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Joseph E Bird

Let's talk about reading, writing and the arts.

Music of my day.

guitar 2-6-16 for web

Listening to the music of the Wonder to escape
Digging words and stories cause he always tell it straight
Life be scarred and dogs bite hard, to that I can relate
Soulful grooves, the spirit moves, tells me it ain’t too late

Driving horns lay down the tune, I’m hearing now the Tears
David Clayton Thomas sings, it’s not the dying that he fears
Spin the wheel, cut the deal, find wisdom in the years
Blues sung hard, and hope stands guard, a triumph for the ears

Singing with a nasal twang and tangled up in blue
The poet tells his story ‘bout the people that he knew
Stars are crossed and loves are lost, his heart we see straight through
A simple song to sing along, to change our point of view

A banjo picks the intro with a groovin’ upright bass
A nice and easy song of love, till the breakdown sets the pace
Toes are tapping, hands are clapping, the cello plays like grace
They sing of love and God above, our worries are erased

I play the C, I play the G, play the A chord in the minor
I write the words, scratch out a tune, plan it out like a designer
Find the truth, a touch of youth, up the beat to make it finer
But truth is cold, cause it ain’t gold, I know I ain’t no rhymer

Thank God for voice and stories told and those who came to play
The soft piano soothes the soul and carries us away
They give the beat and words complete, to speak what we can’t say
Turn it up and fill my cup, play the music of my day.


Copyright 2017, Joseph E Bird

the last story

He was 64 years old. He had lived his life making the correct decisions, always doing the right thing, and never causing anyone any trouble. He and his wife had raised a wonderful family. He had grandchildren. He lived alone, his wife having died several years earlier.

He ate dinner at 5:30, took a walk in the woods outside his house, and was back in time to watch Jeopardy.  This he did every evening.

And then he retired from the company he had worked for for thirty-nine years. That day they had brought in a cake. Chocolate cake. He sipped coffee in a foam cup as everyone asked what he was going to do in his free time. He just shrugged and smiled. He would not see his coworkers again.

That evening, he didn’t go home. He drove to the city, to the big park where people walked dogs and threw frisbees and rowed boats in the lake. He had heard of the walking trails. They stretched for miles, meandering through the park and beyond, connecting the various neighborhoods of the city with meticulously planned greenbelts. He had never walked the trails before. He had never been to the park.

He started walking along the big, open field where children chased each other. Along the lake. Along the edge of the woods.

Then a fork in the trail.

Which one?  It didn’t matter.

On he walked. Deep into the woods. Bicycles passed him. Joggers, too.

On he walked. Into neighborhoods he didn’t know. Then among the trees again.

On he walked.

He was hungry. When he came out of the woods again, he would find a place to eat.  Maybe a diner. Maybe a bistro. Maybe a food truck. After that, a drink in a bar. He didn’t drink, but all was new, the possibilities before him were rich.

On he walked.

Ahead, the light flooded the trail as the trees parted. His pace quickened as he anticipated the world that awaited.

The lake. The field. His car.

A circle. One long circle.

So. No new world. No new adventure. The possibilities before him were not rich, but predictable.

He was home in time for Jeopardy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

jazzing up a classic

Editor’s Note:  I’ve been on a jazz kick lately and I remembered this post from a couple of years ago. In case you missed it the first time.


Dig it.

There’s a club in London called the Troubadour. It was founded in the 1950s and has hosted legendary musicians through the years. It’s also famous as a hangout for writers and artists and coffee-house poetry.

Finger snap.

Picture this: Stanley Kubrick had a favorite table at the Troubadour back in the early 60s. He comes in, sips espresso, takes in a poetry slam, and works on his screenplay for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

In 1968, his seminal film is released.

“Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”

“I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Far out.

Featured in the film was the music of Richard Strauss, specifically, Also Sprach Zarathustra, which, interestingly, is a tone poem. Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls (Laugh-In reference).

In 1972, the jazz musician Deodato put out his take on the classic, which was later featured in the Peter Sellers film, Being There.

“As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.”

Heavy, man.

So for all you poets out there, put on your black turtleneck and beret, go back in time, and tap your toes to the groovy, jazzy, coffee-house version of Also Sprach Zarathustra by Deodato.

Dig it.

 

i hear the voice

i hear the voice
it’s yelling at me
i hear the voice
but i don’t agree
to argue is pointless
our words are in vain
i can’t understand
and you can’t explain
can we sit and be calm
and maybe break bread
i’ll listen again
perhaps i misread
and i hear the voice

i hear the voice
calling me to speak
i hear the voice
to say for the weak
is anger so righteous
that respect doesn’t matter
our cause is just
it’s yours we must shatter
walk with me now
let’s talk and be friends
to find the true answer
we must make amends
and i hear the voice

i hear the voice
telling me not to fear
i hear the voice
saying peace is still near
the strife of the world
is now and has been
and will be tomorrow
again and again
so let’s stand for the lost
and fight the good fight
but let’s do it together
for that is what’s right
and i hear the voice

i hear the voice
it’s soft like a dove
there’s no sound that i hear
does it come from above
i hear the voice
and you hear it too
let’s listen together
there is so much to do


copyright 2017, joseph e bird

Writer’s Log – Insomnia

Last night was one of those nights.  Fell awake around 3:00, finally decided to quit fighting it around 3:30.  I made a cup of tea and sat down in front of the computer. My imaginary friend, Heather, has been stuck in a waffle house for a few days now.  I’m sure she wishes I’d get her out of there.

So at 3:30, I was going to make something happen.

But.

4:00, and she was still there.  I had managed to go back and tweak a few things, made a couple of sentences better. But I was still blocked.

Maybe this is the end.  Maybe Heather never gets out of the waffle house. Maybe nobody cares what happens to her.

I’m 10,000 words in.  Not that much, really, in word count. I’ve abandoned novels at 40,000 words. Except that I’ve taken my time with these words, tried to write them better as I go. So it would be disheartening to pull the plug.

There’s a mother and a kid – a screaming kid – in the waffle house, too. At first, the mother was sitting with her back to Heather. I rearranged the furniture. Now they’re sitting beside Heather, facing each other, so that when Heather hears the kid scream and turns to look, she makes eye contact with the mother. It was an uncomfortable moment.

And then.  And then.  And then.

At 5:00, Heather was still in the waffle house. But things had changed dramatically. I was unstuck.  I went to bed.  I still couldn’t sleep, but it was a more restful insomnia.

Lesson 1: Maybe insomnia has a reason.

Lesson 2: Sometimes you just need to rearrange the furniture.

Lesson 3: Sometimes being uncomfortable is good.

 

Finding Ricky.

This won’t mean much to anyone except my family. My apologies.

Today I read that the Kennedy Space Center is going to start displaying the Apollo 1 capsule as a tribute to the three astronauts – Gus Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee –  who lost their lives in the launchpad fire fifty years ago. Around that time my family was living in Houston and my dad took me to the Johnson Space Center there to look at the rockets.

Today I went to Mapquest to see how long it would take to drive to the Kennedy Space Center.  13 hours, more or less. Then I checked Houston. 18 hours. While I was on Mapquest, I zeroed in on the old neighborhood. The apartments we lived in are long gone, but I recognized the streets. Japonica. Ilex. Redwood. Rustic Lane.

I thought about my Houston friends, and like I have done in the past, I searched the internet for clues of their whereabouts. Mostly I struck out. Then I found one. In an obituary in Louisiana.

Ricky.

the-band-3-for-web

He’s the one with the maracas.

I wasn’t sure it was him until I watched a memorial video on the funeral home website. The pictures of him as a kid were unmistakable.  The obituary said he lived in Louisiana for almost fifty years. That left little time for living in Houston, probably the few years that my West Virginia family lived there. We were all transients, apparently.

So many of our friends disappear and we never hear from them again. We wonder whatever happened to them.

Looks like Ricky lived a good life and had a loving family. Which is exactly what I hoped I would find.

 

The New Mastersounds

jazz fusion from the UK, The New Mastersounds

Painting with a different palette.

Stone Bridge in a park setting
Cherokee Park, Louisville, Kentucky – Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted

He paints with lakes and wooded slopes;
with lawns and banks and forest-covered hills;
with mountain sides and ocean views.

Daniel Burnham, speaking of Frederick Law Olmsted

In 1893, Chicago architect Daniel Burnham was working hard to finish the design of the Chicago World’s Fair, also known as the Columbian Exposition. It spread over 600 acres with more than 200 buildings and attracted some 26 million visitors in its first six months. Working with Burnham was Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of modern landscape architecture.

By the time they collaborated on the World’s Fair, Olmsted had already designed New York’s Central Park and thousands of other projects around the country.

In the mid-19th century, industrialization sparked dramatic growth and cities became crowded and generally unpleasant places to live. In 1857, Harper’s Weekly called New York “a huge semi-barbarous metropolis…with filthy and unlighted streets, no practical or efficient security for either life or property.”

With this as the backdrop, it’s no wonder that Olmsted’s designs, focusing on pastoral and picturesque scenery, became so popular. Olmsted was all about giving people a natural, restorative landscape. It’s not as easy as it looks, and it’s why his work is still relevant today and why his principles of design are so revered.

Landscape architecture has evolved as the needs of the world have changed. Even so, landscape architects today would do well to paint scenes in the landscape with lakes and lawns and wooded slopes. And though our cities are not the semi-barbarous metropolises of the past, our need for restoration is greater than ever. Good landscape architecture can give us a place where our spirits find rest.

Strike the match.

It’s a cold, rainy day. Perfect for the blues.

But wait.

Even if you’re not into the blues, check out this video from Mountain Stage a few years ago.  Mark O’Conner and friends with something special. It starts out with what you might expect (that is, if your expectations include playing the blues on a fiddle) but around the 5:30 mark, O’Conner really gets warmed up.  All three of these guys are really good, but O’Conner lights it on fire.

Don’t skip ahead. You need the first 5:30 to set the stage.

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