Oct 31, 2011
Alas, I get one night. I get Halloween.
Every year on the dark night, I put the boombox out on the front porch stoop and play Tom's "Bone Machine," the scariest of the master's works. It opens with bones a-rattle and our man singing in the chorus,
And the earth died screaming
While I lay dreaming
So the box booms and sends Tom's raspy wheeze across the land -- well, my street, called Summerfield Lane -- and little ears perk and hear it, and a little voice says, "That ain't 'Monster Mash,' is it, sister?"
Couple of years ago, one kid lingered to dance on the front porch stoop as the music bellowed and the bones rattled and my hopes for America's youth soared on blackbirds' wings into that darkest of nights.
Oct 28, 2011
1. "Funky Mississippi," Rufus Thomas
2. "Funky London," Albert King.
3. "Funky Tamazula," Nortec Collective
4. "Funky Kingston," Toots and the Maytals
5. "Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky," Peter Wolf.
6. "Everything's Gonna Be Alright," Little Walter.
7. "Everything is Broken," Bob Dylan.
8. "Everything is Free," Gillian Welch.
9. "She is My Everything," John Prine.
10. "She," Gram Parsons.
11. "She Belongs to Me," Bob Dylan.
12. "She Took Off My Romeos," David Lindley.
13. "She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye," Jerry Lee Lewis.
14. "She's Making Whoopee in Hell Tonight," Lonnie Johnson.
15. "Shimmy She Wobble," Otha Turner.
Oct 26, 2011
There was a ten, a five, a small brace of singles.
“Now, Lucy – ” he began.
“You walked in that damned bank with a gun in one pocket and a note in the other and you got change for a twenty?” she said.
He said that was roughly the way it went down.
They’d climbed off the hood of the Fleetwood. They were out now in the scruff and dust of Delta farmland, on the edge of cotton field, the sun beating down on them. They were having a scene.
“Now, Lucy – ” he said again, as if those two words, used in the proper combination, would explain everything.
“So let’s review,” she said, calming herself. “You walked into that damned bank with a gun in one pocket and a note in the other, and you got change for a twenty?”
He said again that, yes, that was pretty much the upshot of it.
“The way you tell it,” Billy said, “it’s almost like you were there.”
She was counting the money, trying to make it a small fortune, but it kept coming out the same. No, in fact it shrunk.
“There’re only four ones here,” she said. “There’s only nineteen dollars.”
Here she raised her voice to somewhere between shrill and that pitch only boll weevils could hear. That low, soft lilt was nowhere to be heard. “You had a gun,” Lucy said, “and she shorted you?”
Well, you would have thought they really were bank robbers. Lucy’s green eyes blazed and her red hair flew.
Billy stepped back and said, “Now, Luce, it’s not like that at all. On the counter there by the teller’s window, you see, they had a coffee can with a little slit in the plastic lid and construction paper stripped around it – you can see where I’m going with this, I think – and on the paper was a shiny picture of a little girl with some words about her sad plight, which was that she was sick and in need of a transplant of some sort.”
“And so you, Mr. Billy Heavens, bank robber, stuffed a dollar in the coffee can.”
She was standing on the edge of that cotton field with one hand on a barrelhouse hip, the other piling all those long locks of sundown red atop her head.
Well, Billy had been God and he’d spared her. He’d been polite society and he’d judged her. He’d been Big Bill Broonzy to her Memphis Minnie. Now he stood kicking dirt with his white sneakers and watching out from yellow bangs the girl in a red-haired, green-eyed, long-legged fit of temper.
He stood there, all sheepish again, but all he could think of was that backseat, and knowing what to do once they got there.
-- from my novel, "The Very Last Night of Boys and Girls."
Oct 24, 2011
"Hey, boy, you! You up there ..." I was you, for he never knew my name, and never showed much interest in finding it out. "Come on down and help me kill a couple."
-- "New Orleans (1946)," from Portraits and Observations: The Essays of Truman Capote
Give me early Capote, when he was Southern, a writer rather than celebrity, when he was twisting the language in all manner of fanciful shapes, and you can have the field.
Oct 23, 2011
And together we will try
To rouse the spirit of the earth
And move the rolling sky
Those that dance will start to dance
And those who don't will sway
In time to lis' our merry tune
That we play for you today
"Come All Ye," Fairport Convention
Oct 22, 2011
Oct 21, 2011
Oh, with a blonde on me arm, red-head to spare
Spit on my shoes and shine in me hair
And there's Al Bowlly, he's up on a stand
Oh, that was a voice and that was a band
Al Bowlly's in heaven and I'm in limbo now
-- "Al Bowlly's in Heaven," Richard Thompson
Oct 20, 2011
The battles we fought were long and hard,
just not to be consumed by rock n' roll...
-- "Memphis, Egypt," The Mekons
Oct 19, 2011
From the North Country
Where there's a still upon every stream
Landlady be quicker
And bring us more liquor
And fill us a pitcher that's stronger than cream
-- "Bold Doherty," Waterson: Carthy
Oct 18, 2011
Oct 17, 2011
Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain
He was looking for the place called Lee Ho Fook's
Going to get himself a big dish of beef chow mein
-- "Werewolves of London," Warren Zevon
Oct 16, 2011
When he ran from you
In a private detective's overcoat
And dirty dead man's shoes
The pretty things of Knightsbridge
Lying for a minister of state
Is a far cry from the nod and wink
Here at traitor's gate
'Cause the high heel he used to be has been ground down
And he listens for the footsteps that would follow him around
-- "Man Out Of Time," Elvis Costello
Oct 15, 2011
Crazy man Michael was walking
He met with a raven with eyes black as coals
And shortly they were a-talking
"Your future, your future I would tell to you
Your future you often have asked me
Your true love will die by your own right hand
And crazy man Michael will curs'd be"
-- "Crazy Man Michael," Fairport Convention
Oct 14, 2011
Where no doctor can relieve me
If I'm buried 'neath the sod
But the angels won't receive me
Let me go, boys
Let me go, boys
Let me go down in the mud
Where the rivers all run dry
-- "If I Should Fall From Grace with God," The Pogues
Oct 13, 2011
Oct 5, 2011
S&F: So, 50 and not a whole hell of a lot to show. A handful of story credits and two unpublished novels. I guess you're going to make the case that you're a --
DW: I'm a late bloomer.
S&F: I was going to say misunderstood genius.
DW: The misunderstood genius is never understood until he's dead. The later bloomer has his day, if he stays at the work.
S&F: You really believe that?
DW: Nah, not really. I sometimes think I'll die with a stack on unpublished novels on my desk.
S&F: No time soon, let's hope.
DW: Well, I'm not sure two novels is enough to call a stack, anyway. They're not even big, fat novels, like my wife likes. She thinks anything less than 600 pages is a tweet. I tell her the bookstores should use produce scales on her, charge her by the pound.
S&F: You've said before that your literary goal is to become your wife's favorite writer.
DW: Fucking Dickens.
S&F: You need to write your "Bleak House."
DW: I'm afraid I'd be quite the poor man's Dickens. I'd write "Bleak Mobile Home." I think I'll stick to being myself. I'll keep writing what I like, what moves me, and maybe the world will come around. Or not. My one novel is a coming of age, which my former agent (not the one who died, but the one who quit me) said is not what editors want these days. And my other novel is about a rock 'n' roll band, which a big-time New York agent told me at Sewanee last summer will NEVER sell. And my next novel opens in West Memphis, Arkansas, at the greyhound track -- the ladies of the book club will love that one!
S&F: You're a hard-headed son of a bitch, I'll give you that.
DW: Thanks. Best birthday present I've had all day.