seven ways of looking at King james

funk is the sound
of a math problem
solving itself

Griot Maximus
Of your Descartian universe
The Creator himself was jealous
For he’d wished he’d written
“I can’t stand myself”
Since that one always hit him
Right where he lived.

we when write what we think is ours we are covering you every singer who wiggles on a stage spitting into an SM57 between a broken monitor and an all night band that hopes to be tight owes you royalties (we’ve even sampled your dna) even white two bit speed freak bards with guitars owe you because all anyone is ever saying when they are screaming from the stage and playing is…

“i got soul
and i’m super bad”

except most of the time
it doesn’t sound like it…

you taught Fela
how to be African
the band
how to be a drum
the moment
how to be eternal

brain dead newscasters grinned
spinning your dramas into comedies
you morphed into a punch line
african kitsch doctor

living in america was a pandering nightmare of a song
it sounded like a wedding band covering itself
while being held at gunpoint
By Reagan’s henchmen
but the rednecks and black republicans all sang along
on separate sides of the stadium, mind you
dipped in red white and blue
it was fucking embarrassing
and yet this song was you

daily you bring sock footed wedding party america back from the dead
you pump the lurching corpses with a life force they were born without
and they are your happy slaves, James
dancing merrily on your funk plantation
Yes Massa Brown
You owned slaves
these dancing corpses
(in this coffin of a country)
which you taught
how to move

tuesday morning, S-berg

Winter coughed rudely
In Schoeneberg’s face
Early this Berlin morning
It carried a cold, thick fog
Like a light gray carpet
On it’s icy shoulder
Past the whiskey bar
(Yes, there’s one right around the corner
On Eisenacher Strasse
We’ll be there tonight
Oh, don’t ask why)
Winter balanced the fog
Between Haupt Strasse and the clouds
And the fog hung there like a tank
Before Karstadt and Woolworth’s.
And then Winter moved on towards Friedenau
Looking back briefly
To whisper at me coldly, sweetly
“If you only understood me
You would love me more than Spring.”

so what is going on?

Rodewald and I have a running joke about how little our lives are understood by many of the folks
closest to us. Especially for those who didn’t make it to Berkeley, it seems to be difficult for some of our peeps to get a handle on things. We can tell from their questions and comments that the majority of our friends and relatives simply haven’t a clue as to what the hell we are doing. Of course, we should be used to this chasm of misunderstanding by now since we’ve been navigating it for the better part of our lives. But the difference between now and then is when you are in a rock band people THINK they know what you are doing. This is because they are well versed in all of the myths surrounding rock and roll life. They’ve seen a hard day’s night and that thing you do and they know jimi and janis overdosed so they assume they’ve got your life pretty much figured out, yessiree. But the whole theater thing escapes them utterly. This is understandable to a degree because very few people in america outside of new york know or care anything about theater to begin with. So there aren’t even enough theater myths in circulation these days to give folks even a stereotypical idea of what’s going on with us.

My favorite thing someone said once when they heard we were doing a theater piece was “Wow, so like for “Re-Hab” are you gonna have 50 Rockettes kicking in unison with needles hanging out of their arms?” Actually, that’s a great image and we’ll probably do that someday. But that smart joke kinda shows you what people think about when they think “theater.” Theater plays virtually no part in america’s ringtoned, youtubed world. So folks ignorance on the subject is actually totally forgivable. It’s as if Rodewald and I have receded even deeper into a shadow world which only becomes real and explainable when it is at it’s most unreal i.e. on stage..which is to us, of course, real.

postdamer platz

A year or so ago my kid and I were strolling through an exhibition of german expressionism’s greatest hits when she excitedly pointed out the title of a painting which we found ourselves standing before: “Potsdamer Platz” by brother Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1914). I watched the slow sweet light of recognition spread across her face…you see, Potsdamer Platz is one of her hangouts. It’s where she and her tribe view films and drink cokes and look at boys and shop and giggle at more boys and probably smoke cigarettes..well, some of her friends probably smoke, one imagines, but MY DAUGHTER? never, never, never. Anyway, the recognition that her gangly crew’s number one haunt for teenage kicks was immortalized in an ancient canvas which now hung in such a grand palace of high culture, in that very moment, placed my daughter and her homies in an unexpectedly exalted position…an epiphany was delivered and she was quick to claim her place within Berlin’s time space continuum. I told her that right now someone was painting she and her friends running around Potsdamer Platz and that one day that painting too would sit in this very museum. And she liked that idea.

And I’d have liked it too. I’d have liked to see a painting of the Fairfax District or the Midtown Shopping Center in the LA County Museum when I was on one of those goofy field trips where they try to give the kids some kulcha all the while spending most of the time telling them to be quiet. That would have been nice. All through the exhibit we then began noticing and pointing out countless pictures which made reference the various neighborhoods of Berlin. The same neighborhoods where friends and family lived…with shops and restaurants she frequented. Now the museum wasn’t the cultural spaceship it was to me when I was her age. For me the museum was the place where you went to see proof of culture’s existence. Since there was no proof of it anywhere around you, supposedly. For there was nothing in the museum that ever led you to believe that anything about the life you led could have anything to do with culture. Palms, Encino, Compton, Boyle Heights, West Hollywood, Watts…those were just the places we lived, right?

kulcha zoo

When will we learn that you don’t “give” people culture? And when will we learn that taking them to a fucking museum once a year achieves nothing more than the Zoo-ification of the Museum?

art dad…

My father used to take me regularly to the Watts Towers. He was not a highly cultured man by any means (although being from Kansas City he had an intimate knowledge of jazz…saw a young Charlie Parker jeered and laughed at as he and his younger friends cheered him on…punk rock has many guises, my friends…) but I feel his taking me to the Towers on a regular basis was a sincere attempt on his part to save my life…to rescue me from drowning in this sea of nothingness which he knew was a sea of nothingness but which he didn’t have the language, or maybe just the courage, to name. He took me to the Towers because he wanted to show me that a human being created something… here in the town where I lived…and that the creation was somehow about this place where I lived…..and somehow those three ridiculously simple facts were incredibly important. His need for me to see the Watts Towers was nothing less than proof of art’s real power. Not the power that the corpses at New York Times and glossy art journals write pointlessly about from their very different kind of towers. It was the power of art functioning at it most basic and significant level. Because it’s most basic level IS its most significant level. Because there’s something about knowing that someone made something – and then seeing it just standing there as a testament to one’s existence – that is somehow deeply political and democratic and revelatory and revolutionary. Art critics write in order to jealously obscure the glory of art. They want to keep it for themselves. They are collectors who don’t have enough money to buy. So they covet the living work with their dead exclusive language.

david hockney please come to the ghetto…

So let the painters paint Encino and Palms and West Hollywood and Watts and Boyle Heights and Compton and Long Beach and Beverly Hills (and please David Hockney come to the ghetto and paint South Central) and then let those paintings be exhibited and then let us take our children to see them so that they may grow up to be revolutionaries. Or art critics.

a little something written around the time arthur and syd took a long walk deep into the garden…with some added bits…

if i believed in heaven (which would be a place that looked like london with berlin’s rents) i’d say something corny about arthur and syd, kindred not-of-this-world spirits both closing shop within something like a week of each other…but since london’s rents will never drop anywhere close to berlin’s let me just say how anemic and gray all music seems when compared to see emily play and how thankful i am for arthur comforting me with the knowledge that us colored folks could come in whatever colors we

i met arthur when i didnt know who he was in a living room in LA in the late 70’s…i was into the buzzcocks and james brown and i thought me and my small lapel jacket and straight legged pants knew everything…and arthur was quite full of himself and we snickered under our breath at the old mean attitudinal hippie with the hopelessly hippy band name: LOVE!!! what a joke! good lord what a pathetic laugh this “legend” was to a mod/punk know it all like me…”LOVE”… can you imagine a stupider hippy band name?

a few days later we happened upon forever changes for 49 cents at arons when it was across from fairfax high. “Let’s listen to this hippy shit!” we laughed. So we disappeared into a bedroom on one of them long slow quiet LA afternoons when all the parents in the world seemed like they’d be gone forever…smoked a joint and turned up the colors. When side 1 closed one of us got up in absolute silence and turned the record over…i mean nobody said a word ..we were all terrified at how good it as…after side 2 ended one of us said, utterly floored, “we were just in the same room with that guy.”

some decades later the baby lemonade dears (i owe those guys bigtime) were cool enough to sell arthur on the idea of letting Heidi and I do some shows with them in england…opening for LOVE in ENGLAND??? a challenge and a dream. H and I had the time of our lives…driving from gig to gig thru england…rodewald rocked the wrong side driving like jackie stewart on black beauties…then one night in sheffield one of the lemonades came up to me and said arthur wants to see you in his dressing room… i was slightly terrified as arthur had been known to, well, brandish weapons. He might have scored one of those fox hunting guns for all i kow…When i walked in he was sitting on the couch and he looked up at me in that way only he could look at someone and said “Hey… that Rehab song…that’s a good song.” I should have said “Thank you for making my entire life worth living” cuz that was what I was feeling…but i didnt say anything near that cool.

its impossible to say anything about syd that wouldnt sound even more corny than the above…i never wanted tnp to sound like syds pink floyd but i did want our records to be as filled with surprises as syds were…he is without a doubt my favorite songwriter…

You can’t see me
But I… can… you…

nice try…

i am in berlin composing on a german keyboard so forgive any punctuation today that may prove even more annoying than my usual punctuation. its taken me some time to get settled here but i shall return to regular blogging form starting tomorrow.

neil young once said of a town in north ontario All my changes were there…i could say the same about berlin…maybe not all my changes…but some big ones…i used to say i became an adult in berlin…i said that cuz it sounded cool and because i thought it was true…but it wasnt… perhaps the more accurate sentence would be in berlin i stopped being a kid…what went on between then and now can best be described as a long day in limbo…

im thrilled to be taking a passing strange brain break for the remainder of the year and there are a multitude of things to distract me from it. the usual large number of compelling exhibitions which i plan on attending and writing about here. plus im going to be taking in a bit of theater here which im very excited about. heidi and annie join me here in about 3 weeks. it will be really interesting to work on the play while in europe. heidi and i have cruised berlin before and played here…she loves it here…annies been here too… but im excited to show annie all the old PS related haunts…

berlin is still its wonderfully complex self. that will never change. if you dont have mixed feelings about berlin yer not paying attention. its both a pain in the ass and the most important city in the occident. if you think you know a western city that has been the nexus for more darkness and light meet me in a bar and i will set you right. and i dont mean the pageantry of capitalist triumphantilism that passes for culture…stop spreading that news…i mean the long blurry walk home from the bar when history sneaks up on you in the dead of night in the shape of a looming facade and you get scared…scared because here even the all night decadent hoopla cant distract from the fact that history has you in its vice grip…its punking you…history as airborne virus…history as an outbreak on your skin… ugly, pretty, elegantly bruised…when history checks it look in the mirror… it looks just like berlin…somewhere george grosz is painting us clutching our cell phones like zombies…buy a jar of face cream…apply it liberally to your skin…now stand before the mirror…nice try…you still look like berlin……

tuesday’s light…

…the show is gone but berkeley carries on…as do we…we who never saw the sun rest its rays on Shattuck and Center quite like it did today…it seemed to shine in a whole new way…perhaps we’d been too distracted to see it…perhaps we’d been too busy to be it…sunlight burnished the horde…and onto every corner light was poured…and the people shone like jewels…some shone like sapphire, some like gold…the homeless shone like diamonds…and you shone like emerald…I tell you my friend, the people shone like jewels today…and they shone like jewels until the sun moved away…

rodewald and I had lunch at that “hey-we’re-kinda-frenchy” joint with the roast chicken (poulet? It was great.)…kept feeling this strange sense of panic…had to remind myself I was in no hurry cuz there was no show today…or tomorrow…monday night: dinner with a table full of new friends… exquisite…the food, the conversation, the people…everyone at the table fell under the definition of Friend: the one of which you always ask: when will we see us again? We hope to return in Feb to do a show…when all is set we’ll be sure to let you know…
ps: i’m new the this whole blogging thing and i still haven’t worked responding to your comments into my rhythm yet…but please continue to comment…because i WILL respond to them, i promise.