Wednesday, September 22, 2010

If you see me coming, look across the rich man's field

The other night I had a genuine Ghost World moment. I was on my way home from wherever, probably just driving around. I was listening to "Last Kind Word Blues" by Geeshie Wiley, a woman who is so mysterious no one even really knows the proper spelling of her name. She recorded this song and two others in 1930 and then more or less disappeared. It's a motherfucker of a song--it's dark and beautiful and almost impossibly otherworldly. When you listen to it you might as well be listening to a transmission from another planet. It's a haunting fragment from a place that no longer exists. It's a favorite of mine, and I doubt I will ever get to the bottom of it.

It was a nice warm night, late summer, and I had my windows down. I was sitting there in my car at a red light, across the street from the Circle K, and a blue Mustang convertible pulled up next to me. There were a couple of girls (women?) sitting in the car. I have no idea how old they were, but they were dressed like Leslie Mann in The 40 Year-Old Virgin, like women who were pretending they were still girls. When I sensed the car pulling up, I turned the radio down a bit as an act of, you know, simple human courtesy, which was something apparently lost on these two, as they continued to blast whatever the hell that Eminem/Rihanna song is called. The girl (woman?) sitting on the passenger side apparently noticed what I was listening to, because she asked the driver to turn down their music for a second. “listen to this,” I heard her say, indicating me. Eminem went momentarily quiet as they listened for my radio, paused for a moment, then started laughing.

The light turned green, Eminem roared back to prominence, and the three of us drove on into the night and the rest of our lives.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Stop And Look Around; It's All Astounding

How should he love thee? Or how deem thee wise?

I know I’m late to the party on this one, but I thought I would mention that in that Insane Clown Posse video for “Miracles”, the duo make essentially the same argument for blissful ignorance as Edgar Allan Poe’s “Sonnet: To Science”, wherein the poet decries science as a “vulture, whose wings are dull realities,” who “prayest…upon the poet’s heart.” Walt Whitman, too, echoes Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope in his “When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer”, where the poem’s narrator becomes “tired and sick” of “the proofs, the figures…the charts and the diagrams” presented him by the titled astronomer, and instead seeks the simple childlike wonder of the universe splayed dark and infinite above him in the night sky. finding “perfect silence” at the mere sight of the stars.

Like Whitman, The Insane Clown Posse also realize the intangible nature of beauty: “It’s just there in the air,” they tell us, “you can’t even hold it”; Like Poe, they realize that science is, at best, a poor substitute for the poetry of the heart: “I don’t wanna talk to a scientist,” says an impassioned Shaggy 2 Dope, “y’all motherfuckers lying/and getting me pissed,” his anger at man’s destructive urge to know all no matter the cost palpable and stirring.

One must dissect a thing to discover its works, these poets tell us, but the cost of knowledge is the death of wonder, and who but the most base and dull among us would make such a trade?