Thursday, December 25, 2008

Lungs of the City: Before vodka, there was Zen

Lungs of the City: Before vodka, there was Zen

Before vodka, there was Zen

I was doing laundry last night and this poem followed me upstairs amidst an armload of clothes. This was written on the back of the piece of stationary:







On the other side:

The Mind of Absolute Trust

By Seng-Ts'an

The great way isn't difficult for those who are unattached to their preferences.

Let go of longing and aversion, and everything will be perfectly clear.

When you cling to a hairbreadth of distinction, heaven and earth are set apart.

If you want to realize the truth, don't be for or against.

The struggle between good and evil is the primal disease of the mind.

Not grasping the deeper meaning, you just trouble your minds serenity.

As vast as infinite space, it is perfect and lacks nothing.

But because you select and reject, you can't perceive its true nature.

Don't get entangled in the world; don't lose yourself in emptiness.

Be at peace in the oneness of things, and all errors will disappear by themselves.

If you don't live the Tao, you fall into assertion or denial.

Asserting that the world is real, you are blind to its deeper reality;

denying that the world is real, you are blind to the selflessness of all things.

The more you think about these matters, the farther you are from the truth.

Step aside from all thinking, and there is nowhere you can't go.

Returning to the root, you find the meaning;

chasing appearances, you lose their source.

At the moment of profound insight, you transcend both appearance and emptiness.

Don't keep searching for the truth; just let go of your opinions.

For the mind in harmony with the Tao, all selfishness disappears.

With not even a trace of self-doubt, you can trust the universe completely.

All at once you are free, with nothing left to hold on to.

All is empty, brilliant, perfect in its own being.

In the world of things as they are, there is no self, no non self.

If you want to describe its essence, the best you can say is "Not-two."

In this "Not-two" nothing is separate, and nothing in the world is excluded.

The enlightened of all times and places have entered into this truth.

In it there is no gain or loss; one instant is ten thousand years.

There is no here, no there; infinity is right before your eyes.

The tiny is as large as the vast when objective boundaries have vanished;

the vast is as small as the tiny when you don't have external limits.

Being is an aspect of non-being; non-being is no different from being.

Until you understand this truth, you won't see anything clearly.

One is all; all are one. When you realize this, what reason for holiness or wisdom?

The mind of absolute trust is beyond all thought, all striving,

is perfectly at peace, for in it there is no yesterday, no today, no tomorrow.

Compare it to this piece by Charles Bukowski. Why? I'm not sure.


there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average
human being to supply any given army on any given day

and the best at murder are those who preach against it
and the best at hate are those who preach love
and the best at war finally are those who preach peace

those who preach god, need god
those who preach peace do not have peace
those who preach peace do not have love

beware the preachers
beware the knowers
beware those who are always reading books
beware those who either detest poverty
or are proud of it
beware those quick to praise
for they need praise in return
beware those who are quick to censor
they are afraid of what they do not know
beware those who seek constant crowds for
they are nothing alone
beware the average man the average woman
beware their love, their love is average
seeks average

but there is genius in their hatred
there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you
to kill anybody
not wanting solitude
not understanding solitude
they will attempt to destroy anything
that differs from their own
not being able to create art
they will not understand art
they will consider their failure as creators
only as a failure of the world
not being able to love fully
they will believe your love incomplete
and then they will hate you
and their hatred will be perfect

like a shining diamond
like a knife
like a mountain
like a tiger
like hemlock

their finest art

Monday, December 22, 2008

I lost a bit more of my technoginity today

I just popped my video-interface cherry.
Yep, I lost my Skype virginity to one of my favorite people, Lindy, who is on break from her teaching job in Madrid. She just got a computer with a camera in it, so I got to have an hour long chat with her while I froze my toes off in my apartment, finished waking up, ate pizza and watched her look into the screen and smile that smile.
I'm going to see her during her Easter break, so we were pretty giddy and the oddness of speaking to one another for free from so far away and me being granted the vision of her face is currently overriding all other impressions, but I wonder how odd it will be when we are all carrying on this sort of correspondence. I'm guessing it won't seem so odd when the microphones, cameras and video feeds are of better quality. For me, it was a bit uncomfortable because I am stuck to this desktop and had my head attached to the PC via headset and a short chord. Pretty geeky. Very nerdy, but not so bad, I have to admit.
Is this what it felt like to speak on a telephone in 1895?
But, thankfully, I get to go back out into the world briefly to interact with you and the rest of the human race and the hot shower I'm about to enjoy will ready me for some good, dirty work and fun on this cold night. I'm not ready for an solitary existence in this cocoon quite yet.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lungs of the City: Do Your Ears Like Magic?

Lungs of the City: Do Your Ears Like Magic?

Do Your Ears Like Magic?

Test your ears to see if they're still receptive to magic.
Go see some electro-acoustic musical performances.

Just got this news from Josh Levi and Apop Records:



3301 Lemp Avenue (at Utah)
St. Louis, MO 63118
8PM // $5 // All Ages

I snatched this description from the interwebs:

"Rainey’s saxophone playing eschews standard techniques; in fact, it rarely involves what have become common extended techniques. Yet, his sounds have a peculiar directness, integrated into a music that is at once meditative and disquieting. The saxophone is forgotten as one becomes immersed in pure tones, metallic chords, palpable breath, and always that primal silence, both mesmerizing and volatile. Rainey’s music, although entirely acoustic, is in close kinship with electronic music, as evidenced in his collaborations with Gunter Mueller, Lionel Marchetti, Kevin Drumm, Ralf Wehowsky, Jerome Noetinger, and Jason Lescalleet, to name a few. With trumpeter Greg Kelley, he is the cofounder of the unlikely improv supergroup, nmperign, and is also the founder and director of the premier electroacoustic ensemble, the BSC."

If you find that your are receptive to this type of experience, I invite you to listen to KDHX on Christmas Eve because I'll be hosting Beep Beep, Boop Boop for Kate from 10 p.m. to Midnight.
I'm going to take some liberties, however, in swaying from the weekly gist of her dancy electronic and hip-hop offerings. For the last two hours before your beloved Christmas, I'll be spinning a sort of revisitation of The No Show, blending improvisational and experimental visitations of the holiday season with some remixes and two incredible spoken word pieces. Filling out the show will be plenty of local offerings from the likes of my friends from the late-great Fred's Variety Group, Grandpa's Ghost, The Bert Dax Cavalcade of Stars and Echolocation Recordings. I hosted The No Show for several years and always attempted to produce and deliver holiday offerings ranging from the sublime to the irreverent to the ridiculous and humorous. This will be more of the same. I'm like a lot of you: I quickly tire of obviousness.
The interminable barrage of holiday music delivers the faulty mythology of Christmas as a magical time of giving and happiness. There is an entire essay waiting to erect itself from the groin of that last statement but not quite now. I'll finish programming the show and let it do the talking for me.

Not only will that program be on the radio airwaves, but it will be streaming live from the KDHX website and will be listenable there as an archive for two weeks following the show, a feature true of all the programming on 88.1 FM.

We shall survive!

...and when we do, there is more magic in January:

Josh and Apop have more in store:


A special daytime workshop will take place followed by an evening concert featuring a collaboration including local performers

3301 Lemp Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63118
8PM // $5 // All Ages

I met Tatsuya the last time I was in Detroit at the late-great Bohemian National Home.

He is an incredibly gifted percussionist. One of many I've seeen at the BoHouse. What sets Tatsuya apart in my mind are two moments. The first moment came after I'd seen him perform twice. It was later on Saturday night after a long day of many different performances and sessions and the place was hopping to the sounds of an ensemble on the big stage upstairs. I was weary of walking up and down steps and standing, so I found a place on the floor against a wall at the far end of the auditorium from the stage and sat down to listen and enjoy a beer. After the ensemble had wowed the crowd, I introduced myself and told him how much I had enjoyed his playing. A couple other folks had gathered the pow-wow by now and various discussions opened up about Tatsuya's past as a sushi chef in Japan and his present life in NYC. We, of course, talked about the wonders of being at the BoHouse and seeing Detroit and Corktown with such incredible folks as Joel Peterson and Rebecca Mazzei (the couple who heads up the group that used to run the BoHouse). I mentioned that I found the festival through my friend Thollem McDonas and that Thollem had found me due to the fact that I used to host The No Show and then we spoke of his experience playing at the Lemp. It was the normal chit-chat between strangers and the language barrier was bridged entirely by his English, of course.

As we got through the first round of back-and-forths (and I'm not much of a talker in such settings, especially in the shadow of musical luminaries), I returned to the topic of his former life as a sushi chef. I probably mentioned that I'd worked in Japanese restaurants, but I for sure asked him what that life was like and if he still liked to indulge like most restaurant workers I know. So, he told us a story about various daliances in the night with sake'...and remarkably we didn't end up doing a shot later. I don't remember how he managed to escape.

The seond moment came at the end of a small workshop session early on the Saturday during last summer's Jazz and Improvised Music Festival at the BoHouse. Tatsuya had discussed various philosophies of the art of sound and the importance of minimalistic percussion instruments to the drummer who is travelling by bus or bicycle. I don't remember the rest of his talk exactly, not because it wasn't fascinating, but because I failed to document any of this earlier, but he went on to lead an impromptu improvisation session with a circle of those assembled. Some of them were master musicians and some of them had much less experience. I enjoyed myself as they played in that auditorium and I sat up near a window that was admitting a breeze to bath the whole experience in forgiveness for certain Friday night over-indulgences. There were various percussion implements and others of the string variety. Tatsuya employs a wide variety of "instruments" in his percussion including traditional drums, gongs, “singing bowls” ,common-place objects and more. He was closing out the collaboration, bowing a cymbal as he had some of the singing bowls and as the sound dissipated and completely vanished, there was a moment of silence. It lasted perhaps less-than-a second because all peace was ripped and blasted by the sound of a speeding motorcycle (a crotch-rocket, to be exact) screaming down the street outside.

To my mind, it was perfect!

"I hoped at one time to become Commissioner of Sewers for St. Louis County. "

Check out this treatment of Burroughs recalling how his aversion to politics kept him out of the shit:

"The Sultan of Sewers," by William Burroughs

This piece was written to Harper's Magazine in response to the question, "When did you stop wanting to be President?"

When did I stop wanting to be President? At birth, certainly, and perhaps before. In this life or any previous incarnations I have been able to check out, I NEVER wanted to be President. This innate decision was confirmed when I became literate and saw the President pawing babies and spouting bullshit.
I attended Los Alamos Ranch School, where they later made the atom bomb. And bombs bursting in air over Hiroshima gave proof through the night that our flag was already there. There was the Teapot Dome Scandal under President Harding, and I remember the unspeakable Gaston Means. Scion of an aristocratic Southern family, infamous private eye and go-between in this miasma of graft, I remember him walking into a hotel room full of bourbon-drinking, cigar-smoking lobbyists and fixers with a suitcase he puts in the middle of the table. "Fill it up, boys, then we can talk business."

I do not mean to imply that my youthful idealism was repelled by this spectacle. I had by then learned to take a broad, general view of things. My political ambitions were simply of a humbler and less conspicuous caliber: I hoped at one time to become Commissioner of Sewers for St. Louis County. Three hundred dollars a month with every possibility of getting one's slimey little paws deep into a slush fund. And to this end I attended a softball game, where such sinecures were assigned to the deserving and the fortunate. And everybody I met said "Now, I'm old so-and-so runnin' for such-and-such, and anything you do for me I'll appreciate."

My boyish dreams fanned by this heady atmosphere and three mint juleps, I saw myself already in possession of the coveted post which called for a token appearance twice a week to sign a few letters at the old courthouse. While I'm there, might as well put it on the Sheriff for some of the marijuana he has confiscated, and he'd better play ball or I will route a sewer through his front yard. And then across the street to the courthouse cafe for a coffee with other lazy worthless bastards in the same line of business as we wallow in corruption like contented crocodiles.

I never wanted to be a frontman like Harding or Nixon, taking the rap, shaking hands, and making speeches all day. Who in his right mind would want a job like that? As Commissioner of Sewers, I would not be called upon to pet babies, make speeches, shake hands, or have lunch with the Queen. In fact, the fewer voters who knew of my existence, the better. Let Kings and Presidents keep the limelight; I prefer a whiff of coal gas as the sewers rupture for miles around. I have made a deal on the piping which has bought me a 300 thousand dollar home. Although there is talk in the press of sex cults and drug orgies, carried out in the stink of what made them possible, fluttering from the roof of my ranch-style house, over my mint and marijuana, Old Glory floats lazily in the tainted breeze.

But there were sullen mutters of revolt from the peasantry: "My teenage daughters are threatened by this immorality! Is this the American way of life?"

I thought so, and I didn't want it changed.

Sitting in my garden, smoking the sheriff's reefer, coal gas on the wind sweet in my nostrils as the smell of oil to an oilman, or the smell of bullshit to a cattle baron. I sure did a sweet thing on those pipes, and I'm covered too. What I got on the governor wouldn't look good on the front page, would it now? And I have my special police to deal with vandalism and sabotage. All handsome youths, languid and vicious as reptiles. Described in the press as no more than minions, lackeys, and bodyguards to his majesty the Sultan of Sewers.

The thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts. Then I met the guvernatorial candidate, and he looked at me as if trying to focus my image through a telescope, and said in effect, "Anything I do for you I'll depreciate."

And I felt the dream slipping away from me, receding into the past. Dim, jerky, far away, the discreet gold letters on a glass door:

William S. Burroughs, Commissioner of Sanitation
Somehow, I had not intersected. I was not one of them. Perhaps I was simply the wrong shape. Some of my classmates, plump, cynical, unathletic boys with narrow shoulders and broad hips made the grade and went on to banner headlines concerning two million dollars of the taxpayers' money, and a nonexistent bridge or highway, I forget which. It was a long time ago, and I have never aspired to political office since. The Sultan of Sewers lies buried in a distant, 1930s softball game.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What Was I Thinking?

I've spent the last 24 hours in my apartment. That is mostly my choice. I thought I might take a walk today at some point, but there is enough to keep me occupied right here if I don't get too restless or hungry and I've interrupted several activities preparing and drinking or eating tea, bread, carrots and various other tenants in my refrigerator in an effort to stay clean for an early-morning walk and late-morning massage. I spent most of the day resting and patching up the damage of cancellations in the entertainment schedule that I curate. There is always plenty of "catching up" to do online and if the phone rings a couple of times, I don't even want to go out, so I'll start digging a little deeper for reasons to stay home, something I don't get to do but (maybe) one-day-a-week.
A couple hours ago, though, I started rooting through a block of cardboard files that sit on the floor in the middle room where I don't spend much time. I found plenty to weed out. I found some amusing notebooks from the time when I was hosting The No Show and organizing events outside of my present confines. I found part of a collage that I will immediately turn into something more substantial as soon as I get back to cutting and pasting some collages from the piles of detritus...and that needs to happen soon, so I can send out some cards to the physical world.
Several minutes into the excavation, I found one page in a notebook that has me somewhat confounded and I'm going to type it up here, because I have no recollection of writing the words and don't remember why I wrote them either.
I am guessing that it was to be some mocking middle-of-the night diatribe to be performed on that late-night radio show of mine, but I honestly don't know. Perhaps I was riffing and scribbling in the hopes of getting on to something other.
At any rate, this is how it goes:
"Rock n' Roll consists inherently of a poopy nature as it is the excrement of rage that, when you trace its origins, reveals itself to be an embryonic and chaotic crapstream which is suckling at the poisonous tit of fear--the commercialism and hurried mess that is the Western Bowl.
The Western Bowl is a swirling cesspool of regurgitated acid which poisons everything in digestive fluids and man-made chemicals of the modern and post-modern age and carts it all around with the fuel of guilt and repression.
The tit of fear---an air-brushed spigot of enticing death with piglets, puppies, pedophiles and shoppers---yes, you the dumbstruck consumer---lapping at the alabaster secretions of nothingness held in its vacuous white noise."

Like I said, I have no idea, so don't ask me. I recognize "tit of fear" to be a fragment of something I read once about television viewers "suckling at the glass tit of fear" (Jerry Mander's FOUR ARGUMENTS FOR THE ELIMINATION OF TELEVISION?), or something to that effect...and The Western Bowl sounds like something Burroughs would write, but all-in-all it reads like something you might hear on a religious station through the static of an AM signal.
In other words, it sounds like something I've heard a lot of throughout years of insomnia.

After having sat in this chair for the better part of seven hours today, I think I'll go to bed and see what's happening on the airwaves. Kate is almost finished with a fine episode of Beep Beep, Boop Boop and I'm ready to read a book, play with the static and listen to various oddities before I doze off.

If you can't sleep watch this:
"God's Angry Man is a 1980 documentary film about Gene Scott, directed by Werner Herzog. The film was produced for television.

The film consists of footage of Scott on the set of his television program Festival of Faith and interviews with Scott and Scott's parents conducted by Herzog. The footage from Scott's television program focuses almost exclusively on his fundraising efforts and an elaborate rant against the FCC. Scott at one point refuses to speak until his viewers pledge an additional $600. After a minute's silence, he yells angrily at the camera until a production assistant informs him that they had already received $700. Scott represents the FCC on his show by a cymbal-banging monkey toy."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Right angles: wrong?

I've been reading Thomas Berger's LITTLE BIG MAN.
Somehow, I have failed to pick it up before despite a childhood of summers chasing Sitting Bull and other western legends in a van with the author, Larry D. Underwood, my father. I've met Dee Brown, author of BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE and read several of his books. I've spent much of my life ruing and pondering the origins of our nation: the genocide of a rich and well-founded tradition of worshiping the natural progression of the universe.
In conjunction, I've been continually confounded in my living space and can't figure out how to arrange my possessions. For nearly two years, I've operated under an operating philosophy somewhere to the left of surfing on whoopie! and mazes of clutter, but it appears that I'm going to be here for some time. The space is all right for one of my mindset. I mostly sit, sleep, read and ponder here. It is becoming painfully apparent that the space is not all that good for a deeper health and is certainly not very welcoming of guests. It serves its purpose if the guest is O.K. with drinking in the backyard, crashing on the futon or in the sack with me and vacating for lunch the next day. The confines are sorely lacking for activities such as listening to music, watching movies or other such pursuits I might like to share with like minds.
So, I've begun to clean the place in hopes that I can figure out what to do with it all and as I was dozing off into a nap after putting down this fucking beautiful novel, it occured to me that it would be so much easier if I weren't trying to fulfill my cycles and dreams in these boxes, set along these grids.
Does anyone have any circular space for rent?
I really don't think these right angles are right for me.
I need some curves in my life.
...and that's a whole different subject isn't it?
Maybe that's why the pint glass and the baseball feel so comforting in my fingers?
Time to go grasp lots of glasses and catch as many curves as I can from behind the bar.
I have a feeling I'll be expanding upon these thoughts soon.
Until then...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Chainsaws Say "Get Up!"

A crisp and explosive morning
does not meet well with blase'.
Chainsaws and the digital rings
of telephones; stomping of feet
and slamming of doors; grinding
and whining of street-cleaning
trucks do not meet well with blase'.
They spell the absence of sacred awakening.
Now, the sunshine has set the sky
to flames and they lick at the edges
of living space.
Sleep is impossible amidst such
industry, but now even nature
demands arousal.

Chainsaws, leaf blowers and
lawn mowers in "quiet"
neighborhoods replace gunshots and thunder
until the whole thing meets bombs.

The saxophonist can't sleep and now you are restless,
but when the man in the coveralls
puts down his hand-held engine
and the jazzman hears the humming of his
nervous system to the ticking of the
clock, the sunshine through the partially
open curtains is enough to relax
venomous vim and dash all hopes
of ever doing anything about it as
a child screams on a nearby ashphalt
playground, a delivery truck
roars the wrong way towards a dead end
and the church bell rings nine.

Brett Underwood

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Actually, I'll have a Diet Coke

As you may know, if you know me, the phrase heading this post became, in my mind, a most-despised phrase while I waited tables at the late, great Dressel's Pub in the Central West End Neighborhood of St. Louis. Don't worry, the pub is still there, but the vibe that the place housed during the 80s and 90s is mostly gone.
Nevertheless, it was there that I ran circles around a miraculous bar of liquor and beer selections only to completely halt all writing efforts. It wasn't that I had no inspiration. It was only that I was confounded by the culture shock of waiting on the privileged and pseudo-intellects while trying to figure out what I really wanted to do amongst such culture-laden surroundings.
I cast that last statement as a guess.
It could be that I was working and drinking too much.
It could be that I was simply floundering from the loss of a lover.
It could be that I was slumming...just a little bit.
It could be that I was swimming, perhaps wading, into deeper waters of a different St. Louis than I cared to be accustomed to at such a late age.
I started waiting tables there after having quite a crazy, five-year stint on Laclede's Landing during which I learned much about the seedier side of St. Louis. I met many scumbags; befriended many who were fierce, intelligent and able; layed a few beauties and a couple unfortunate souls; and beat the rest off with the proverbial stick as I earned a living as a barback, doorman and occasional bartender at Lucius Boomer's.
There, on Clamorgan Alley, a couple blocks west of the banks of the Mississippi, I tore through the remainder of my later 20s and the earlier part of my 3os, not to mention a good part of my tendons, ligaments and brain cells. If you think it was HELL, well, yes, it was. If you think it was fun, well, yes, it was, if you could put your mind on hold, mute your hearing to the clammer of debauchery and the dreaded cover bands and set your being at a particular speed and determination to a setting that could only end in WHATEVER with WHOMEVER and a Jagermeister hangover.
Luckily, I shunned more offers than I accepted in favor of reflection and observation. I fully admit to accepting a majority of the drinks offered, but firmly claim that I passed by a full 90 percent of the sexual advances that were insinuated in those underground environs and the places I ventured after hours. I claim no virtue in these denials. In most cases, I simply gave the stiff-arm to such advances by drinking beyond their realization. In others, I craftily maneuvered end-arounds and performed the exact opposite of the "cock block", sending the vampiric subjects off in another direction towards a more willing victim...or, as some may see it, to some other fellow who was better able to "lay the pipe where it was wiling to be laid".
I submit once again that there was little of virtue in these actions. I was, more than once, enticed and subdued by such offers and am not ashamed by such outcomes. Though I was raised a Christian, I have long ago discarded such restraints in the interest of meeting others in a more intimate settting. Many a time have I felt the need to please or be pleased if only to feel the company of another or satisfy a curiosity. At the same time, I have shunned the idiocy of such a moment if there was no apparent need or feeling of intimacy. In other words, I don't always need the BANG BANG!
You might see me as an odd sort of fellow, especially because I might refer to myself as a fellow. Yuck yuck, hardy har.
You might think me a fool to engage in such work and spend time having to deal with such situations, perhaps. Perhaps? Now that is a word that isn't used in everyday contemporary conversations, so you might think me odd in that such usage, eh?
Well, let me go on to say that it is only to explain that I do not condone the laziness of mind that goes into ordering a Diet Coke, when one has not even been offered another beverage...and this was my original thought.
Do you see the error?
A perfectly good wait person approaches a table and asks those seated on the chairs around said table and asks, "Hello. Would you like something to drink?" He would not ask, "Hello. Would you like to toss about in the sand?" or "How about we rape a kitten just about now?"
No, he simply is approaching the table at this point and attempting to proceed with a restaurant transaction and this sophomore from who-knows-where says, "Actually, I'll have a Diet Coke."

Where does that come from?

I know, I know!
She was uncomfortable in a pub and being approached by a waiter who (may or may have not have laid her cousin after a quick exchange down on Laclede's Landing back in the wild 90s) has just asked her if she wanted something to drink probably sounded like, "Yo, you wanna start with a bottle of Turkey?"
But really, isn't it more likely that the waiter is only interested in whether or not the customer wants a glass of Chardonnay or a Bud Light or a lemonade or a Perrier or a white wine spritzer?

Here's what I think, and I want answers and comments if you think I'm wrong!
I think that there is a species of people that go to restaurants when they're not hungry or thirsty and perhaps, when they're not ready to be presented in public, and they don't know what they want! (...and I don't know if that exclamation point is warranted, but so be it...not like FUCKING amen or something...don't get upset, but it is there and I'm going to leave it there until you demand that it be removed by the FUCKING FDA, the thought police or some such blah, blah, blah...)
I submit to you, my readers, that said subjects do not know what they want.
They are at a restaurant and they do not know exactly where they are and they are not exactly hungry or thirsty and they do not know what they want and they feel a bit uncomfortable being questioned about it and their mind is racing and they are pouring over the options and inside they have settled on some rather fun options and finally they just blurt out,
"Actually, I'll have a Diet Coke."

That really used to piss me off.
It used to make me want to open a dialogue right there at the table side.
But then again, lots of things used to make me want to open up a dialogue right there at the table side. Being employed in a busy pub and being personally prone to and proud of my expedient abilities, I did not take the time for such interchanges. I was waiting on eight or nine tables at a time and I didn't take the time to stop and prevent nightmares of the future by asking what-the-fuck every customer meant when they said what they said. So, I advanced, got the Diet Coke, the Shirley Temple, the Long Island Iced Tea and the four Double Dragon Extra Bitters and got the vessels back to the table.
It was, really, the only reasonble thing to do. There was always time to relive my thoughts over a dozen drinks with co-workers later and that was good fun, but it was probably best that I did not dawdle over every indecisive customer.

I'm sorry to even bring it up, really.
I'm not at the table right now, though. I am sipping whiskey and enjoying an Oatmeal Stout and type-type-typing at my little computer keyboard and you are wondering where this is all going.
Well, Sirs and Madams, just beware that you may be the one who doesn't know what they want and you may be in a place of commerce where someone is waiting to serve you, be it a bank, a 7-11 (Freedom's Waiting for You!), a sausage shack or coffee kiosk. There are moments of decisiveness and those in which surety is lacking...and I know it is difficult. You, the busy American must decide what to consume when you have been ripped away from your computer, your car, your cubicle, your iPod, your comfortable rut, your life...

...and I feel for you...and it is you I love most dearly. It is you I cherish, my fellows and damsels in distress of indecision, for it is a dangerous road you travel and on it you may carry many other victims.
...and for you, my loves, my many loves and darlings, I will go to bed hungry. I will go to bed starving, but thinking of all the many things I'd like to eat tonight, but can't decide upon.
...for when I wake tomorrow, my body will tell me what I want!
...I will shiver under threadbare covers and know what my body craves!
....My life's vessel will crave nourishment and will envision colors.
...It may scream, "I need GREEN!"
...It may scream, "I need YELLOW!"
...It may scream, "I need BROWN!" (...but, I hope not)

When the body is in need of food and drink it tells us what we want!
Oh, I'm working up to a finish here and it ain't a feller from Helsinki, it's gonna be a doozy!

My fellow consumers, it is simple: get what you want...or atleast what you need.
I understand you're rushed and uncomfortable sometime and I don't get upset anymore when you don't know what you want.
I guess it is just human nature to feel uncomfortable when you feel like a dork!
Only a joke, there for a minute...not to demean, only to chuckle myself into the next thought.

Well, pardon if there are any mispellings in this improvisation.
I knew what I wanted and I drank it.
See you tomorrow at the bar and I'll know sort-of-what-you're-thinkin'.

I live for you.
I love you.

...and for the record, I no longer get upset as I did in the past. I've got rubber mats holding me up off the ground and am no longer subjected to the many pains of waiting tables. I will trot to keep you and your friends in food and drink.

There is a better synopsis to all this, but I haven't thought of it just yet. When I continue this train of thought, it will follow that the word "actually" is misused. Perhaps, perhaps that is where I'll take it all. We might wander off into meditations on the use of the word "just" by folks being interviewed for television. "We just wanted to give thanks that Sparky is alive, so we made this 700 pound corndog to offer up to Jesus," a frumpy lass says. "He was just a happy little chipmunk," another suburbanite will utter. "I just can't stress how much he was just a little happy chipmunk. I just can't understand why he set himself on fire amidst our Beanie Baby renaissance festival sculpture. It just puzzles the mind," she'll continue.

That is indeed something I'll need to chew on a bit.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I Wanna Give You the Turkeyneck

So, I need to get you in the mood a couple days early by explaining, that I like holidays about as much as I like getting woken up in the middle-of-the-night to avoid being burned up in flames. To me, they welcome falsity, mad rushes of insincere crowds and a waste of time, energy and resources.

They rob me of sleep, solitude and elbow room.
All in all, I'd rather we had more holidays that meant time for leisure and true celebration when everything would shut down, yes, even the bars and restaurants. When the streets are shut off to traffic and beings clamber along highways and avenues on the way to parks and forests and underground lairs or attic-space speakeasys, I will enjoy holidays in these "United" States of America.
Until that time, I'll continue to look at them in a similar light as my dear Uncle Bill.
...and I still love you, Mom.

William S. Burroughs
"The Thanksgiving Prayer"

Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts.

Thanks for a continent to despoil and poison.

Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger.

Thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin leaving the carcasses to rot.

Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes.

Thanks for the American dream,
To vulgarize and to falsify until the bare lies shine through.

Thanks for the KKK.

For nigger-killin' lawmen, feelin' their notches.

For decent church-goin' women, with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces.

Thanks for "Kill a Queer for Christ" stickers.

Thanks for laboratory AIDS.

Thanks for Prohibition and the war against drugs.

Thanks for a country where nobody's allowed to mind his own business.

Thanks for a nation of finks.

Yes, thanks for all the memories-- all right let's see your arms!

You always were a headache and you always were a bore.

Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.

Friday, November 21, 2008

When You're Sick of the Lies

Forget about words and listen to these incredible women: Sheila Chandra and Meredith Monk.

...and this is only the first of an eight-part documentary:

The Diagnosis Begins

I post this not because I wrote it recently, but because I wrote it sometime ago, may have read it once or twice at a Get Born reading and have been meaning to continue on with more "symptoms".

Symptom #1

Fear wrote the book

had it published

Did promotional

Ignorance did legwork

Swallowed it

Wore for a wrap

As love flew last birdsy

Look see

Choking on life’s pesticide

Daddy likes children

Poison invites poison

Cancer throws party

all cum

Wallowing in noise

Mickey Mouse gives a reach around

see average

Going about day

Blowing leaves

Not content

that breeze

would do it

more peacefully

That will kill

Be the death of leisure.

The deconomics of introspection


confuses spirit

everyday confusion

lathers dead souls

keeps remote control sales up.

Put faith in lazy ballot system.

three-hour commute and

microwaved dinner

feed dog horse

melt together

Yummy churchstate toast!



drowned in task

dig grave, lover

Scratch at the lid

of coffin


dust into gasping lungs


There’s brilliance

a blazing inferno


gathering to see end.

Enamored with results

too lazy to ask why

Seek easy answer


Dream of brighter tomesterday

Happy sorrow yesmorrow mustard gas

Blossoms and wafts sweetly

Clickle tit

Tickle clit

Smile child

While spitting

Pay to swallow

A most fascinating subject

Still a glimmering

Hope a fuzzed-out


a muted and distorted signal

Sure answer there

Sit distracted

Eat popcorn cheese whiz

Pray first down…

capture villain…

release hostage…

prayers be heard

From damsel with nice onions

Answered in multi-vitamin

Fear evil

But promote

Swallow facsimile

Sprinkle granulated nothing

On false hope regurgitates

Building idols of illusion

scorning the


who step aside.

Asking forgiveness while

Strangling squeezing

Last bones in

white gloves clenched

whores open minds

And there are always happy endings.

Daddy likes feculence

Makes deal

Snorkels with lemmings.

Brett Lars Underwood, 2006

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I like the New Music Circle

See below for the article I wrote about the NMC for St. Louis Magazine.
See the website for an up-to-date calendar:
This is their latest missive about the upcoming Morton Subotnick show!!!

To New Music Circle Friends and Patrons:

We were thrilled by the turnout at Sunday's Circle-Cinema 22 event
featuring S.A.N.E. Thanks again to everyone who attended, and to
Cinema St. Louis and St. Louis Art Museum for welcoming New Music
Circle into their world again.

As our 50th season rolls on, we have another very special concert
coming up this Saturday, Nov. 22 featuring analog synth pioneer Morton
Subotnick. More than 40 years ago, New Music Circle presented a
concert of one of Subotnick's first credited compositions, "Serenade
No. 1."

Today, Subotnick is known internationally for his contribution to the
development of electronic music. Don't miss the opportunity to see
him live in St. Louis! For more info, visit,

Morton Subotnick
"Until Spring Revisited"
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2008 – 7:30 p.m.
Co-sponsored by Forest Park Community College
Mildred Bastian Theater
5600 Oakland Ave.
Tickets: $15, $7 for students

The internationally acclaimed Morton Subotnick is an undisputed
pioneer in the development of electronic music and an innovator in
works involving instruments and other media. Subotnick’s work "Silver
Apples of the Moon," commissioned by Nonesuch Records in 1967 and
performed on a Buchla modular synthesizer (which had been designed in
part based on Subotnick’s suggestions), became an American best-seller
in the classical music category; extremely unusual for an electronic

A highly decorated talent, Subotnick has received multiple Rockefeller
Grants, the Guggenheim Grant, the Meet the Composer award, and ASCAP’s
John Cage Award among many others.

Subotnick will perform his work "Until Spring Revisited," a remaking
of an electronic music/video composition created for solo synthesizer
in 1975. Originally, “changes in settings which Subotnick made in
real time on the synthesizer were stored as control voltages on a
separate tape, enabling him to duplicate any of his performance
controls, and to subsequently modify them if he felt the desire to do
so. While the use of control voltages was nothing new, it suggested to
Subotnick a means to gain exact control over real-time electronic
processing equipment” (

Co-sponsored by Forest Park Community College, Morton Subotnick makes
a rare St. Louis visit as part of New Music Circle’s landmark 50th


We also wanted to make you aware of a percussion concert sponsored by
our friends at UMSL coming up this Thursday, Nov. 20...

UMSL University Percussion Ensemble and Afro-Cuban Ensemble
Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008 - 7:30 p.m.
Touhill Performing Arts Center - Lee Theatre
Admission: Free

Please join UMSL for a night of percussion music from Africa, Cuba,
Japan and the United States. The concert is free and open to the
public. Adam Rugo will be our very special guest performer on Bata.

Touhill Performing Arts Center-Lee Theater

...and here is my piece for St. Louis Magazine which is not online, but you can check out the publication at:

Occasionally, amidst the ho-hum seconds counting down on our digital doohickys or apparent moments of nothingness, there appear glimpses of imagination and creation. A glimmer of light pierces our consciousness.

The New Music Circle knows about such light and creation and has been furthering its standing as the longest-running organization of its kind by bringing innovative purveyors of “new music” and other spontaneous and improvised expression to St. Louis audiences since 1959. Now, the group presents a 50th season as they continue to welcome accomplished, out-of-town artists combined with a fresh initiative introduced last year, “Collaborating Artists Manifest Adventure” or CAMA, centering on an effort to fund the performance of local artists and composers in varying performance media.

The season kicked off in September with a 27-piece ensemble of national and local musicians led by the acclaimed composer, performer and bandleader, Vinny Golia. It continued in October with a multimedia CAMA event and collaboration between longtime NMC member, composer and performer, Rich O’Donnell, poet Anna Lum and other artists. Another accomplished local composer and CAMA member, James Hegarty, will display his talents in digital electronic music with two performances on November 7th at the Three Sinks Gallery in Webster Groves.

NMC and Cinema St. Louis continue their partnership with its 22nd Circle/Cinema, another live accompaniment of a silent film, during the St. Louis Film Festival on November 21st.

The legendary electronic composer Morton Subotnick appears on November 22nd. A pioneer in the analog synth field and founder of the San Francisco Tape Center who is most famous for his 1967 best-selling composition-for-recording Silver Apples of the Moon (named from a line in a W.B. Yeats poem “The Song of Wandering Aengus”), is not only remarkable for his innovative works and performances, but for his reach into the minds and tastes of those not appreciative of electronic music. He will be performing Until Spring Revisited, initially composed in 1975 for solo synthesizer on record instead of public performance. His current performances are carried out with the use of multiple laptop computers and his own software that interprets the movements, speed and “gestural quality” of the mouse movements and are accompanied by video projection.

Another San Francisco artist brings his work to an NMC stage in March in the form of percussionist and composer Gino Robair’s opera, “I, Norton”, based on the life of Joshua Norton, who on September 17, 1859 proclaimed, “at the request of the citizens of these United States, I…declare myself Emperor.”

“The opera consists of improvisational cues, graphic scores, game pieces and traditional notation,” Robair commented.

“All of the text is from Emporor Norton’s own proclamations, as well as false decrees that were published during his lifetime by newspapers trying to cash in on his fame. For me, a successful performance is one where several layers of music and text are happening simultaneously and things begin to make sense.”

The rest of the season is highlighted by performances, compositions, installations and productions of Hegarty, O’Donnell and the other three CAMA artists Tom Hamilton, Van McElwee and Kelsey LaPoint.

Call 314-567-5384 or visit for more information and a complete and updated schedule of New Music Circle events.

Strange World Posting on a Spring Morning

Here is one from the coffers...

This world:

In which I have health insurance, two savings accounts and a checking account that will never reach zero (it seems), a CD which is accruing interest, and now a 401K plan...that, the result of staying put at the same factory for almost a decade.
Yet I ride my bike home from work in the dark...breathing Pilsner and half-interesting thoughts about good cigarettes under a moon that pulls me down streets towards home...stops me to see the folks on South Grand who hope for better days amidst even more smoke and fumes...until I return home to find that I book nationally known juke-joint bands out of nowhere...and that someone has left me a message on my answering machine...a message that causes me to think they have become unhinged.
I eat a cheese sandwich in the dim light and read a book by an amateur economist published in 1934 and wonder what it is all about. How is it that we can waste so much much much life...trying to get where we're never meant to be?
I know that I'll probably sit in the sun tomorrow listening to experimental "music" in a circle with the same hopeful saints that I left down the street on thousands of nights...they, wondering what will come and not as concerned or maybe terrified behind their gazes and thoughts about tomorrow as that star shines through the spring leaves causing light to dance on the concrete of a junior college amphitheatre...and later, I'll have a relaxed meal until it is time to see some youngsters play a show in a university the dark, behind drawn curtains where I used to rush stolen pitchers of swill, lace up my Chuck Taylors and run off towards some nothingness called energy.
I'll know that I'm not "happy". I'll know that I don't know what that means to most, if I'm lucky...I can only hope that it doesn't seem like a waste of might even carry me back to my youth, when I thought it was all worth the waste of time.
Dashed hopes will follow most home them by their name, perhaps.
Dashed hopes will shovel soil on my coffin one day...if that's the way you wanna look at it.
I prefer to take it as it comes.
There were so many that thought I'd be something else...and now I am.
Damn, I kind of like it! this time at night...alone...when there's nothing but thisness and thatness and another breath under the sky...and you can gargle all the philosophy and theocracy you want...not caring whether the politicians are in charge...or the Earth might shake you to some other reality in a an unbalanced hammock seating slamming you to the ground when you were expecting an easy swing.



It wasn’t always like this: your mind: scrambled eggs with ketchup.

At times when you were alive and sure of it, you’re senses were on fire.

You pulled off the highway just as they were dulled and found the perfect place to do what humans do.


And you did.

The booths were empty and you took your pick.

There was time to settle in and take a sip of that first cup of coffee. It was the first you’d allowed yourself in 900 miles, since an incident with a deer under your rig and then a bored game warden who kept ogling your teenage hitchhiker.

Hey, I’m gonna eat this apple and let you tell the story.


So I’m in this cheeseball diner somewhere in the western part of Mississippi.

Fuckin’ Eightball Soup, Mississippi.

There is enough clucking going on in this fucking henhouse that you can sense a symphony in the sound of this commune off-the-road, and just when you are about to set it to a beat of your Kenworth crossing the struts in the highway, an exchange takes your fancy.

“You won’t break the rules”, this bitch with his back to my booth says, when the buck-toothed carrot-top waiter approached him. I mean this fucker was skinny and orange and had fucking green hair. I heard his sleeve rip a bit as his sneakers screeched to a halt and coffee cups clacked together.

”I’m sorry,” the gopher apologized in mock defense as he mentally mounted an offense against his urge to quell an assault before barking, “What?”

“Food”, this stinky fucker behind me said, “You promised food.”

At this point, imagine it is a 1970s radio spot from someone like the fatman, Charles Kuralt. The voice that buttered your pancakes and made it O.K. that you didn’t finish your oatmeal while the VC mounted sinewy attacks and your Mom plopped around the kitchen in a stupid fucking perm.

“The sign says “food”, the cat says, sounding like the fat man.

Get the warmth of the voices, though this may seem like an odd repartee. But the exchanges will lose all of their hostility if they are imagined in such a tone. They drip down over your blueberry waffles like hot Aunt Jemima as if you’ve blotted out that part of your brain that responds to the fight-or-flight instinct.

“Yes,” the waiter said, taking a step back and like this, releasing his sleeve from the clutches of the stranger and shining a cute glimpse at the wackjob.


“Reformed milksops clamber for cous cous and Emmy Hennings craves kelp, Sir.

I shall return to fill your needs”, this booger-topped Q-tip says, though I admit that he skillfully donned a smirk and was off.

Shit, Man! Take it easy on that apple. I’m tryin’ to tell a story over here.

So I can hear this freak behind me steaming.

“Give me what the cannibals are having,” he’s thinking and fuming, his fingers now digging for a cheap smoke or perhaps the fabric clinging at the space between his buttocks as he fidgets, causing the silverware to clatter against my water glass.

Anyway, motherfucker finally settles down and I was able to do so myself.

Now, were it not for my hunger and curiosity, you might, at this point, think that I turned to the gentleman and asked if he’d like a bite of my Twinky, but instead I asked myself which film of the 99 that they shot about Glenn Gould this enchilada most reminded me of, and while I’m wondering, the billboard shining above my truck changed to indicate that rice was at a dangerously low level…and I really was wondering whether the menu offered Moo Goo Gai Pan, that gentle chicken dish that tends to ease my gastrointestinal woes on many a trip like that one…and besides, I had eaten that Twinky in my dreams east of Fresno yesterday morning. So, my hunger and the coffee are in mad communion and all I see on the menu is grease.

Another face is in mine now and I hear myself order, “Jello with whipped cream, I guess.”

“Green or red?” the face asked.

“Green”, I muttered while remembering your mother’s garden…and all those cucumbers. Geez dude! What the fuck?

Man, this is a good apple

Man, shut the fuck up, I’m tellin’ a story. You said so.

All right, all right. Go ahead.

Aw, fuck it. I’m hungry. You wanna go to Sloppy’s?

Oh yeah! Let’s chow!

Brett Lars Underwood, 2008
This is also online as part of the current edition of