he took his $190 out and put it on the counter."</p> <p>"They're yours, kid. Get them outta here before somebody else wants them, the register guy said, "and tell your friends to come to Manny's."</p> <p>Slightly mystified by his good fortune, Walter said, "Thanks," put the mike in his coat pocket, and hefted the organ under one arm. With a bit of trepidation -- after all, he had no receipt -- he exited. Nothing happened. He got on the 1 and returned uptown with his booty.</p> <p>Back in his dorm room, he told Marcus of his good fortune. "Yeah, cash for used, they'll do that. The stuff isn't in inventory, so they don't have to keep a paper trail, and you paid cash and got no receipt, so they can pretend it never happened and not pay taxes on it. They clear more doing like that than if you paid full price and they put it through the register. And you also saved on sales tax. Good deal, Captain! Can I try it out?"</p> <p>Walter took the cable connecting his piano to his stereo and switched it into his new organ.</p> <p>"You don't have an amp?"</p> <p>"I do, but it stopped working in November and I haven't gotten around to fixing it."</p> <p>"You'll blow your speakers!"</p> <p>"I keep the volume low."</p> <p>After the Hammond was plugged in, Marcus played some bluesy chords that sounded familiar.</p> <p>"What's that?"</p> <p>"Just a gospel progression. This sounds great. Do you think I could borrow it if I get a gig?"</p> <p>"Sure."</p> <p>"Hey, I'm sorry, it's your new toy, you play it."</p> <p>Walter sat at his desk and played the opening of Bach's  D-minor Toccata &amp; Fugue in the piano version, with the left hand playing the pedal parts, since this organ didn't have pedals.</p> <p>"Nice, Phantom of the Opera!" Marcus said. And from then on, he sometimes called Walter "Phantom" instead of "Captain."</p> <p>Walter afterwards took a closer look at his amp and found a connection that needed soldering. Because of the work he'd had to do on his Carlo Robelli electric piano, which had also been used and which was a nightmare of contacts, he'd already invested in a soldering iron and, of course, solder; for this project, though, he needed a third hand. He called Marcus back in, and though it was a little awkward coordinating three hands inside the amp, they did it, and after that Marcus spread the word that Walter could do repairs, which occasionally brought him a little money, usually just $5, but hey, that could be converted into another used LP down in the Village.</p> <p>Meanwhile, he made the demo tape for Garrick, who had gotten his hands on an alto sax and, despite not being able to read music, had thrown himself into trying to learn to play it. He seemed proud of his progress, but his playing was not ready for public airing -- sometimes he struggled even to get any sounds out, much less accurate notes. He judged himself on his best results, when he managed to get a string of notes out without squeaking; even those duck-toned, out-of-tune efforts pained Walter's ears, and he judged Garrick on the average of his results, which met no standard of musical usefulness. The Portsmouth Sinfonia's cracked rendition of <em>Also Sprach Zarathustra</em> was virtuosic in comparison. And still he hadn't heard Garrick sing -- he was starting to get a bad feeling about this.</p> <p>There was some band progress, though: Walter convinced one of the drummers in the marching band to play with them, and that guy said he could bring a bassist as well. Still no guitarist, but everything else had fallen into place.</p> <p>Finally, they resorted to putting an ad in the school paper's classifieds: "Electric guitarist sought for band combining Nuggets and Punk." The first response was from a guy who, it turned out, was planning to learn guitar. On being informed that they wanted somebody who already knew how to play, he snorted, "That's not very fucking punk, then, is it?" At least there was no need to audition him. When a guitarist who said he was in the school jazz band responded, the first-ever meeting of all members of Captain Vinyl and the Disk-ciples was scheduled -- in the school band room, in fact, because they could use the amps and drum set there. Everybody had been told they would work on "For Your Love" and The Jam's "Down in the Tube Station (at Midnight)," with the instrumentalists working them out in the first hour and Garrick joining them after that. It turned out that an hour was more time than they'd needed; they spent the last fifteen minutes in an impromptu jam on Duke Ellington's "Blues in C," though only Walter knew the head -- but they all felt comfortable in a C blues, so that didn't matter.</p> <p>Garrick arrived while they were jamming; the bassist dropped out to open the door, which was locked.</p> <p>"We're not a fuckin' blues band," Garrick immediately announced.</p> <p>"Who's this asshole?" the guitarist asked.</p> <p>"Ahem. He's our singer," Walter replied.</p> <p>"Awkward!" joked the drummer.</p> <p>"Let's start with "For Your Love," Walter said blithely, trying to ignore the tension.</p> <p>"By the greatest of the British blues bands," interjected the guitarist, pointedly. Walter considered mock-seriously responding, "You mean Fleetwood Mac?" (which, honestly, was who he'd first heard performing it, on the album), but bit his tongue, unsure if that would really relax them.</p> <p>Garrick pretended not to have heard the jibe, but after the instrumental intro, he snarled the lead vocal with feral intensity as Walter and the bassist -- who, unlike Garrick, had no mikes -- chimed in with the repetitions of the title. Walter had been worried about Garrick's singing, a topic the confrontation with the guitarist had made him painfully aware of again, but now he relaxed. Garrick clearly would never be heard at the Metropolitan Opera, but he was good enough for punk rock. He sounded just as good on the Jam tune, while the backing vocals -- "oh oh oh oh" -- added to its exuberance. The friction with the guitarist had dissipated, and they'd gotten through both songs they'd planned on with no mishaps.</p> <p>The introductions finally happened at that point. Walter identified himself and Garrick, then Paulie the guitarist and Bill the drummer; Bill did the honors for the bassist, Dave. After that they repaired to the Marlin. It was amazing how often Walter ended up at that place despite not liking it. As, for the first time, Walter was able to speak as a member of a band that had actually played together and could bandy about the details of its recently concluded rehearsal, it suddenly dawned on him why he and his ilk habitually hung out there: not just because it was where musicians went, but why. It wasn't just the cheap beer. It was where one acted the part of a musician in a forum focused on musicians, with no distractions: no women (well, few, and rarely), no TV, no band playing (a bit of a paradox, that last one). There were old men who sat at the bar, and the musicians sat at tables, the two tribes not interested in interacting. Well, a diminutive guitarist dubbed Mex (for reasons unknown to Walter) sometimes sat at the end of the bar, but that seemed based on quickest access to the Rheingolds he drank so prolifically, and he faced away from the bar to interact with the table denizens.</p> <p>This evening, Walter discovered that he was the sole defender of prog-rock in his band. It happened when they started debating more potential cover repertoire and he suggested "Starship Trooper."</p> <p>"I knew you were a secret prog lover," said Garrick. No fucking way."</p> <p>"But you like Kate Bush!" he abjured Garrick.</p> <p>"She's not prog!"</p> <p>"Her guitarist is David Gilmour."</p> <p>"So what?"</p> <p>"He's in Pink Floyd."</p> <p>"They're not prog, they're psych."</p> <p>"Oh, come on. That was true early on, sure, but you can't tell me that <em>Dark Side of the Moon</em> isn't prog."</p> <p>"A little. But that's just one album."</p> <p>"<em>Wish You Were Here</em> is prog too. So's <em>Animals</em>. And <em>The Wall</em>, although just for the record, it's crap. I just cited <em>Dark Side</em> because that was the point at which their progginess became undeniable."</p> <p>"Well, I'm denying it."</p> <p>"It's trippy, not proggy," Dave chimed in.</p> <p>"'Money' is in 5/4. Odd meters are a classic prog move," Bill refuted. Then, just as Walter thought he might have an ally, Bill continued, "That's why I hate it. Pretentious bullshit."</p> <p>"I always light up a fat one to listen to <em>Dark Side</em>," Paulie said, as though that was definitive proof of something.</p> <p>Walter pounced. "I bet you spark one for your Bob Marley albums too."</p> <p>"Yeah, so?"</p> <p>"That doesn't constitute evidence of Bob being psychedelic."</p> <p>"I think his rhythm section's pretty psychedelic."</p> <p>"The term doesn't mean anything if you use it that broadly!" Walter protested.</p> <p>"It's about feeling. That's why I don't like prog. No feeling."</p> <p>"You're saying Peter Gabriel doesn't lay his feelings and emotions out there all through <em>The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway</em>?"</p> <p>"I'm talkin' about <u>musical</u> feeling. Floyd and Marley have a loose feeling. Genesis and Yes are tight. Tight sphincters."</p> <p>Walter gave up. He even announced that, loudly: "I give up," and quickly joked, "So does this mean we will be covering 'Wuthering Heights'?"</p> <p>Amid the chuckles that elicited, Paulie asked, "Will we be adding a chick singer, or just castrating him?", gesturing at Garrick, who scowled briefly before half-heartedly going "ha ha."</p> <p>Then they returned to kicking around cover ideas. Garrick suggested all the songs he'd said he'd be playing with TomO, so Walter inferred that that collaboration was dead. After the fourth one, Walter raised his eyebrows, and Garrick bashfully nodded.</p> <p>Paulie vetoed "Heroin" as "too obvious" and "Grinding Halt" as "Brit bullshit." None of Paulie's suggestions -- all Clapton-related -- were taken seriously, but he didn't care, since he was just yanking Garrick's chain. Fortunately the rhythm section, apparently just happy to be in a band -- or in a bar, or in a band in a bar -- didn't seem to care one way or the other about any of the suggestions. Many beers later, they'd wrapped things up, including scheduling their next rehearsal.</p> <p>As they were all exiting, Walter saw Martial and Jimbo at another table and paused to say hello. "Sit down, kid," said  Martial, motioning to an empty chair. Walter sat, whereupon Martial then spent a few minutes making small talk about the choir, occasionally looking around until finally leaning in and quietly saying, "Okay, now that they're all gone, I can predict the future of your new band." Walter perked up.</p> <p>"Yeah, you're all excited and hopeful now," Martial continued. "It's like being in love, except instead of getting laid, you're making music. That's even more exciting for people like us, so I get it. But, just like a crazy girlfriend, Paulie's going to break your heart. You can see he's an asshole, right?"</p> <p>"Yeah, but --"</p> <p>"There is no but. I know, he can play pretty good. It doesn't matter. He's not worth the trouble. Don't take just my word for it. Jimbo?"</p> <p>"Yup. He's a prick. I don't know what his problem is. Every band he's been in, either he quit or got kicked out or it broke up. He's on some weird power trip or something, always arguing, never letting anything go. Fuck him."</p> <p>"It was hard finding a good guitarist," Walter protested, or explained.</p> <p>"There's always another guitarist. They're as common as toadstools after it rains," said Martial.</p> <p>"Thanks for the warning. If I can find another guitarist, we'll use him instead."</p> <p>No new guitarists having appeared, Paulie retained his slot in the band. Meanwhile, Dave got them a gig at Phi Epsilon, the artiest of the frats. After a hastily arranged run of rehearsals, they could get through all their chosen covers but hadn't had time to work out any originals, so unfortunately they only had a seven-song set that was not as well balanced between '60s and current material because Paulie wouldn't play most of the suggestions, instead repeatedly insisting they should cover "Wuthering Heights." Finally Garrick exploded in frustration, shouting at Paulie, "We've only got a half-hour set because of you. What are we supposed to do, play everything twice?"</p> <p>"Play every twice as long by making the solos longer."</p> <p>"We're not that kind of band. And what am I supposed to do while you wank your guitar, play tambourine?"</p> <p>"God, no, don't bite off more than you can chew."</p> <p>Walter saw Garrick tense up and realized the singer was clenching his fists. Was their infighting about to turn physical?</p> <p>"And another thing," Paulie continued. "We need a new name."</p> <p>"And, I guess, a throne for you, because you think you're the king of this band," Walter riposted tartly.</p> <p>"Somebody's got to have common sense," Paulie deadpanned.</p> <p>"Let's have a vote, then. What's your idea for a band name?"</p> <p>"It's not my band -- it's not my job to name it."</p> <p>"But you're somehow entitled to unname it? Sorry, if you can't come up with an alternative, it stays what it is." Walter, remembering what Martial and Jimbo had said, felt uninclined to back down to try to keep Paulie happy, figuring that if he did, Paulie would just bitch about something else. "Sorry, if you can't come up with an alternative, it stays what it is."</p> <p>"It's the stupidest fucking band name ever."</p> <p>"Why?"</p> <p>"Because I'm not your disciple. Do you think you're Jesus?"</p> <p>"You've got no sense of humor."</p> <p>"You've got no guitarist if you can't think of a better name than Captain Vinyl &amp; the Disk-ciples."</p> <p>"I was warned about you."</p> <p>"Yeah? By who?"</p> <p>"More than one person."</p> <p>"There are a lot of motherfuckers who are jealous of me."</p> <p>"Why would anybody be jealous of a guy with your reputation?"</p> <p>"My reputation is that I'm the best damn guitarist on campus."</p> <p>"No, it's that you're the biggest troublemaker on campus. And it's true. You're the reason we've got a gig next week but we've only got half a set."</p> <p>"Fuck you and your half-assed band."</p> <p>"Fuck you and your bad attitude. You need therapy."</p> <p>"Bye-bye, losers."</p> <p>After Paulie had packed up his guitar and left, Walter addressed the remaining band members. "I know we've got a gig but no guitarist, and I admit that's a problem. But does anybody think he was going to work out?"</p> <p>"You're right. He wanted to quit. It was like he was looking for an excuse," said Garrick.</p> <p>"Yeah, man, he's a major fuckin' asshole. Nothing else you could do," agreed Dave.</p> <p>"I'm not saying you're wrong," said Bill after a pause, "but it doesn't look like we're gonna be able to play that gig."</p> <p>"I'm going to the Marlin and not leaving until I've found a replacement," Walter promised. He was so eager that he left his keyboards in the band room, which he never did. He was a little surprised nobody came with him, but figured that might streamline the decision-making.</p> <p>It was a Friday night -- that's how dedicated, or desperate, they'd been: they'd sacrificed their Friday night to rehearse -- so the Marlin was packed. It was a less musician-heavy crowd, but Walter saw Martial and Mex at a table near the bar. There were no empty chairs, so he just stood next to Martial and said, "You were right about Paulie. So, so right."</p> <p>"Sorry, kid. What happened?"</p> <p>"He was vetoing all our suggestions for expanding our set list and saying we have to change the band name. Then he walked out after I told him to come up with a better name or shut up."</p> <p>"What <u>is</u> your band's name?"</p> <p>"Captain Vinyl &amp; the Disk-ciples."</p> <p>"Well, he's got a point."</p> <p>"Really?"</p> <p>"Look, it's kind of clever in a nerdy way, but it's awkward. It sounds like a bad joke."</p> <p>"Okay, then I need a new guitarist <u>and</u> a new band name. And I need them before our first gig a week from tonight."</p> <p>"Whoa, you got a gig?"</p> <p>"Phi Ep."</p> <p>"Nice. Paying?"</p> <p>"Free beer."</p> <p>"I shoulda known. Hey, Mex, wanna help the kid out?</p> <p>"I'm already in three bands, man."</p> <p>"So what's another one?"</p> <p>"What's in your set?" Mex asked.</p> <p>"'Just Like Me,' 'Submission,' 'Back Door Man,' '96 Tears,' 'Hang on Sloopy,' 'For Your Love,' and 'Down in the Tube Station (at Midnight).' And now that Paulie can't say no to them, maybe 'Grinding Halt' and 'Heroin.'"</p> <p>"'Heroin'? Isn't that kinda dark for you guys?"</p> <p>"I guess. The singer wants to do it."</p> <p>"Tell him he's only allowed to sing it once and he has to shoot up onstage and immediately overdose," Martial joked.  Everybody laughed, and then Mex asked, "Whose song is 'Grinding Halt'"?</p> <p>"The Cure," Walter answered.</p> <p>"Even though I don't know it, I think you should do it, because most of those are kinda obvious, except for the Pistols and Jam songs," Mex said. "And maybe I'll cut you some slack on the Yardbirds, I haven't heard anybody around here cover it, at least. Any originals?"</p> <p>"Not yet. There are a few written, but, um, now that I think about it, I guess we didn't want to give Paulie anything else to whine about. But we've got to have more songs, that's a short set even if we add the two I mentioned."</p> <p>"Nah, forty-five minutes is enough. Is there another band?"</p> <p>"Yes. We're opening for <a href="" target="_blank">Tot Rocket and the Twins</a>."</p> <p>"Really? You can bet your ass <u>they're</u> not playing for free beer. But that's good, it means your set is already long enough, because you're gonna start ten or fifteen minutes late waiting for an audience, but then stop on time. You're only costing them beer, so they won't complain."</p> <p>"So would you be able to do it?"</p> <p>"No, I'm just telling you that you've got enough tunes for that gig."</p> <p>The disappointment on Walter's face was clear. Martial quickly asked, "Do you really need a guitarist? Try just keyboards! You're good enough."</p> <p>Walter looked -- and felt -- skeptical, but responded non-commitally. He did think that, though he'd be terrified to be that much of the focus it if was just a trio, this was an excuse to ask Jessica to join, because maybe a two-keyboardist set-up could work. He thanked the guys for their help, such as it was, and headed back to Carman Hall to look for Jessica.</p> <p>He wasn't sure which was her suite on 11. It was the opposite side from Roland's, one or two doors further back towards the front elevator. Luckily he got it right on the first guess, and even more luckily, she was there on a Friday night, answering the door in shorts and a vee-neck shirt. "How did you know I'd be here?" was in fact the first thing she said.</p> <p>"I didn't, but if you weren't I'd just leave a message. So, my band's guitarist quit and I figure the hell with guitarists, let's do something different and use two keyboardists. Are you interested?"</p> <p>"What kind of music?"</p> <p>"Well, right now it's kind of garage rock and punk, but we just started, and I'd like to eventually get into something more adventurous," he said, hoping to entice her.</p> <p>"I'm classically trained, I don't want to just pound on a few chords."</p> <p>"I'm classically trained too," Walter answered truthfully. On a whim, though also with an eye to interesting her, he elaborated, "I want to do what nobody things can be done. I want to have a progressive punk band."</p> <p>"Really? Tell me more."</p> <p>"I want the energy and abrasiveness of punk, but in a complex and, uh, more harmonically interesting way." He had never actually thought about that, but as he said it, it resonated with him. That <u>would</u> be super cool.</p> <p>"The other thing I mean when I say I'm classically trained is, I don't improvise. Can you write out what I'd play?"</p> <p>"Yeah, sure, no problem." At this point, Walter would have said anything to make her happy.</p> <p>There was a pause as she seemed to stare into space.</p> <p>"Now I get it. This was just an excuse for you to stare at my cleavage."</p> <p>"No, no! I'm serious!"</p> <p>"You can't deny that you were staring. I'm not blind."</p> <p>"Um, maybe unconsciously. If I did, I didn't realize I was doing it."</p> <p>"Riiiiight." She slammed the door.</p> <p>As Walter turned to take the stairs down to 10, he saw Roland standing inside his doorway, looking silently at Walter. When Roland saw that Walter had seen him, he smirked and closed his door.</p> <p>[<a href="/literary/music-and-sex-scenes-life-eighth-installment" target="_blank">Next chapter here.</a>]</p> <p><em>Roman AkLeff says of </em>Music and Sex,<em> his third attempt at a novel: "Lots of the events depicted in this book happened, to varying degrees. Some should have happened but didn't until now. Though it's mostly set in the 20th century, </em>Music and Sex<em> aspires to be a </em>Bildungsroman <em>for 21st century sensibilities, in that the main character doesn't finish coming of age until he is several decades into adulthood." </em></p> </div> <section> </section> Sun, 06 Sep 2015 16:26:00 +0000 Roman Akleff 3296 at