We rode the tram up to the Getty museum in the hills of LA
I had coaxed who ever would listen to come with me
The three of us oblivious to conventional medical wisdom
Flew in separate planes to meet on the west coast
Like hopeful Movie Stars that have the light shining upon them
But the paintings left a lump in my throat
Where are we?
On the end of the Santa Monica pier
I heard her call me
She looked like a younger version of my Aunt Helen
She had to tell me her name
She was drinking again
They fell at the speed of a free fall
Never has a burning building collapsed under its own weight
And so I handed you head upside down on a specially designed table
Stabbed a needle in back of your neck (a novel method)
Perispinal penetrate into
This pancake theory of memory
You were not at your father’s death bed
In the other room
You relived how he beat you with a strap
You told me they tied you down to a bed naked
Your father and his brother
That is what you told me and it burned
Like PVC casing over 22 gauge wire soldered to the switch
CNS you are and are thought to be an immune privileged organ
Compromised oxidative stress
As the folding in of the building upon itself floors over floors
You said it could not fall sideways
I wonder how you knew this
I don’t remember how old I was when you brought me to work with you
A boy filled with fragments of your notions and the time honored traditions
Of plantings in the back alley of the Brooklyn brown stone
A garden just outside the cellar where the piano played at the party
The tomato plants grew besides the trees and weeds and small patches of lawn
Freshly cut grass of the thick green variety
Unnaturally fertilized like a magic marker color not crayon
Can you articulate the distinction?
Like the difference between Silly Putty and some knock off
Never quite pulling the comic off the news print
Gumby, I pray that in my mind as long as I live I can always go back
To your smell and color and broken inner wire limp loose limbs
Like the knot in a slinky
Or the tangled parachute of a plastic army man
This thickness in the membrane this inflammation of the mind
does tend to simply the understanding to a simple sugary Coke-a-Cola
With the formation of amyloidal plaques and neurofibrillary tangles
All hallmarks of LOAD
Or should I say the way you ended that conversation last night
Or the way you played cards setting upon the table in piles stacks
The of groups of suits and ordered straights that should have been stacked in your mind
Or the way that the color coded (for simplicity sake) blocking diagram that you taught me how to draw was as confusing to you as the watch on your wrist
The step off the stoop
The wink and a nod
The sarcastic barb meant to tease the rascal out of you
To pull the smile in your eyes back to the front of your face
I am still waiting for the comic quip, that sting
But I only receive the id, the little beast of rage, left on your frontal lobe the cortex
Wrestling with you and my brother
At the fiftieth anniversary party till we could distract you
I drew the conclusion for you
Too many complex interactions which contribute to vascular compromise
This cascade of events happens over years and hardly noticed or remarked upon except by my mouth
Jesus Christ Dad can’t you read your watch?
Christ you’re still driving?
Now come with me young man and hear the humming of the switch station
Floor upon floor of magnetic electro-switches analogue in nature clicking and clicking
This is where you worked and I knew it must be
The most important place in the world or at least NYC
Even the nomenclature of Telephony
Sounds like child’s play epiphany
13th street 2nd Ave. number one crossbar switching station
Its halls held a deep quite like a library of metal books
Quite like a warm florescent blanket of snow
No need to speak
It’s the MDF, the main frame, the end point
Of every single phone conversation in Manhattan
And when the fires of 75 rage inside
And the firemen go home to smoke inhalation
With lungs aching and heart breaking in attacks of sad disappearances
You will laugh “the over time is back, but a god damn manager can’t get any!”
And you will lead the bell system mobilization team
To replace the destroyed MDF
You will temporarily resurrect what was not melted down for scrap metal yet
I will research the objective
Acute episodes of systematic inflammation
Associated with increased TNF-a
Are indicated with long term cognitive decline
Then the polish Swedish wife of the 2nd generation Italian American immigrant
Will spend tens of thousands of dollars
The Off label hunch
Scientific method be damned
Hopefully not tripping over the alchemy of an anti- inflammatory
Or if they find nano particles of un-detonated explosive
In the remains of the pryroclastic dust clouds that hung over
The melted pools of metal debris
At the base of the pile of rubble that was
44 core steel columns crushed
Like the Mensa IQ of my father
For all fathers all of our fathers who
Fly into the thunder cloud with a pile of unpaid bills left to their daughters
I cannot fix them or anything
Anymore than I can hold back the swelling tide
It was nearly time for him to take me home
I can’t pull my head up from the
As it spits out the distance between the surface of the moon and my Lunar Lander
As I go back in these shared memories you act like HAL
Being switched off
Drunkenly playing your clarinet
It is painful to listen
And morbid to participate in
The marriage of father to son to Holy Ghost
In my pocket loose change
And a list of fire fighters that suffered from the acrid burns
I can’t tell you how many pages I’ve bookmarked to prepare this report
So give me a chance to hunt down the paperwork
You are the only people left in my life
Who still need snail mail
Sorry for taking so long to post. I realize it’s been a minute. Busy, y’know. Kids. Dogs. Shows.
In the meantime, I’ve been meaning to write about this band forever. Risk/Reward is a rock band from Queens, NY, and they are amazing. John Houlihan plays bass and sings, Patrick Walsh plays guitar and sings, Daniel Darragh plays drums and smokes.
If you are a Five-Eight fan, you will get this band. If the ’90s hadn’t become a marketable commodity and bands like Soul Asylum, Husker Du and Chavez had just plugged along, putting out records and playing shows because they loved playing music, the country would be awash in bands like this. They write great songs and play them well. “In The Sea” plays like a lost ‘Zen Arcade’ track and is my favorite track off of the new record. “House of Cards” off of the first record is my favorite night-driving track of the past two decades, especially where the song crashes out of the intro and into the first verse. I get chills.
Here’s their new record:
Here’s the record that I know by heart. It came out right as we were finishing “Your God is Dead to Me Now” and I have to admit to you that I listened to Risk/Reward more than I listened to my own record. Truth.
They smoke cigarettes. They drink too much. They occasionally have to drop their slice of pizza and knock some chooch on his ass. They work at the sort of jobs you see in Wrangler commercials. They write songs about real life. Risk/Reward is the band that the Replacements thought they were.
These are real dudes. I love this band.
Added: You can’t touch this.
A few days ago via 4 dropbox files sent to me in St. Louis from Sean Dunn in Athens I heard for the first time the fruits of Five Eight’s labor from its recent recording sessions at Studio 1093. The 4 tracks were/are not final per se–still need some fine tuning with backing vocals, guitar overdubs, etc–but ready enough for primetime in terms of getting their manager’s input and candid feedback. Well fans–all I can say is I cannot wait for the band’s new record. The fan in me says the last 3 Five Eight records (Good Nurse, Black Album, Your God Is Dead to Me Now) are in many ways my personal favorites from the group and frankly hard to top. Without putting too much pressure on the boys (ha..ha), the songs I heard via the small speaker on the back of my Samsung Galaxy tell otherwise. Hollow, Song for Jim Gordon, Palace Estates, and Sherman Oak Fire are the names of these tracks (as of today anyway).
One of the songs listed above in particular actually gave me the chills when I heard Mike’s singing. That had not happened to me in at least a year or so (the last time when I heard the Uncle Tupelo song Wipe The Clock for the first time in many years). I just love it when that happens. Just hauntingly beautiful singing and lyrics.
This past Saturday morning I decided to hit my wife with this track the moment she woke up. What started as an innocent “hey check out Five Eight’s new stuff” ended in her literally being moved to not chills (my response) but actual emotional tears (her response). Just a fantastic and special song.
Patrick has written on this blog previously about sharing emotional experiences through art (see blog posts “why art” and “why a man is a pent up thing and what to do about it”) and the brain’s emotional response to art. Well, when the emotional response to art is so strong and intense, its just a very special thing to happen and to witness.
The band has several shows coming up in February, March, and April–including Atlanta this weekend, Gainesville and Orlando in March, and Athens in April. They will soon announce additional shows for May. Many of these new tracks are now being performed live. I highly encourage y’all to come out to see the shows and test out (and share) your own emotions with the band and others in the crowd.
Angelo Mantione passed away April 1, 2010
The night before his funeral I wrote this, and read it for our family and friends at the end of his funeral.
It was my best attempt to make sense of the disease.
How can I prove to you what kind of a man my father is?
More like you can show me,
And over the last few years you have.
My Mother, my Uncle, my Brother my Sister,
You his friends and family
His grandsons and granddaughters
You rallied around and loved him
You are his legacy
You are the hopes and dreams that he leaves behind
Let us remember the stories we should tell
Last night we sang to him and for him
But I can’t pretend to speak for everyone here
I know there are a so many stories about my dad
I only have one of them
If you had only seen him in these last few years
You might think that he was always following by my mother’s side
But that wasn’t his style at all
I remember the lullabies he sang to me
As he cradled me in his arms his sweet strong voice soothing me to sleep
I wanted so much to cross the line into his world of manhood
That I tried shortcut after shortcut
He had none of it