Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Spruced Up And Saved From Oblivion: Your Man For Fun In Rapidan's Fifty Greatest Country And Western Songs Of All Time!

1) The Critters, Mr. Dieingly Sad
On the surface a simple little song with a borrowed melody (from Paul Williams, no less), The Critters' masterpiece takes a turn down a very dark road about mid-song, and the next minute-and-a-half is a pure, harrowing cage match with Satan. No surprise: Satan wins, and before he's done with Mr. Dieingly Sad there's broken glass, a shotgun blast, and blood all over the walls.

2) Three Dog Night, One
Hank Williams' entire catalog boiled down to three minutes of existential longing. When the pedal steel starts raining tears after the last chorus you'll feel like you've never been in love, never felt the sun on your teeth, and never had a haircut you didn't regret.

3) Jim Stafford, Swamp Witch
Stafford's got something of a bum reputation as a novelty act, but 'Swamp Witch' ought to convince anyone who cares that the man has a hole in his dark soul that you could drive a Mack truck through. When I heard Jim sing this song at his theater in Branson I had shivers running up and down my spine, and some of the old buffet vultures around me were actually crying out in terror.

4) Charlie Rich, There Won't Be Anymore
This, in a nutshell, is what country music is really all about: a man makes a short, hopeless, declarative statement, and then sings it like he believes it.

5) Cat Stevens, Banapple Gas
Not what it sounds like or seems, neither of which I --or you-- could define. That said, it's something mighty special all the same. But, you ask, is it really country? You're damn right it is.

6) Red Sovine
, Teddy Bear
Sure, it's kind of corny: a little Teddy Bear gets abandoned in the woods, gets lost, is harassed by predators, gets hit by a pick-up, and finally finds happiness in the arms of a little girl. Yet in that little girl's willingness to overlook the bear's mangled limbs and missing eye there's a tidy and useful lesson for all of us. If this song doesn't get the tears flowing, you need to see a therapist to help you understand all the damage your parents did to you.

7) Terry Bradshaw, I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
Make no mistake: Bradshaw was a great quarterback, and he's entertaining enough playing an unhinged whack-job on TV. But as this peerless interpretation shows, he's an even better country singer, and in Hank Williams' classic Bradshaw found an outlet for all the repressed feelings a professional athlete in America isn't allowed to express in public.

8) Sheena Easton, Morning Train
A classic song of abandonment made even more unforgettable by the reliable presence of the Jordanaires and the sizzling fiddle break provided by Vassar Clements. Also features an uncredited Leon Russell on piano.

9) Steve Miller Band, Abracadabra
'Abracadabra' shows that Miller obviously spent some time studying what Gram Parsons was up to, and there's a languid quality to the arrangement that would make this song right at home tacked onto the end of 'Sweetheart of the Rodeo.' Country --and rock and roll, for that matter-- is full of singers pining for some sort of magical remedy for lost love and broken hearts, but few of them get their hopes squashed so completely as Miller does here.

10) Oak Ridge Boys, Wasn't That A Party
It sure as Sam Hell was. 'Nuff said!

11) John Anderson, Swingin'
No roadhouse jukebox would be complete without a copy of this alternate lifestyle classic, a rare country song with lyrics as racy and erudite as anything in John Updike's randiest novels. You want to get a bar full of drunk fat folks dancin' and hollerin' along to the record player? Just punch up Anderson's deathless key-party stomp --mission accomplished!

12) John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, Tender Years
A beautiful version of 'Tender Years' that actually, miraculously, manages to wring more emotion out of the song than George Jones ever could. Before Hollywood stole his soul, Cafferty was a great, hugely underrated singer, and this may be his masterpiece.

13) The Tijuana Brass, The Lonely Bull
Country songs are full of people who have gotten drunk, cried in their beer, and slept in their clothes, yet in a genre steeped in all manner of lonely funk, fog, and fractured hearts, nobody ever got it so right as the Tijuana Brass. I hope like hell the boys in Calexico get down on their hands and knees every night and thank their version of God for Herb Alpert.

14) Dean Martin, Houston
There are scads of great versions of this song, but Martin's is the only one you need to own --unless, of course, you need confirmation of how great it really is.

15) Gilbert O'Sullivan, Alone Again (Naturally)
Sadder than a sack full of nothin', and if you've been drinking I'd strongly recommend you lock the gun cabinet before you drop the needle on the turntable.

16) Eric Carmen, All By Myself

17) Gary Wright, Dream Weaver
Just how completely fucking great is 'Dream Weaver'? You know the answer to that question as well as I do, so let's just move right along.

18) Randy Vanwarmer, Just When I Needed You Most
I'll admit this one has a bit of personal history behind it, but it still has the power to tear out my spleen and tattoo 'Oh, Fuck' on my buttocks every time I listen to it.

19) Victor Lundberg, An Open Letter To My Teenage Son
Raw, honest, unflinching, and powerful as a shot of monkey serum. If you're a parent --and I'm not-- I suspect it'll make a mess of you in a hurry and then make you a better man (or woman). Sort of like 'Blind Man in the Bleachers,' only different. No blind man, no bleachers, but the same desperate attempt to communicate something vaguely important.

20) Blues Image, Ride Captain Ride
This one might have ranked higher if the pale Marty McGraw cover version hadn't poisoned my memories of the original just a bit. Still, no road trip would be complete without it.

21) Ray Stevens, The Streak
Ok, so maybe this one falls under the 'Guilty Pleasure' category, but sometimes when I'm listening to music I just want to laugh, clap my hands, and sing along.

22) ZZ Top, Tush
An elegy, a prayer, a shout of praise, a cry in the darkness, a yelp of unabashed lust --how can one song be so many things? I don't know, but 'Tush' proves it can.

23) Sammy Hagar, Winner Takes All
Obscure gem from the soundtrack to an equally obscure Canadian Western starring Merlin Olsen, Susan Dey, and Herve Villechaize. Hagar takes an old chestnut and makes it all his own (with help from Mark Knopfler).

24) Will to Power, Baby, I Love Your Way/Freebird medley
It's the craziest idea in the world, and it shouldn't work, and it shouldn't be country, but I'll be damned if it doesn't and it isn't.

25) The Sweet
, Fox On The Run
Timeless song of a Nashville dream gone bust, complete with some of the most vivid bus station imagery in all of country music. You feel for this young girl as she falls into the clutches of a 'talent scout' and ends up snorting coke and starring in $500 porn movies. And you cheer for her (sort of) as she finds God.

26) Billy Idol, Hot In The City
The song that launched a million line dances still holds up pretty damn well, all things considered. All I know is that when I tossed it on the stereo at a party recently my guests erupted in a boot-scooting frenzy right there in my living room.

27) The Nashville Teens, Tobacco Road
Who says there's not a place for doo-wop in country music? Not me, not when it's steeped in the dust of gravel roads that go nowhere and the longing of small town teenagers everywhere. This one might be hard to find, but it's worth the journey.

28) Hank Locklin, Please Help Me, I'm Falling
Sex addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders, and codependency --it's all right here, years before Betty Ford ever crash landed at Hazelden. It's all right here, and it's all good in the way that only country music can make bad things good.

29) Styx, Miss America
There's so much going on in this song that I don't know where to begin. Taken on its own --and with the unstated I tacked onto the beginning-- it could be a lazy declaration of disillusionment. Add a question mark and you have a political statement lurking in a tossed-off query. But however you care to interpret Styx's dense, metaphorical rip through the American Dream, it all adds up to a pure, timeless classic of country music --and for once that's country in the broadest sense. Meaning: the place where all of us live.

30) Johnny Horton, The Battle of New Orleans
An epic of American heroism, and the sort of song that gets stuck in your head and drives you absolutely batshit fucking crazy. What 'Battle of New Orleans' demonstrates is that some things are worth fighting for, and some things that are worth fighting for are worth singing about. Also, implicit in this song, as in so much of the great country music I love: Don't fuck with America. Bonus points for rhyming 'beans' with 'New Orleans.'

31) Tom Jones, Green, Green Grass of Home
No list of the greatest country songs of all time would be complete without a contribution from the virile Welshman, who proved that a hirsute wanker could belt out an American classic with all the style and emotional nuance of a Nashville pro.

32) Pat Benatar, Hell is for Children
In one of country music's finest examples of method acting --or maybe, God help her, she wasn't acting-- Benatar wrings every ounce of pain out of this succinct and wrenching portrait of rural poverty and child abuse. 'Hell is for Children' is a rare example of a country song that dares to tackle social issues without resorting to trailer trash cliches and self pity.

33) Spandau Ballet, True
Tremendous song that touches on country's timeless themes of fidelity, infidelity, and the broken hearts that result when tortured souls venture down to the dark end of the street.

34) Curtis Mayfield, If There's A Hell Below We're All Going To Go
Mayfield's forays into country deserve to be placed next to Ray Charles's 'Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music' on your shelf, but chances are you --and millions of other people-- never even heard them. Here he tosses salvation out the window and wages a wrestling match with sin in which we're all losers. This is a record the Louvin Brothers might have recorded, and if they ever update the splendid 'Goodbye Babylon' set Mayfield deserves a place on the roster.

35) Tommy James and the Shondells, I Think We're Alone Now
One man, one woman, a bottle of Jack Daniels, and a long night of lovin', Tommy James style. Dim the lights, and cue up a little Ed Ames or Ray Price.

36) Neil Sedaka, The Diary
This one seems so obvious at first listen, but listen again: Sedaka's predicament (he finds his faithless lover's diary) is a familiar one, but what he does with this discovery is satisfying and surprising beyond belief. You'll find yourself thinking: I wish I'd thought of that.

37) Jay Ferguson, Thunder Island
What a wonderful metaphor. I think it was John Donne who said 'No man is an island,' and Jay Ferguson might be inclined to agree. A man and a woman, however, now that's a different story, and Ferguson's artful exploration of the pure, tempestuous oblivion of sex is country music's Song of Solomon.

38) REO Speedwagon, Keep the Fire Burning
When it feels like love is slipping away, Speedwagon's 'Keep the Fire Burning' is the perfect lover's plea that'll remind you both of what's at stake and why it's worth fighting for. A nice antidote to D-I-V-O-R-C-E, and one of Owen Bradley's most sumptuous productions.

39) Fats Domino, Jambalaya
It should be apparent by now that I'm bending over backwards here to avoid the obvious choices, but I'd emphasize that this isn't purely a perverse attempt to be contrary. I love Hank Williams as much as the next guy, but his music is now so familiar that it's become like the wallpaper in this room, and more often than not when I get a hankering for Hank I turn to one of his countless interpreters for a fresh spin on the master's music. Domino's take on 'Jambalaya' is about as fresh as it gets.

40) Carol Douglas, Doctor's Orders
It's not often a doctor dispenses practical advice of the sort Ann Landers routinely dishes out, but Carol Douglas had a damn good doctor, and the advice he gave her would have proved useful (and would still prove useful) to country's legion of unhappy women: get rid of that man. Of course such advice sounds a bit like common sense when the man in question has infected you with syphilis.

41) Terry Jacks, Put the Bone In.
The flipside to the smash 'Seasons in the Sun' is a classic of country cooking (Jacks is ostensibly talking about a pork and beans recipe), with a filthy insinuation that takes it over the top.

42) The Alan Parson Project, Eye in the Sky
The anthem for all those paranoid peckerwoods holed up in the mountains out west, as well as the anti-government tax-dodging zealots all over the country. Despite the fact that 'Eye in the Sky' was allegedly found in the car that Timothy McVeigh was driving when he was arrested, it's still a powerful song that taps into some of the anger and distrust that is lurking out there in country's heartland, and as such is a nice counterpoint to the jingoism of Lee Greenwood et al.

43) Cream
, White Room
A clear-eyed account of the aftermath of a debauched night on the town that ends in a detox cell. In the sorrow of the hungover protagonist, a man who has let everything slip away, you can hear the echoes of everyone from Hank Williams to George Jones.

44) Foreigner, Dirty White Boy
White trash exploitation songs don't come any more unsavory than this one, the sad tale of a backwoods Don Juan who makes his reputation deflowering virgins and cuckolding husbands. Despite the obvious relish with which Foreigner serves up the nasty details, there's a morality play at work here, and justice is ultimately served. Marty Robbins for people who don't know who the hell Marty Robbins is.

45) Thompson Twins, King For A Day
Another tale of a roadhouse Lothario who comes into a boodle of cash (an inheritance of some sort, I think, although the song is vague on this point) and lives high on the hog for a day. This is essentially the old story of money burning a hole in a man's pocket, and though you know exactly what's coming --the guy squanders every last dime on liquor, women, and riverboat casino slots-- it's a hugely entertaining yarn all the same. Almost sounds like something Hank Jr. might have coughed up in his prime.

46) Jody Reynolds, Endless Sleep
Easily the best of the tributes to Hank Williams that flooded the country market after his death. Its timelessness is a product of its ability to tap into the anguished fuck-up's ancient longing for peace and serenity. It almost makes you wish you were dead, and that's as high a tribute to a great country song as anything I can think of.

47) Rick Astley
, Cry For Help
Astley's one great, defining song, and one of the finest things to come out of Nashville in the last 20 years. It's exactly what it says, and more. As pitiless and pitiful a performance as anything in the dense catalog of blues, soul, and country. Unfortunately no one heard Astley's cry, or realized how raw and real it really was, and he'll be remembered --if he's remembered at all-- as one more great talent who died too young.

48) Melanie, Brand New Key
Great off-kilter take on the theme of a woman who's had enough of a philandering lover. Beyond the central metaphor (a revelation that will open up a whole new world for the protagonist), there's an entertaining tale in which the woman changes the locks on the house while her soon-to-be ex is out drinking and carousing with his pals. The locksmith, of course, is more than willing to participate in the woman's liberation, and what ensues --Melanie is clever enough to make you use your imagination a bit-- is straight out of Penthouse Forum.

49) Foghat, Stone Blue
A fat slab of the bluest country you'll ever hear, delivered with typical butt-kicking whump by the titans from Fenniman, Mississippi. The record industry, and its attempts to remake them in the mold of Alabama, ultimately wrecked Foghat, but before the weasels got their hands on them they were one of the most volatile live acts in all of country.

50) Consumer Rapport, Ease On Down The Road
Country music has always been full of songs about people leaving things behind--lovers, families, dead-end jobs, jerkwater towns. Sometimes these characters are leaving to pursue a dream elsewhere; often they're just getting the hell out of town. It's a liberation theme that has resonated with countless people trapped in lives of quiet desperation, and it's certainly not unique to country. It's interesting to note, however, that 'Ease On Down The Road' beat 'Born to Run' to the charts by five months, and it's a more stoic, laidback version of Springsteen's anxious, revved-up classic. The guys in Consumer Rapport don't know where they're going, and they don't much care, just as long as it's somewhere else. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nothing At All Like A Bruce Springsteen Song

Do you remember that time you threw your heart from the window of a speeding car?

Was it burning?

No, not that time. It was just heavy, a sodden wad of plumbed meat. It felt like a water balloon coated with grease. It couldn't have weighed more than a softball, and it bounced once on the shoulder of the highway and skipped off into the ditch. Some kid who was out fucking around found it the next day, put it in a plastic grocery sack, and took it to school for show-and-tell. An alarmed teacher confiscated your heart and hauled it to the principal's office.

The principal was a wattled walrus of a man, and he called the county sheriff, who came down, took one peek in that plastic sack, and had a pretty damn good idea what he was looking at, even as he wasn't quite sure what to do with it.

Within 24 hours posters started appearing on telephone poles around town, which is how you eventually got your heart back, although at the time you weren't so sure you even wanted it back.

Remember that dinky town? What a strange place. What a strange time in our lives that was. The town was so small that it didn't have a newspaper or radio station, and the closest city that had either was almost forty miles away and had been pretending for half a century that the little town didn't exist.

The town had a serious inferiority complex going back almost a hundred years, and things had gotten so bad that there was a vocal cult of locals that was convinced they were living in the hallucination of a senile god. Somebody had made a trip to a big city in the north some years earlier and had returned with a state road map on which the town was nowhere to be found, further convincing many people that they, their families, pets, cars, homes, neighborhoods, and entire community did not, in fact, exist.

A dwindling group of optimists formed the Existence Party and ran a full slate of candidates for local offices. Every one of them was soundly defeated. Yet still the town carried on as best it could; the residents dutifully paid their property taxes, sent their children to school, maintained their homes and lawns, and --for the most part, anyway-- obeyed local laws.

High school graduation became known as Vanishing. Almost without exception graduates fled town immediately with whatever memories they had left, never to return. You couldn't for the life of you figure out how they escaped. Newcomers, even relative newcomers --anybody, really, who had not lived there all their lives-- tended to suffer from gradually worsening memory problems, particularly regarding how they'd come to live in the town in the first place.

You were definitely in this camp. When I first met you you no longer had the foggiest idea what you were doing in that place or why you had moved there. You insisted it was the most boring place you'd ever been, and you had the odd feeling that you were being held hostage. More and more often you felt like you were lost the instant you left your house. Often enough, in fact, you were lost even when you were in your house.

The streets of the town had become a sort of labyrinth to you, and you often found yourself unwittingly driving in circles, sometimes for hours at a time. The streets all seemed to either dead end or circle back on themselves.

Sometimes at night you would park at one of these dead ends and shine your car lights out into the seemingly endless scrub brush beyond the city limits. You said you would see dark shapes moving around out there, and the occasional flash of yellow or red eyes captured in your headlights. Coyotes, you thought, or perhaps even wolves.

It was the sense of captivity, the boredom, and the torment of your eroding memory that led you to throw your heart from the window of the speeding car. A woman had been driving, but you couldn't remember her name or what she looked like. You retained a vague memory of being tormented by the woman's incessant chatter.

The day you retrieved your heart from the sheriff's office, as you drove home with the plastic bag rattling on the passenger seat, you realized that your eyesight was rapidly fading. By the time you got home you were almost completely blind and had a difficult time finding your way into the house.

You remembered that much, at least for a few days. Your house, you said, was dark, and you could barely make out the various familiar shapes in your kitchen. You could hear the hum of the refrigerator. You felt with your hands and located the counter next to the sink, and there you deposited your heart in its grocery sack.

You were so tired, uncommonly tired was the phrase you used, and you suspected that you might be dying. How long, you wondered, could a man live without a heart?  And how long had it been since you flung it from the window of the speeding car? You really had no idea. There was, however, very little doubt about this much: you were now almost completely blind. You were disconsolate. Words were beginning to break apart in your head; they had been slowing way down for quite some time, but now they were truly starting to disintegrate. There was a moment in which you said you were seized with a powerful longing to hear Louis Armstrong. A few snippets of a tune jerked momentarily between your ears and then just as quickly evaporated.

At some point you fell into a deep sleep, perhaps even a coma. When you regained consciousness you were still sitting at your kitchen table, and you said you could hear your heart stirring in the plastic sack. Rattling, initially, and then jerking around.

When I found you you had your heart in your hands, cradled like a rabbit.

Do you remember the rest? Do you remember how we escaped together, and how, even slumped against the passenger window and blind and barely conscious, you mumbled that our getaway in the dead of night was "just like a Bruce Springsteen song"?

Do you remember how I cut up your heart with a steak knife and fed it back to you one bite at a time?

Can you remember that, baby?

I hope one day soon you'll remember everything, and never again forget what happened next. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

No Flowers, Please

Gogi? I remember saying. Is that your real name?

She said something to me, something impertinent I'm sure, that was lost in the whirring of the blender.

Grasshopper? She said a moment later, offering me a thick green drink in a jelly jar.

I swear, I said, I could drink these all night.

I do, she said.

Later, she put a record on her turntable and said, my mother used to sleep with this guy who's playing tenor. She used to follow Shelly Manne around, and I'm sure she slept with pretty much everybody in his band. She spent half of her life chasing after musicians, until she got too old and worn out. Then she started tending bar in this law-and-order dive, and all she ever dated were old cops. The last twenty years of her life she dated one cop after another. The same guys who used to make life so miserable for her old musician friends. They treated her like shit, the fat bastards. Funny, isn't it?

She went back to the kitchen and fired up the blender again, and when she returned she settled back in on the couch and said, my mother had this big, fat scrapbook full of signed photos and I.O.U.s from jazz musicians, most of them written on cocktail napkins or scraps of placemats. It was like a who's who of jazz musicians, seriously. Those sponges fucked her and drank up all her money and then dumped what was left of her for the old cops to pick over. I wish I still had that scrapbook. I wonder what happened to it? I'll bet something like that would be worth a lot of money.

She got up and put another record on the stereo. I'm sure my mother screwed this guy too, she said. I remember him coming around and crashing on our couch in his underwear. He was an A-number-one creep. Creep central. Bad complexion, bad teeth, nothing really to recommend him other than a decent wardrobe and the fact that he could play music. I guess that was enough for my mother. Me, I've always hated musicians. Every one I've ever met was a bum who never even pretended to be a decent human being unless he was on a stage somewhere, and that was just so they could get some woman like my mother to sleep with them and buy them drinks. Don't get the wrong idea, I love music; I just hate musicians, and don't even try to tell me that's not possible or I'll claw your eyes out.

I'm sure it's possible, I said. I don't have a doubt in the world it's possible.

Oh, Jesus, she said. Don't kiss my ass like that. It's so unbecoming.

I had some fine times with Gogi. We laughed a lot. She really did drink grasshoppers every night, and she had one hell of a record collection. She also had a lot of nice clothes. She hated crowds, I also remember that. I lost track of her when I moved in the early eighties, which wasn't unexpected; I should warn you, she'd told me when I stopped by her place to say goodbye, I don't keep in touch, so this really is adieu.

I found her obituary online a few weeks back, in a Phoenix newspaper. She died in 2002, at the age of 52, which meant that she was older than I thought, but still not nearly old enough. The obituary didn't say how she died, or, rather, of what. She wasn't survived by a husband or any children, which didn't surprise me, of course. Just a brother in Boston, I think. No flowers, please, the obit said, and suggested memorials to the Humane Society. I keep telling myself that one of these days I'll get around to sending a check.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Late Summer Rerun: Lord Knows, Child

One day Ella's grandmother took her to the county fair, something which Ella looked forward to all year long.

Her grandmother wouldn't go on any of the rides, not even the Ferris Wheel, but Ella didn't mind going by herself. If her grandmother had allowed her to, Ella would have gone on every ride --the big, swirling, spinning rides, the fast and high and upside-down rides-- over and over again. She liked to be high above the world, like an astronaut when he could still see the lights and the rooftops and the trees and the tiny people going about their lives, before he moved into the dark part of space.

Ella wanted to be James Bond, only a girl, but if she couldn't be James Bond her second choice was to become an astronaut or a race car driver. She would always like to wear beautiful clothes, though, whatever she did, and she would have to be able to put flower stickers and spangly things on her astronaut suit. When her mother moved away she had left behind boxes of fashion magazines in her old bedroom, along with a collection of James Bond novels that had belonged to Ella's father before he was buried in the cemetery of soldiers. These magazines and books were the main things Ella liked to look at and read.

At any rate, the one day Ella knew she would always remember at the county fair was different from every other day she had spent at the county fair, all of which had been wonderful in their own way. But on that particular day Ella had seen a man --a man wearing a suit very similar to those worn by astronauts or race car drivers-- fired from a cannon and carried high above the bright lights of the Ferris Wheel, beyond which was a waiting net.

Ella asked her grandmother why a man would be fired from a cannon, and her grandmother had said, "Lord knows, child, I suppose he just likes the way it feels."

Later, after they had seen the Human Cannonball, Ella and her grandmother had walked through the county historical museum and the Indian museum and the fish building. The last building Ella's grandmother always liked to look around in was the arts and crafts building, and that afternoon there was an old man sitting at a table and making tiny ships inside of glass bottles.

Ella had never seen anything like it, and she studied the finished projects that were on display with a combination of wonder and confusion. They were beautiful little ships, remarkably intricate, and Ella couldn't understand why they were in the bottles or how they had gotten there. At the moment Ella and her grandmother happened by, the old man was just beginning to build another ship in a bottle, and it was too early to tell exactly how he intended to do it.

Still, it was the question of why that troubled Ella, and she stared at the old man for a moment --he was peering through a large, mounted magnifying glass-- and then she just came out and said what was on her mind. "Why would you put a ship inside a bottle?" she asked.

The man raised his head and seemed to give the matter serious thought. And then he smiled at Ella --it was, she thought, an unmistakably happy smile that she would never forget-- and said, "And what do you think you are, young lady, right this moment, but a ship inside a bottle?"

"But how does the ship get out of the bottle?" Ella asked.

"I do believe," the man said, "that in no time at all you're going to figure that out."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Contemplating My Possible Worthlessness And Immortality

I am worth no money, but I must be worth something. What is not worth money?

I will start with a process of elimination.

If time is indeed money, then I can reasonably conclude that I am not worth time. I can also conclude that I am not worth the price of admission, since "the price of admission" implies a "price," and a "price" implies a cost, and the very idea of "the price of admission" implies some exchange of money.

Just as assuredly can I conclude that I am not worth my weight in gold, as gold is a universal standard of monetary value.

Is there, then, anything at all that I could be worth, given that the concept of worth is now inextricably tied to value, and value to some price tag? A price tag is, of course, the amount one is expected to pay for an item, and the amount one is expected to pay for something is generally agreed to be a monetary consideration.

Given such logic, I must reluctantly conclude that I am worth nothing, and if in fact I am worth nothing then I must turn my considerations, or ruminations, to the subject of nothing and its properties.

And there I find an inadvertent affirmation, or at least some small cause for hope: If, as I have heard said, "Nothing matters," then I might reasonably conclude that I matter.

What, though, does it mean to matter? Could I not reduce the question of my nothingness to something along the lines of "What is the matter?" Meaning here the matter, or mattering, of my personal nothing.

I am thinking here, and feel like I must now go backwards a bit, as something else has occurred to me as I typed the previous paragraphs regarding my possible status as a mattering being.

Another curious thing I have sometimes heard said is, "The best things in life are free." Free obviously meaning here "of no cost" or "requiring no exchange of money." Another possible bit of encouragement, this; since I am worth no money, I must then be some sort of "best thing" as well as free, and "free" is a word, surely, with many positive connotations, including unfettered or in a state of liberation. Yet I now think of the phrase, "There ain't no free," which, if there is truth in it, would once again consign me to a state of non-existence.

This consignment would seem to receive additional support from the following consideration: If I am not worth time, and time is --as people are fond of saying-- of the essence, then I cannot possibly be of the essence, and must therefore conclude that I am non-essential, which clearly contradicts the idea that I matter.

Perhaps you will at this point understand my confusion on this and many other pressing questions.

Again, though, I must look for a silver lining, for surely a man cannot long live without some hope of a silver lining, even if he has absolutely no fucking idea what "a silver lining" might mean in this or any other context. Be that as it may: If time is, as is frequently alleged, fleeting, and time is money, and I am not worth money, then I cannot possibly be fleeting, and so might possibly be immortal.

Perhaps, though, that is not a true silver lining, for surely immortality is an expensive proposition --one can only imagine how much it might cost to live forever-- and thus immortality would therefore be yet another luxury that I cannot afford, as well as, come to think of it, a rather dreary aspiration.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

From The Vanishing Dump: Unbroken Promise

Disappointed in love and broken
at forty she married a small town
in Ohio
it made no brash promises whispered nothing
sweeter in her ear than good morning
good afternoon good evening good night
my dear
good night my darling
good night my dear
in the morning
I'll still be here.