Thursday, February 25, 2010

Catch My Drift

My own peregrinations confined to shuffling between snow canyons splotched ochre by abstract expressionist canines, I'm living vicariously through the DC public library. Because I'm oh oh oh so busy, I've had to renew Will Self's Psycho Too to try to finish it, and then there's the giant brick of the new Patricia Highsmith bio, which is so exhaustively written and oddly structured it takes an act of will to penetrate a page. Doesn't matter; I have to know.

But Self is like listening to my self as I would be if I had a decent education and more talent. Running is my derive, not walking, and I'm deprived of my derive in recent days. So get you a copy of this book, with its fine fine Steadman illustrations, and journey if you will with Mr. Self from JG Ballard's Shepperton digs to Dubai, ending in Ibiza among a party "too old to rave, except against the dying of the light."

Back to work. I'm attempting to work to the music of a French internet radio station that specializes in 70s rock. They just played Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue followed by a bit of French movie dialogue, followed by Creedence's Penthouse Pauper, and then Disco Lady. Civilization's contents.

Friday, February 5, 2010


I'll blow the cobwebs off while the snowmegeddon soup cooks. Been working on a project that demands two hours a night, plus the working for a living, plus home, plus a fun project I'm writing on. I keep having to say no to potentially fun things to do. But even that's not giving me enough time. So after tonight, no poems, no blogging, and horrors, no facebook (except for official Choir business) til April. I couldn't quit cold turkey. I'm just doing what they call in distance running a "taper."

My two library books this week, E. Ethelbert Miller's The 5th Inning and Mick Wall's When Giants Walked the Earth, a biography of Led Zeppelin, have so few things in common, you don't even need a hand to count them on:

1. They both rock.

2. They each can be consumed in small, convenient, bite-size bits.

There the similarities end. Miller's memoir is a carefully structured series of poetic, detailed meditations on age, writing, love, race, and baseball.

Led Zeppelin had a lead singer who started out in a band called Hobbitstweedle.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, and they don't mind if they do.

I can't get through more than two pages at a time of Giants, and it's not only my packed schedule that's to blame. Wall's crazy overwriting, yeah, I know, pot meet kettle, makes every sentence an adventure, let's say that. One minute you're hearing about Jimmy Page stealing every song, arrangement, and riff that's not nailed down, then you're inside Bonham's bass drum (Page wouldn't let him use a double bass because the resulting rhythmic complexity threw him so far off base), and the next minute you're in the Edgewater Inn, figuratively speaking. I actually was there once, on business, writing about people doing a genomics project. It has been restored to become a lovely place, with a huge lobby full of fireplaces and comfy chairs and board games.

Anyway, I took to opening it at random before falling into a coma at night, and here's the kinds of things you open up to on any given page:

"Thirty-four-year-old Johnny Bindon was a nasty piece of work...a London 'face' who counted among his friends the Kray twins and Princess Margaret, and who would serve several prison sentences before being accused in 1979 of murdering another underworld enforcer named John Darke in a club brawl. Both menacingly intimidating and apparently hilariously funny depending on his mood, Bindon's favourite party trick was to balance as many as six half-pint mugs on his erect penis. Bankrupt at the time of being hired by [manager] Grant, the only thing that assuaged his violent temper was the vast amounts of marijuana he smoked. With both Page and Plant now receiving death threats before the tour had even begun, G had decided he needed someone like Bindon along for if and when things got rough. The trouble was, with someone like Bindon, things were likely to get rough sooner rather than later. As Alan Callan would observe, 'He certainly wasn't hired for his dinner conversation.'"

Interesting sentence structure and comma placement aside, how deliciously weird is that? And there are like 450 pages of it, on and on. Of course, as DH says, it would be more remarkable if it were pints. And with all his writing, Wall never answers the really important questions, like how the hell did they come up with Kashmir, and were those half-pints arranged vertically or horizontally?

Maybe I need to read it backwards.

Photo: Miss Pamela Des Barres, formerly of the Laurel Canyon Ballet Company.