On Saturday night the bell on my landline went off and damn it all if it weren't the Sailor, ringing me up to hear more about Duke Ellington and his way with the piano.
"Come on over, August," he breathed gruffly and grandly into the handset, "and show me again how those first 16 bars go, because I have an idea on how to fit a harmonica over that bit, plus which I believe I can lay a fine shuffle under that storm and so we will be on our way to being a fine jazz band, after all."
I'd already had a couple of drinks of Wild Turkey by that time though and told him I didn't fancy driving through the student ghetto just to lay down some clumsy riffs on his Yamaha upright, but he disagreed.
"Go on and walk over then, Mr. March and I will mix you up a creme soda with Jameson's in the bottom of the glass."
I could not resist and so spent the next 3 hours rambling through "East Saint Louis Toodle-oo" while the rest of the boys followed along blithely. My wife called about 10 and told me I better get on home if I wanted any spaghetti. "Who could resist that," I told the Sailor as I dropped my charts onto his desk, grabbed my cane and ambled toward the door. I flashed him the peace sign and said I'd see him Tuesday for practice.
That was the last time I saw the man folks here in Dirt City called by a nautical name.
I'd known him since I was a kid, and him being 20 years my senior did stop us becoming fast friends. He was part brother and part father; we hiked, smoked, drank, jammed and regaled each other with stories of where the other had been on the Earth.
He was the only man I knew that had seen more of the planet than me. I'd been on all the continents, excepting Antarctica; his tale of seeing the Ross Ice Shelf rise up on the horizon set my brain on fire and besides that we always had a laugh about the after-midnight goings on in Singapore, the lights of the north star and the aurora way up north or how it was impossible to understand the dialect of the Peruvian seamen who landed in Guayaquil looking for a good time.
When he broke his hip late last year, my wife and I sat with him at the hospital, brought him dinner from Los Cuates on the weekends and made sure his walker was ready to go when he was. The pain was bad he told us, but nothing like the time he got burned putting out a fire on an oiler outside of Osaka.
Just last week, we spent an afternoon listening to the Rolling Stones new album, a blues thing. And I complained that Charlie Watts was about an eighth note behind Keith Richards when it counted but he said to take it easy because we were all getting old.
On Tuesday morning the bell on my cell phone went off and god damn it to hell, it was the Sailor's neighbor who was weeping on the line when I answered and then told me the news.
"Mike got up early this morning, put a note on the door, then went back to his place and shot himself."
I went home early that day. I sat at my piano and played until my hands hurt, thinking about the time the Sailor told me how Polaris was possibly the center of the universe—blinking timelessly, brightly while the rest of the sky rolled and spun chaotically around and around.
In the spirit of a new school year, let's all remember that despite our frantic pursuits, college won't prepare anyone for The Real World. (But in all honesty, nothing will.)
Hey web designers, I have a project for you.
Peer inside the life of two Syrian refugees striving to become part of German society. In the small town, they spend the majority of their days studying the German language in hopes of getting jobs and contributing to the community.
Scientists speculate timing in the big scheme of things and conclude that life seems to be “more likely” in the future than now. Apparently we overeager Earthlings arrived at the cosmic mashup a bit early.
I think we should all move to Cormorant, Minnesota. They just reelected a dog as their Mayor.
In more local news, commissioners in Albuquerque plan to discuss a resolution to put the ABQ Rapid Transit project on the November ballot. This will give voters the chance to state whether they support or oppose ART.
A new study surveying 111 women with breast cancer found that those who held negative expectations regarding their treatment experienced twice as many side effects.
"Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves." — Stephen Daedalus
Jim Phillips was a musician from Albuquerque. He directed the creative activities of a band called Lousy Robot. When he died unexpectedly last spring, Phillips left behind a body of work notable for defining a fragile, yet brightly expressed nexus of what it means to be human.
Invoking the wide and melodically winsome swath carved out by power-pop adherents like the Easybeats, Big Star, the Cars and Elvis Costello, singer/guitarist Phillips and his ensemble (Ben Wood, keyboards; Joey Gonzales, drums and Dandee Fleming on bass) added intensity and a profound sense of dark realism to their rocanrol stew.
The result included unforgettably haunting recordings like 2011's Hail The Conquering Fool.
This week, Lousy Robot bassist Fleming reached out to Weekly Alibi to tell about a new collection of recordings by Lousy Robot, available at Bandcamp.
Fleming wrote, "Before his death Jim and the band had been working on collecting outtakes and rarities from previous recording sessions in hopes of putting out a collection of weirdness titled Oddities, Obscurities & Obscenities. The work started with a cover of “Dead Flowers” and an iPhone remix of “Peacocks." During this time, I continued to work on remixes on several other songs. After Jim’s death, I found two songs that the group had demoed but never completed. I edited and restructured those songs and sent them to friend and long-time producer John Dufliho to complete.
The result is a work of complex beauty; the circumstances—rendered as music, hopeful and dire—that make up human life.
It’s alive! These famous lines of Dr. Frankenstein remind me of zombie movies and sci-fi horrors. But apparently the idea of creating life from death may be jumping from the pages of sci-fi novels into actual science.
According to the New York Times four years ago at the University of Massachusetts Medical School scientists created a molecule that could replicate and evolve by its self. It was nicknamed “The Immortal Molecule.”
This molecule may be only the beginning. Biologist and chemist in a lab in San Diego are trying to create life. They are attempting to bridge the gap between inanimate and animate using modern genetics. Perhaps Mary Shelly was on the right track, but only about two centuries too early. Read more about this here.
Until recently, I was strictly a newspaper guy. Dead trees slathered in ink.
Now I find myself thrust into the world of web-based journalism. It started with the Alibi offering me a slot on its blog. (This post, by the way, will be the very first I put on the website, and you’re reading it.)
I have spent much of the last six years scoffing at bloggers. An editor once told me that a reporter without an editor is a blogger. He was fired for watching internet porn, so I guess everything is on the internet.
At my college paper, the other editors had Facebook and MySpace pages. I laughed at them, and proclaimed that I would never sink so low. (I have a Facebook page now.)
So I’m a hypocrite perhaps. But I’ve always been resistant to technology. I just can’t follow every new thing over the cliff like an E-Lemming. Call me stubborn. Thinking I needed one to be a serious writer, I bought a typewriter when I was 19. Soon I had a collection of IBM Selectrics cluttering my apartment. Slowly, however, they have been left behind during subsequent moves or I have suckered someone into taking one. (“Oh you’ll love it,” I lie. “Much easier than a computer. The IBM Selectric Mark Two, the big mother. Trust me.)
The worst thing about my typewriter phase is the large amount of bad, typed poetry circulating out there. It turns out that I’m not Charles Bukowski.
Web-based everything. It’s not just the wave of the future. It’s here. And I’m catching up. I’m also taking a crack at the coveted “Full Time Freelance Journalist.” It’s not easy to do, but I’m determined. This will also require a significant web presence.
A colleague who has already jumped into the abyss told me last week over cappuccinos that I’ll need a website, blog, Twitter account, etc. It’s all about shameless self-promotion, I guess. I can do that. No problem.
I’m working on the website, though it appears to have been put together by a team of monkeys. The blog account is up. I’m holding off on the Twitter account. I just can’t do it.
Right now, I feel like one of those apes in 2001: A Space Odyssey dancing around the monolith. But I have arrived late, and all the other apes have iPhones.