Talkin’ Poison Ivy Wish-I-Could-Tear-My-Skin-Off Blues

I’m an idiot. About three years ago, I got a nasty case of poison ivy while backpacking near Taos. I’ve been fairly cautious ever since (“three leaves, let it be”). Last weekend, though, I was backpacking up in the Pecos and forgot to look out for this cursed weed. Now I’ve got itchy welts all over my arms and legs. I’ve even got a few on my forehead. It’s not the worst case in the world, but I still feel lousy. (Here’s an interesting article about how climate change might be creating “super poison ivy.”)

Thankfully, my buddy Doug just gave me a ton of old-time acoustic blues—Son House, Charley Patton, Skip James, Robert Johnson—the whole pantheon of Delta geniuses. It’s the perfect soundtrack to my self pity. I mean, what’s worse, losing your woman or having pus oozing out of your arm? Tough call.

At the moment, I’m particularly drawn to Bukka White, a boxer and baseball player who ended up in prison for shooting a man in the leg. Dylan once did a fantastic job covering his “Fixin’ to Die Blues,” but the original is even better.

Listen to this mp3 of Bukka’s “Shake ‘em on Down,” a song that became a hit while he was serving time for manslaughter. I don’t know what he’s singing, but I think it’s got something to do with having an itch you know you shouldn’t scratch.