City people are different from the rest of us, because they feel they have options. Their minds are in two places at once- half on what they are doing, and half on all the other things they COULD be doing. In the country you think, “Yay, I have a husband, and he is way better than nothing!” but in the city you might think, “Hmmm… could I be kissing Rod Hotwings right now if I weren’t tied down to this guy?”
To make matters worse, cities lead to hierarchies, so it’s not just that you could be with someone different, you could be with someone better. Someone richer, funnier, more metrosexual… Whereas in the country, people see themselves more as puzzle pieces. When two puzzle pieces fit together, you know things are as good as they’re going to get.
Download MP3: Love It Don’t Grow on No Trees
Well, I guess this would be my free love song… I wrote it while living in L.A.
In L.A. the element of freedom was absolute. Finally, a place where people were free to explore past lives and send golden beams of gratitude to their guardian angels, but also a place where Hugh Hefner was free to parade around in his silky underwear. The sheep could roam freely, but the wolves could eat openly, so all in all it was hard to say if you were better off or not.
So at any rate, this made me nostalgiac for Kentucky, where there is little tolerance for non-conformity of any sort. The land of yellow and green squares, fences, and bread baskets. A place where Hugh Hefner is only free so long as he keeps it within the family.
Download MP3: Love It Don’t Mean Nothing
I always felt fascinated by the Ohio River because it separates Kentucky, where I grew up, from Indiana, the Emerald City-State, where everything is possible, where hopes and dreams come true by the minute. I love driving through Southern Indiana with its endless golden fields, gambling machines, and 64 oz polar pops. I love the flatness and lack of variety which make the land seem to stretch out forever, hypnotically, like a golden ocean. I love their cheeseburger hotdogs and American flag bandana-shorts, which encourage you to release the vain pretenses of the city and just be yourself, a human being, who loves tasty treats and the feeling of wind in your hair.
At other times, though, I hated Indiana and the Hoosiers who lived there. Sometimes it seemed like Kentucky was the promised land, a buttery gold corn fritter, while Indiana was a slimy side of spinach, basking in Kentucky’s sunlight and giving nothing in return but ghosts, which crossed the Ohio at night in hordes, seeking a better life in Kentucky.
Download MP3: Pink Star of the Beautiful Ohio
… if James wasn’t encouraging me to include ALL my songs on this blog I would probably leave this one out because it makes me feel embarrassed! I’m not sure what my brain was thinking when I wrote this, or if it was thinking at all, but I do remember exactly what I was feeling… I was surrounded by a mustard colored light and that light became this song.
I have always felt a little uncomfortable around mustard yellow. Until recently I couldn’t even eat mustard out of an irrational fear that I might end up with a yellow stain on my clothes. I’ve never really taken the time to think about this color or what it means to me, although I always notice when it shows up. It seems to be favored by people who work in the theater and lovers of purple velvet. (It’s also a popular choice for colonial homes around Portsmouth.)
At any rate, this ochre light surrounding me was a blend of several forces, such as:
1. The gold of spirituality and idealism darkened by fear, leading to an apocalyptic outlook.
2. The nutritive butter yellow of Kentucky darkened with nauseating ideas from childhood about the role of females in this world. Such as them being less intelligent than men and doomed to make their way through life on “sexual wiles” alone, an idea which repulsed me- especially when I was still young enough to think boys had cooties. Of course my conscious mind had rejected these ideas, but- like mustard wiped from a white shirt- the stain remained.
I like to think that, for the most part, these mental influences have now been released from my mind, and that is why I can eat mustard without (great) fear. It tastes good.
Download MP3: Knocking on Heaven’s Door
This song I heard in a dream… the dream was set in the future and consisted of a young black man in a red t-shirt, straw hat, and beat-up green convertible driving west down highway 64 in Kentucky. The shining sun, the wide open sky, and the wind all filled me with intense feelings of exhilaration. I wasn’t a character in the dream, though, I was watching it, like a music video.
I felt like the man was singing just to me and wanted me to write the song down, so I did. The only problem was that he used an unmentionable word to refer to himself, so not being quite sure what to do, I changed the name of his song from “Kentucky Something-or-the-other” to “Rose Fairy.”
Download MP3: Rose Fairy
This song started playing in my head while I was living in Brooklyn, but I refused to write it down because I was determined not to write any more songs. Living on the outskirts of Brooklyn, a two hour walk to the subway, the idea of writing songs for nobody seemed both pointless and depressing. I thought my head space would be better used for something practical, although I wasn’t quite sure what that would be. It felt like I had reached the end of the my universe… no more hopes and dreams… no future to look forward to… just a never ending stream of three inch cock roaches to kill or run from.
The only thing that kept me going was a nearby drug store where I could buy 5 packs of potato chips for a dollar. They came in about 15 flavors ranging from Cool Ranch Doritos to Cheetos. Every evening I would walk to the drug store and select five packs. I would eat one (which was always thick pretzels) on the way home, and then eat the other four while watching a movie on my computer.
I didn’t want to be in Brooklyn, but with no money and no car, what could I do? One day, I decided to paint my apartment sky blue and decorate it with pictures of airplanes, hoping they would magically give me the power to fly away. A few days later, the answer struck me like lightening- I could rent a car and move back to Kentucky! How could it have taken me so long to realize something so obvious?
Leaving New York was the best feeling ever. Driving through the Amish countryside in Pennsylvania… buying fried chicken liver at a gas station on the Kentucky border… in comparison to Brooklyn, the rest of the world was one giant paradise! The people didn’t yell or throw glass bottles at you, the streets were wide and clean and the cars seemed to glide along in slow motion. There was no trash that blew down the sidewalks, no curly dark hairs in the breadsticks. Suddenly, every good experience had become affordable and within reach.
And so, at last, I had enough energy to buy a legal pad and write down this song.
Download MP3: Cabin Boy
When I hear this song, I think of the Ohio River that separated Kentucky from Indiana. I see Indiana at night, shining with green lights like the Emerald City, and me standing in Kentucky, filled with longing. I see ghosts crossing the river, leaving Indiana to reach Kentucky, wearing long lace dresses that flutter in the breeze. I think of myself, all alone on the shore, bombarded by ghosts, and wishing there was a way to reach that Land of Dreams on the other side of the river.
Download MP3: Poleman