Thursday, December 23, 2010


God above who sees our pain
Send us love like pouring rain
Send us strength to face the blow
Now we let our brother go

Death’s a drink we all must taste
Life the meal that goes to waste
Sound the music, soft and low
Now we let our brother go

God who loves the holy fool
Seat him at your corner stool
Let the taps of heaven flow
Now we let our brother go

Gary’s song on earth is done
All his races have been won
All his ducks are in a row
Now we let our brother go

Time may push us all apart
But we’ll keep him in our heart
And, through happiness and woe,
Never let our brother go

Copyright 2010 Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Time - The 2010 Holiday Compilation

Compiling this year's Christmas comp was like writing a play. It had a time limit (80 minutes), a format restriction (25 songs) and a theme(drinking). Like a play, I knew exactly what I wanted it to sound like. And like a play, it had ideas of its own about what it wanted to sound like. So the 12/3 first draft list of bar songs and singalongs slowly became the 12/14 list you see below, with nary a bar song or a singalong in it. Not any of the original singalongs, anyway. There are definitely a few numbers below that I have been singing to myself as I brave the February cold that's covered New York these past few days.

So this is the music mix that worked its way out through me, rather than the mix I originally wanted to make. It's constructed the usual way my mixes are--starting out fast and loud, slowing down in the middle, and then rising back up to fast and loud again at the end. That particular construction is, for me, as formal as a sonnet. But this one feels different somehow. Even the fast and loud stuff has a rueful edge, and as for the midsection, it's epitomized by the refrain from Winter's Song, which has haunted me since I first heard it: "Is love alive? Is love alive? Is love alive?" Sadly, it's not a rhetorical question. It's a question we have to answer every day of our lives. The best way we can answer it is by doing something to embody that answer--to say "Yes" with an affirming act--as many times as it takes until, in our daily lives, that question does become rhetorical. Me, I like to think that one of the surest ways to do that is, to paraphrase Dickens, by honoring the spirit of Christmas in our hearts and trying to keep it all the year.

Here endeth the sermon and beginneth the psalms. Or in this case, the carols. This year's set list:

1 Christmas Time - The BoDeans
2 Wild-Eyed Christmas Night - 38 Special
3 Jingle My Bells - The Tractors
4 Jingle Bells - The Puppini Sisters
5 You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch - Whirling Dervishes
6 Merry Christmas Baby - The Smithereens
7 Merry Christmas Loopy Lu - The Kaisers
8 O Come All Ye Faithful Surfer Girls - The Chevelles
9 Le Cantique de Noël - Royskopp
10 All I Want for Christmas (Is New Year’s Eve) - Hurts
11 Northern Star - Dave Doobinin
12 Winter Song - Sarah Bartielles and Ingrid Michaelson
13 All That I Want - The Weepies
14 Get Down For The Holidays - Jenny O
15 Christmas Isn’t Christmas - the boy least likely to
16 All I Want is Truth (for Christmas) - The Mynabirds
17 Unwrap Me - Saint Etienne
18 Walnuts and Rice - Kevin Briody
19 Talking Christmas Goodwill Blues - John Wesley Harding
20 Holiday Road - Matt Pond PA
21 Spotlight on Christmas - Rufus Wainwright
22 Mrs. Claus Ain’t Got Nothin’ On Me - Little Jackie
23 Merry Christmas, Baby - The Bellrays
24 Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - Slow Club
25 PP Haine - France de Griessen

Here's the download link for a zip file of all the songs:

Christmas Time - The 2010 Holiday Compilation

You can find last year's comp, with song-by-song downloads, here:

Santa Claus Needs Some Lovin'

And as a holiday bonus, here's a link to a zip file of the first comp I did in 2001:

Merry Christmas, everybody.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Songs For A Tuesday Morning 12-14-10

And then there are Tuesdays when you wonder what it's all for, when everything seems pointless and stupid and hopeless and you're such a mess that there are a dozen different people inside you who pop out at various times with no warning at all. In my case today, it's Sad Matthew, Barking Matt, Lonely Matty, Leave Me Alone Matty, and Fuck Everybody But Matthew, and that was just since 6AM. Oh yeah--and Mechanical Matt, who woke up and showered and got dressed and walked into work. I'm assuming. Since neither I nor any of my other personalities have any memory of that at all.

On Tuesdays like this, Hope is a heavier weight to carry than Despair, because Despair has wings, Despair can fly far far away while Hope has to walk, step by step, with the world on its shoulders. So on Tuesdays like this, the only way to lighten that burden is to crank it up loud and let Hope dance all over Despair like, well, like a bunch of neglected Brits from the 80's:

Birth School Work Death - The Godfathers

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Last night I dreamed you flew over my bed

Last night I dreamed you flew over my bed,
Half-bird half-cat, all fur and feather wings,
And landed softly on my sleeping head
And stroked my face the way Sinatra sings.
You hopped onto my chest and nestled there.
I came awake. I purred too when I saw
Your wide cat eyes. I reached to stroke your hair.
You flicked your tail and with your soft small paw
You clawed my eyes out, and I heard you purr:
“I am the last thing you will ever see.”
One cheek felt wing, the other cheek felt fur.
Your warm face nuzzled my face yearningly,
Your rough tongue licked me, and away you flew,
Leaving me blind to everything but you.

Copyright 2010 Matthew J Wells

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Songs For A Tuesday Morning - Pearl Harbor Edition

Tuesday. The day that will live in infamy. And doubly so since today is Pearl Harbor Day. (Does that mean the rest of the week is made up of days that will die in outfamy?) (Sorry; just channeling my inner Groucho.)

Today's Tuesday song is appropriate to both the day and the occasion. It's by these guys:

It's the first song on the killer first side of Graham Parker's Squeezing Out Sparks, which gets my vote as one of the top ten perfect sides in rock. Five songs and every one of them a classic: "Discovering Japan," "Local Girls," "Nobody Hurts You," "You Can't Be Too Strong," and "Passion Is No Ordinary Word." Here's the first one. And if you know this album and you're like me, you won't be able to listen to this without wanting to hear the next four in sequence.

Play it loud, and try to get through the day without bombing Hawaii.

Discovering Japan - Graham Parker and The Rumour

Sunday, December 5, 2010

December 8, 2010: An Anniversary Worth Celebrating

The first recorded performance of a woman actor playing a female part on the British stage occurred on the afternoon of Saturday, December 8, 1660. Before a performance of Othello, an actor in Tom Killegrew’s King’s Company stepped onto the stage of the Vere Street theatre and delivered the following prologue, written by Thomas Jordan:

“I came unknown to any of the rest,
To tell the news; I saw the lady drest:
The woman plays to-day; mistake me not
No man in gown, or page in petticoat:
A woman to my knowledge, yet I can’t,
If I should die, make affidavit on’t.
Do you not twitter, gentlemen? I know
You will be censuring: do it fairly, though;
’Tis possible a virtuous woman may
Abhor all sorts of looseness, and yet play;
Play on the stage—where all eyes are upon her:
Shall we count that a crime France counts an honour?
. . . . .
But to the point:—in this reforming age
We have intents to civilise the stage.
Our women are defective, and so sized,
You’d think they were some of the guard disguised;
For to speak truth, men act, that are between
Forty and fifty, wenches of fifteen;
With bone so large, and nerve so incompliant,
When you call Desdemona, enter giant."

At the end of the performance, there was a brief epilogue which also celebrated the occasion. Who delivered these speeches? Nobody knows. I like to think it was Tom Killegrew himself. Makes sense, right? In any event, I said that this was the first “recorded” performance of a woman playing a woman because there are earlier instances--in 1656, for example, a woman known only as Mrs Coleman was paid to play the part of Ianthe in William Davenant’s The Siege of Rhodes. (That epithet “Mrs,” by the way, was pronounced “Mistress.”) And the actual directive from Charles II to henceforth have all female roles played by women was part of the August 21, 1660, charter issued to Tom Killegrew’s King’s Company and William Davenant’s Duke’s Company, so there’s a very good chance that as early as, oh, October or November, there were women treading the British boards, in compliance with that warrant’s demand that “plays might be esteemed not only harmless delights but useful and instructive representatives of human life.”

As for the name of the woman who played Desdemona, there are three candidates. Anne Marshall was Killigrew’s leading actress, and it’s known that she played the part later in her career. Margaret Hughes, Killegrew’s second female lead, gets the most scholarly votes, though she was quite probably the one playing Emilia. And Katharine Corey gets her own vote, thanks to a 1689 petition to the Lord Chamberlain in which she styled herself as “the first and the last of all the actresses that were constituted by King Charles II at His Restoration.” If the opinion of modern artists can be entered into this debate, Mrs Hughes wins in a landslide: she’s the female lead in Jeffrey Hatchers’s play Compleat Female Stage Beauty, which you may be familiar with in its filmic incarnation, Stage Beauty, known forever in the tabloids as That Movie Where Claire Danes Seduced Billy Crudup Away From A Pregnant Mary Louise Parker.

Margaret Hughes

Whoever the actress was, when Jordan writes in his prologue the words “I saw the lady drest,” he was speaking the literal truth. In 1660, the Vere Street theatre had its tiring room above and behind the stage proper. There were individual dressing rooms for the stars, an area for the men to change and gather, and what was called the women’s shift for the female actors. And this was not a private room; on the contrary, anybody was allowed to enter. You could actually walk backstage to the women’s shift at any time before or during a performance, and watch Ellen Gwynn bitch about how small the house was in the foulest terms possible while she threw a faux gold gown over her sweat-stained chemise. Off in the corner, you might see Samuel Pepys with Mrs Knepp in his lap, towsing away at the pretty little thing while she reviewed her lines for the next scene, or be brushed aside by the Earl of Oxford as he paid court to his Roxalana, Helen Davenport, while not six inches away Elizabeth Farley was using the chamber pot.

Welcome to the Restoration, ladies and gents: the age when England got sick and tired of its shotgun marriage to Puritanism and started openly taking mistresses; the age when gallants would lie in bed devising impromptus before they rose for their daily ablutions, and women wore dresses and blouses with necklines that exposed everything from nape to navel, but God forbid they ever showed their ankles. It was an age which created plays in which everybody is always hiding in closets, or delivering the wrong documents, or disguising themselves as maids and servants, or loudly revealing secrets to people eavesdropping in closets. These plays created a self-contained theatrical world in which, to quote James Branch Cabell, “monetary competence and happiness and all-important documents, as well as a sudden turn for heroic verse, were regularly accorded to everybody toward eleven o’clock in the evening.” An age in which was born the woeful custom of cutting and rewriting the tragedies of Shakespeare to fit a much more comforting definition of the word “tragic.” Which is why, if you attended that famous December performance of Othello at Vere Street, there’s a better than even chance that you would have seen Desdemona survive the play to marry Cassio.

Ellen Gwynn, aka Nell, looking like a young Elsa Lanchester.

An odd age, at one and the same time instantly recognizable and totally foreign. Take the word “towsing” which I used above. Towsing is a slang term which is found all over Restoration plays and stage directions, a word whose meaning corresponds to the modern expression “Russian hands and Roman fingers.” To be blunt, it means playing with a woman’s breasts, an enterprise which was totally encouraged by the age’s fashion for upper-body denudation. (Breasts? No problem. Just don’t ever, ever reveal an ankle.) There’s always the question of how much a contemporary play reflects or reveals contemporary life, but the frequency of stage directions like “(Towses her)” or “(Feeling ‘em and sneering)” makes you think that, if public groping wasn’t happening all the time, it sure was something those randy playwrights wanted to see happening. What makes it more probable that it was a reflection and not wish fulfillment? The two plays from which I took those stage directions, The Town-Foppe and The Round Heads, were written by a woman, Aphra Behn. So add to your view of the Restoration the picture of a woman forced by the current fashion to wear the kind of seductive attire that guarantees she will be submitting to or fighting off the groping advances of every man who comes within arm’s length of her. And then multiply those advances by five if she’s an actor.

Who taught these groper-plagued women their theatrical craft? No one knows. Men, probably, at least in the beginning. Did the leading women of the King’s and the Duke’s take on apprentices, the way the leading men did? No one knows. Elizabeth Barry is said to have been tutored by the infamous John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester. If so, at least one of them was a genius, for Mrs Barry was acknowledged during her lifetime to be the Judi Dench of her generation. Personally, I’d give the nod to Barry over Rochester. It may be the hands of Michelangelo which reveal it, but it is the hunk of marble that contains the statue.

And statues, alas, are the one of the many things these women did not leave behind. Even the greatest of theatre lovers would be hard pressed to name six of these pioneers, which is why I am listing below the names of more than two dozen women who performed on a London stage between 1660 and 1690. They are the (mothers? godmothers? stage mothers?) of every English-speaking girl who has ever played or dreamed of playing Desdemona, or Rosalinde, or Beatrice, or Viola. All of them made a living out of acting on the stage. Many of them had a hard time of it. Some of them are only names. But none of them should ever be forgotten.

Maria Allison
Elizabeth Barry
Mary Saunderson Betterton
Elizabeth Boutell
Anne Bracegirdle
Charlotte Butler
Katherine Corey
Elizabeth Currer
Hester Davenport
Moll Davis
Elizabeth Farley
Ellen Gwynn
Margaret Hughes
Mary Knepp
Frances Maria Knight
Mary Aldridge Lee, Lady Slingsby
Elinore Leigh
Jane Long
Anne Marshall Quin
Rebecca Marshall
Mrs Norris
(first name unknown, like so many others)
Susanna Perceval Mountfort Verbruggen
Anne Reeves
Margaret Rutter
Elizabeth Slade
Mrs Twyford
(first name unknown)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Man Who Would Not Be King

There’s a Pinter play lurking beneath the Noel Coward surface of The King’s Speech, a two-hander about a man who cannot talk and a man who always natters entertainingly--a man to whom silence is a friend and one to whom silence is the enemy--a story that can only end when the chatterer becomes mute and the silent man orates. (Which I guess would really make it a Sam Shepard play.) (About brothers.)

You can see this other play all over Colin Firth’s face for most of the movie, which is why, whether or not he wins the Oscar for Best Actor, his Bertie Windsor is nothing short of brilliant. I don’t know how he does it, but there’s never a moment when you cannot see the wounded, wary boy looking out from behind Firth’s eyes, or not be uncomfortably aware that there is a lake of boiling lava beneath his stony exterior. It’s partly a physical thing: Firth’s Bertie is totally uncomfortable in his body, and his face seems always prepared to flinch in embarrassment. Which is to say he’s British through and through, as is the movie, in the stiff upper lip tradition of Coward’s In Which We Serve. But Firth’s upper lip is always on the verge of trembling, and he doesn’t show this through mugging, or indicating, or doing anything else under the camera’s ruthless eye but embodying. That’s the kind of acting that does not win awards, because it’s not showy enough; if anything, it’s the kind of acting that always gets you work, and the respect of your award-winning peers.

Deer? Meet headlights. Headlights? Deer.

It helps, of course, that Firth is playing opposite Geoffrey Rush, whose credit as an executive producer makes me think that he was the driving force behind getting this done, and (with a great actor’s instinct for surrounding himself with good people) choosing Firth to be his foil. (I’m trying to think of other actors who might have been in the running and drawing a very British blank. Guy Pearce strikingly resembles the historical George VI, but (a) he’s Australian and (b) he’s playing David the soon-to-be Duke of Windsor. Who else? Jude Law? That sound you hear is a suppressed guffaw.) Rush and Firth are perfect foils for each other, Rush the amused and amusing outsider and Firth the stiff and repressed vice president of the family firm. There's also a deliberate air of the court jester around Rush's Lionel Logue, never more apparent than the moment when he is discovered lounging on the royal throne. The laugh this gets is half "Uh oh, now he's done it," and half "Now THAT is how you puncture pomposity."

The script of this dark comedy of manners is clever enough here and there to earn a lot of laughs like that, and deep enough there and here to suggest, rather than dissect, the source of Bertie's stammer. For instance, one character towards the end of the film makes an implied analogy between shell-shocked World War I veterans and emotionally wounded children of overbearing fathers. In a movie about Americans, this would be the cause of much scene-chewing and a possible fistfight. In a movie about British royalty, it is politely ignored. In that sense, this is also a movie about the British character, and you find out all you need to know about that particular subject the moment the outgoing Prime Minister privately refers to Hitler as “Herr Hitler,” like a New York Times writer obeying his paper’s decree that all last names not on the Sports page, even those of mass murderers, must always have a respectful prefix. And when such (decorum? good manners? hidebound traditionalism?) is the norm, any deviation from it is magnified tenfold. When brother David mocks Bertie's stutter, it's vicous, cruel, and shameful. When Bertie loses his temper, it's almost embarrassing. When David breaks down and cries, it is embarrassing. (Actually, both brothers have a scene where they break down under the stress of the public role they are being asked to play; David’s is public and ludicrous, Bertie’s is private and heartbreaking.)

And y'know, now that I think about it? The entire structure of the movie is designed to build up repressed tension and then release it (as politely as possible) once every fifteen minutes or so, like a monster showing up in a horror movie, or a dance number in a Fred and Ginger film. And it works, thanks in no small part to the acting. The back and forth between Rush and Firth creates one of those wholes which is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s also a distinct pleasure to see Helena Bonham-Carter rein in the batty and (I can’t believe I’m actually typing these words about her) act as the voice of reason. Eve Best channels her inner Bebe Neuwirth as Wallace Simpson. Michael Gambon's George V is a suitably tyrannical ogre. Timothy Spall plays Alfred Hitchcock playing Winston Churchill. And Guy Pearce's David nearly steals the movie; he's such a besotted git that you want to slap him. (Watching Pearce, I kept thinking that someone should cast him as the Duke of Windsor in Timothy Findley’s Famous Last Words, one of the best fictional examinations of the curious passion that British and German fascists had for each other.) (It also delivers one of the cleverest solutions to the Harry Oakes murder mystery.)

So, yes, an interesting and engrossing movie which implies depths it does not deign to sound, and treats its audience as intelligently as possible until (alas) the climax, when the final speech of the title (it is a pun, after all) is not only delivered over, but exquisitely timed to, the second movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. This is outrageously manipulative. It's the Masterpiece Theatre version of that endless rock and roll medley during the Viet Nam scenes of Forrest Gump. And what made it even worse for me? It totally worked. So all I can say is, if you watch that scene and you don’t get a lump in your throat, or then find yourself laughing and crying at the same time when Firth gives a classic self-deprecating remark at the speech’s end, then, well, you’re probably British.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Let me not love you if you love me not

Hope is the snare in which all hearts are caught
And never cry for help but only pray:
“Let me not love you if you love me not.”

Two eyes invade your every waking thought;
You come to life each time they glance your way:
Hope is the snare in which all hearts are caught.

That’s why you feel as if you’d just been shot
When eyes that once met yours begin to stray.
(Let me not love you if you love me not.)

Blind Love is like a happy juggernaut:
It crushes doubt and undermines dismay;
Hope is the snare in which all hearts are caught.

Blind Time will give all couples the Black Spot
But only one will open it and say:
“Let me not love you if you love me not.”

And as for us, you see the vacant lot
In which I know a house will grow someday.
That hope’s the snare in which my heart is caught
To always love you though you love me not.

Copyright 2010 Matthew J Wells

Sunday, November 21, 2010

. . . so which would you rather have? Something? Or nothing?

“I love,” I say, “the way you see the fruit.”
“I hate,” you say, “the way you see decay.
I notice things that grow, you that pollute.
That’s why --” “I know: I never seize the day.
But then the day is such a shallow craving.”
“It leads to different days and fuller flavor.”
“And traps you into dull routines like shaving.”
“And if your love were trapped so? You could save her.
You drool to do that.” “So do you. Let’s share
The rescues, then.” “Like Steed and Emma?” “Great.
And mate from love, not habit.” “Deal. And wear
Our daily best.” “Never cut down -- create.”
“And never, love, --” “I know: sleep on a fight.”
“Or a half-eaten fruit?” “So true. Your bite.”

Copyright 2010 Matthew J Wells and his imaginary opposite number

The first two poems in this series can be found here:

I'd say there was a running theme here, wouldn't you?

11/19. I dream that I wake up on Monday November 22nd, look at my alarm, and decide never to go into work again. I have no money in the bank and no other job to go to, but I also have no desire to enable the corporate assholes who pay my salary when they tell employees things like, “Be sure to decompress during the holidays, and spend quality time with your families and loved ones, because God knows when you drag your sorry ass back to the office, we are going to work you to death, divorce and despair.” Since I have no one to divorce, and am already half-dead and half-despairing, I unplug the alarm, say to no one in particular, “I say it’s spinach and I say the hell with it,” and go back to sleep, fully expecting someone from work to call me around 8 in the morning and ask me where the hell I am. But nobody does call. I sleep till noon, get up, write the opening scene of the Christmas one-act about suicide, have Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup for lunch, write the second scene, map out the rest of the play, and go to bed. I go online once to check e-mail, I keep my phone on silent; and still, no one from work has called or tried to contact me. I spend the next two days like this, getting up and writing, going out occasionally for food, doing as little as possible, eating as cheaply as possible, and writing, always writing. The Christmas play gets finished Wednesday morning; I title it Up On The Roof and walk it to my agent’s office at 40th Street. Then, because I’m only 8 blocks away, I head to the office, and end up standing at 48th and 7th, staring at the door, looking for people I know. There's an ache in my heart, the kind you get when you realize that what you thought was a two-way passion was just one-way and a mirror, when you realize you were the only one who actually cared. But I don't care. I don't care about the job. And if I don’t care about the job, then why do I care that they don’t miss me?

11/20. Since I saw Harry Potter 7.1 Saturday morning, I dream Saturday night of high school people I haven’t seen in years. In this dream, Sheila Tagrin wants me to help her with the high school graduation pageant she’s staging, so I agree to sing backup to her girl group, which consists of her, Vicki Gibson and Laura Yurkstas. The song we’re doing is a Glee-version of a Gladys Knight number (which makes me The Pips), with a whole other semi-rap interlude sung by twelve dancers, four male, eight female, on the gym floor. Problem is, none of the dancers know the words to the interlude; every time they try to do it, either they blow the words or the dance routine. “Look,” I say to Sheila, “let me sing the rap interlude while they’re dancing, I can cover for them and they can worry about getting the steps right.” She gives me a blank stare. “Why would you want to do that?” she asks. “I’m trying to help,” I say. “Why are you always trying to help other people?” My face gets hot. “Because I can,” I say. “No,” says Sheila, “because that’s how you feel good about yourself. Maybe some people don’t need help.” My face gets red hot. “Remind me to say that to you the next time you need help with a term paper.” Sheila’s face gets red. “I asked,” she says. “And some people don’t know how to ask,” I say, “but they need help anyway.” I point to the dancers. “Like them,” I say, and Sheila works her mouth into a knot before saying, “Okay. Fine. Do it. Do you know the words?” “I’ll get them from Karen,” I say, and go up to Karen Wolozin, who’s the dance captain. “Give me the words and I’ll cover for you,” I tell her. She looks at me like I’m nuts. “We don’t have the words; do you think we’d be blowing the words if we knew what they were?” “So who has the words?” “Ask Sherri.” Oh crap. “Sherri?” Karen gives me the hairy eyeball. “You see our problem?” she says, and I sure do. Sherri Rosen is to cute what citrus is to grapefruit; but as far as brains go, she is only eating with one chopstick. (And who was crazy about her when he was ten? Three guesses, and the first two don't count.) So I start looking for Sherri, but she’s not in the gym, she’s outside on the swings. Of course. She’s out on the swings with John Hickey giving her a push. I take one look at the two of them, say to myself, you know what? Get him to help you, honey. And walk back inside.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

. . . is also the only way to be absolutely sure nothing will come of it . . .

“But all that’s born,” you say, “is like a fruit
That’s sweet at dawn and sour by end of day.
Time plants the blossom that it will pollute.
So if you taste not what tainting decay
Will gobble up no matter what you’re craving,
You’ll never know Love’s sweet and timeless flavor.
Love is a coin for spending, not for saving.
Like freshness, Time will sap its youthful savor;
So why not kiss it while it’s everywhere?
When I declare ‘I love you’ to a mate,
I mean I want to pluck that fruit and share
It all -- then plant the seeds from what we ate
To grow a new fruit, spoiling for a fight,
That will stay fresh each time we take a bite.”

Copyright 2010 Matthew J Wells

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The only way to be absolutely sure it will never go bad

My love for you is like a teasing fruit
I yearn to bite a hundred times a day;
But once I pierce its skin, time will pollute
Each tasty morsel with tainting decay,
Fresh air will race against my hungry craving
To feast on passion while it still has flavor,
And I’ll eat up the prize I should be saving
Till there is nothing left for me to savor --
Which is, love, what most people everywhere
Mean when they say “I love you” to a mate --
A meal they both feel bound to serve and share
In memory of what they both once ate --
And why, my love, my gluttony I’ll fight
And from your sweet fruit never take a bite.

Copyright 2010 Matthew J Wells

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The last word in flawless

When you tell me I overpraise your worth
By using words like “perfect,” “lovely,” “sweet,”
And swear it’s just an accident of birth
That made your body such a luscious treat,
Then I add “modest” to my litany.
Sweet is to you what relics are to Rome.
As for your body, this is what I see:
The stunning mansion that your soul calls home.
You say your talents don’t deserve applause?
I say, let’s make not praising you a crime.
Don’t even try to tell me you have flaws --
I get that line from diamonds all the time.
You claim your heart’s a vase no praise can bloom in?
How perfect can you get? You’re even human.

copyright 2010 by Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Other Two Sonnets Written While Watching The Yankees Lose To Texas

Here are the other two sonnets which my implacable muse sent me during that Yankee game a week ago. I’ve been putting off finishing them to work on a Countrie Matters rewrite, which has gotten nowhere because, well, this is the way the conversation’s gone for the last 10 days:

MERRY: I want you to finish those two love sonnets.
MATTHEW: No, we’re writing Countrie Matters.
MERRY: No, you’re writing Countrie Matters. I’m doing nothing till you finish the sonnets.
MATTHEW: Then fine. Fine. I’ll finish Countrie Matters myself.
MERRY: No you won’t. You’ll bang your head against the wall, pay for the wall's therapy, find a new masochistic wall to bang your head against, and never write a satisfying line of dialogue.
MATTHEW: Says you.

[Insert ten-day-long montage of Matthew banging his head against the wall, paying for the wall's therapy, finding a new masochistic wall to bang his head against, and never writing a satisfying line of dialogue.]

MATTHEW: Okay, okay -- I give up. I’ll finish those two love sonnets. Just give me a clue. Give me a clue about the Countrie Matters rewrite.
MERRY: It’s not working because it has to be about the romance. Which means rewriting the second half top to bottom.
MATTHEW: [Dawn breaks on Marblehead] Of course!
MERRY: After you finish the sonnets.
MATTHEW: Of course.
MERRY: And make notes for four more.
MATTHEW: Stop! Will you stop please?
MERRY: Never.

So here they are. And it looks like there will be four more.

MERRY: At least.
MATTHEW: Oh shut up.


And when I see couples entwined around
Each other’s arms--so warm and tightly held
That each heart vibrates with the other’s sound
And each one’s gaze is by the other spelled--
I picture you beside me, and I dream
Of your arm crooking mine--of our unfull
Hands folding tight together, till, like cream
In coffee, we become inseparable--
A whole that’s greater than our lonely pieces,
A double vessel only joy can fill,
A kiss that consummates as it releases,
A single heartbeat with a double will--
A love our lives will tender in the heart of
And never have to touch to be a part of.


You twine your arms in mine, making a warm
Cat’s cradle, and some hurt thing in me cracks
And melts, and suddenly a thunder storm
Howls where my heart was, striking like an axe
Against the root of all I fear, till crash
Goes my pride, crash goes logic. In despair,
I watch as all my fears drown in the flash
Flood of your touch. They flail. They gasp for air.
They scream for one more breath, and screaming die,
And all my comforting terrors are torn
Out of me like dead roots, dead weeds, till I
Am in your soft torrential arms reborn:
The child of fear beside his father’s grave,
Empty of all except a love that’s brave.

The first 4 in this series

Copyright 2010 Matthew J Wells

Rien ne va plus

Because Yvonne? I love you.

I'm flirting with Gene Tierney and Madeleine LeBeau at Rick's Americain, while LeBeau is filming her Casablanca scenes with Sasha the bartender and Tierney is looking gorgeously haughty and unapproachable. Madeleine and I have been dancing around each other for the entire film, but neither one of us has actually done anything, because I'm twice her age and she's married to Marcel Dalio, who got her out of France in '38 two steps ahead of the Nazis and is now the croupier at Rick's when he isn't the croupier at Mother Gin Sling's. But I'm used to the age thing and the marriage thing; as I tell her over martinis, "It's not going to stop me from feeling what I feel; it's just going to stop me from doing anything about it."

GENE TIERNEY: Why can't I ever meet a man who's not going to do anything about it?
ME: That bad, huh?
GENE TIERNEY: It's driving me crazy. [Downs martini in one gulp.]

So Sasha is saying "Because Yvonne? I love you," over and over again until Michael Curtiz is satisfied, and in the middle of the tenth take, this process server walks on-set and into the shot, handing Madeleine an official-looking document which turns out to be divorce papers. "It's from Marcel," she says. "I'm being divorced on grounds of desertion."

GENE TIERNEY: They all desert you in the end. [Downs martini in one gulp.]

Madeleine looks up from the papers and gives me This Look that says, "Well, there goes one obstacle." Then she smiles very prettily and leans in to whisper in my ear:

MADELEINE LEBEAU: Have I told you about my father fixation?

And I wake up approximately 90 minutes after my head hit the pillow, thinking to myself, "Why is it, the only time a woman ever says that to me is just before I wake up from a dream?"

THE VOICE OF GENE TIERNEY: Because even your dreams desert you in the end. [Downs 5 tranquilizers in one gulp.]

Friday, October 29, 2010

00:02:59 Night at The Living Room - October 20, 2010

Last Wednesday night, I went to the awesome 00:02:59 Records CMJ show at The Living Room, and watched a whole slate of great live bands from 7 PM till 2 in the morning. Here's a sample of the evening; check these bands out (and more) at the 00:02:59 website.

Steve Five:

Good Luck Mountain:

Dana Falconberry:

Jeff Klein of My Jerusalem:

Ian McLagan:

The Tellers:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sonnets Written While Watching The Yankees Lose To Texas

I sat at a sports bar and wrote six love sonnets (as opposed to Manhattan sonnets) while watching the Yankees lose to Texas Friday night. It was a productive nine innings. For me at least. Heh. Although two out of the six poems still need work, I scribbled notes for five more (there will be a total of seventeen)--and I probably would have completed those as well if I hadn't been actually paying attention to the game. I can hear you asking: "How can somebody write six sonnets and watch a baseball game in a crowd of yelling, cheering, cursing Yankee fans?"

ALL MY FRIENDS IN BOSTON: And why would you want to?

Guy sitting next to me? He pretty much asked the same thing.

GUY SITTING NEXT TO ME: What are you writing, can I ask?
ME: Sonnets.
GUY SITTING NEXT TO ME: You're kidding; this place is so loud I can't even think straight.
ME: And me? That's why I can think straight.

The only way I can explain it is that the creative part of my mind uses commotion and distraction as fuel, and by tuning out everything around me and starting to write, it's like punching the afterburner on a jet. The only difference is that the jet isn't talking to itself. And when I write in a crowd, I'm always talking to myself. Or, as in the four sonnets below, to someone so conveniently far away that only rhyme can bridge the distance:


If I were only younger and much taller
I’d sweep you up into my lanky arms
Until your lips were level with my collar
And kiss you till we set off fire alarms.
I’d use my youth to race you to be mine,
Sell everything I own and bet the farm,
And wait for you to reach the finish line
So we could cross together, arm in arm--
Then use my height to shoot up like a rocket
And grab a star of every different size
To make a necklace with a heart-filled locket
That might (just might) glimmer like your bright eyes
And make you see me as no mirrors do:
A man who’s tall and young enough for you.


“How do I look?” you ask-–that fatal phrase.
There’s no way I can answer that and live.
All I can do is meet your studied gaze
And say, with all the truth my heart can give:
“Like every goddess since the world began
Your smile can either kill or raise the dead,
Depending on your mood. No ruffian
Will ever master you. Upon your head
The crown of passion sits; upon your hips,
The sword you give your worthies. And when you
Unsheathe that blade and bring it to your lips,
God help the man who answers less than true.
Your every smile is like a valentine.
How do you look? Oh please--you look divine.”


Everything fades away--every true love
And false hope, every secret wish--all comes
To the same end: the short pier and the shove,
The scuttled lifeboat and the muffled drums.
But not my love for you. No matter what
Occurs, it will not kneel before Time’s cruel
Dominion--stars will fall and Life will shut
Down, but what I feel will not fade or cool,
Not even when I’m in my grave, because
This poem, forged out of my mortal yearning
Will do in death what your quick beauty does
To breathing men: leave strong hearts lost and burning.
And so unwithered will my words survive,
Keeping you and my love for you alive.


Clearly you’ll hurt me, but I say, “So what?”
I’ll think you kind no matter how you’re cruel
You tell me this will end in tears so hot
They’ll scald me to the bone. Heh. I say, “Cool.”
The thing is, dear, so what if Love’s croquet
And you’re the pretty mallet that will send me?
The way I figure it, one perfect day
With you is worth a dozen months that rend me.
So don’t use future pain as an excuse
To keep yourself from tasting present pleasure.
You think you’re going to hurt me? Silly goose.
I’ve got a threshold pain can’t even measure.
My heart’s an open book on True Love’s shelf:
I only bleed, love, when you hurt yourself.

Copyright 2010 Matthew J Wells

Tom Wrench's Wager

"If you're going to be ignored by the world, it might as well be for the stuff you want to do, rather than the stuff you think will get the world's attention."

-- from Tom Wrench, a play in progress by yours truly

Monday, October 18, 2010

Listen to The Manhattan Sonnets on Art International Radio

Back in July, I was part of a poetry reading at the Players Club sponsored by New River Dramatists, during which I read three poems from a series called The Manhattan Sonnets. Thanks to the support and interest of New River’s Artistic Director, MZ Ribalow, I was asked to record the first 21 sonnets for a radio show that New River is currently streaming on the Art International Radio website. That show is now up, so go listen to it and let me know how I did, because God knows I can’t listen to my own voice without hearing a duck with a Boston accent.

Here’s the link:

New River Dramatists on AIR

And while you’re at it, check out the other streams (in particular, if I can be biased, the New River Poets: Emerging Women broadcast, with the never-less-than-brilliant Patricia Randell) and come back every couple of weeks for new stories and poetry written and performed by the best in the business. For me, it’s an honor to be one of them.

Even if I do sound like a duck.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Double Farewell

To be read while listening to Hurts singing "Till you come back where you belong, It's just another lonely Sunday."


This little death of parting will not kill
The love we share, though it will make me bleed,
And all the bitter drops of blood that spill
Will skein my sorrow with the stain of need.
Without you, life is an abandoned house,
A hole that will become the heart of all.
Sadness will nibble at me like a mouse,
Forlornness drown me in a waterfall.
If I were walking in an empty room,
My footsteps would not echo half as loud
As they do in my city now, where gloom
Rules all, and I am lonely in a crowd,
Seeing your face in every face I see
And blind to all till you come back to me.


There is a part of me that you will take
With you whenever you’re apart from me:
A cutting from my heart that will not break
But branch into your own heart constantly.
If you should quake, it will not move an inch.
If you should fall, then it will give you wings.
If you should hesitate, it will not flinch.
If you should feel depressed, hear how it sings.
It’s yours to keep, no matter where you go
Or who you travel with--my stringless gift--
A quilt to warm you when you need a throw,
A compass pointing home when you’re adrift.
And if it blossoms and the fruit be true,
Give it away--as I gave mine to you.

Copyright 2010 Matthew J Wells

Monday, October 11, 2010

This one is for Eva

Manhattan Sonnet - 22

I watch you tug imaginary gloves
And tilt your head because you hate your chin,
And then play through the city’s rush and shoves
As if Manhattan were your violin.
Your tune is high and soaring, like your dreams:
The major theme of one great symphony
That will resolve the concrete with the seems
Into a concord of true harmony.
And as you play, I note just how composed
You are, how all the strain falls from your eyes,
And how, beneath your cat-mouth, is exposed
A smile born out of passion and surprise
Because, in these harsh streets, you’ve finally met
A mate to mate with in a choice duet.

Copyright 2010 Matthew J Wells

Sunday, September 26, 2010

If you want to be a hero, then just follow me

Set list for the Fab Faux John Lennon Birthday Concert, 9/25/10:

Tomorrow Never Knows
Whatever Gets You Through The Night
Nowhere Man
I’m A Loser
Across The Universe
Come Together
Watching The Wheels

Jealous Guy
Rain (complete with backwards segment at the end)
Norwegian Wood
Happiness Is A Warm Gun
No Reply
I Feel Fine

You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away
Strawberry Fields Forever
Cold Turkey
I Want You (She’s So Heavy)

The Quarrymen: Maggie May & Long Long Gone

Working Class Hero
Power To The People
Instant Karma

For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
Mind Games
I Am The Walrus
I’m So Lonely

In My Life
Revolution (single version)
A Day In The Life

All You Need Is Love
Give Peace A Chance

Thursday, September 23, 2010

This one's for Simone Simon

There is a pair of eyes behind your eyes
That slyly beckons me when you’re not looking.
There is a smile that hints of paradise
Behind those lips that speak of clothes and cooking.
There is a tiger in you, wild and sleek,
A beast who purrs and smiles each time you pout.
What will it take to let me have a peek?
What will it take to get her to come out?
A tender kiss? A drink? What can I do?
What tinder will enflame that inner fire?
Must I be beastly so the beast in you
Can growl and give us both what we desire?
Oh set her free, if only for a breath,
And let her claw me to the point of death.

Copyright 2010 Matthew J Wells

Monday, September 20, 2010

Manhattan Sonnets 14-21

Other posts in this series:
Manhattan Sonnets 1-13


There is no mercy in you -- there is just
The teasing smile that hides the butcher knife.
There’s nothing in your ways that I can trust;
No street that’s not a threat against my life.
One night you’ll say “Hello, there!” with a gun.
One day I’ll tease you and you’ll have my head.
One wrong step and my walking days are done.
One hint of weakness and you’ll cut me dead.
The price I pay for loving you is hard:
I need to grow a second pair of eyes
To see behind me and keep up my guard,
And extra ears to listen for your lies,
And extra hope, that when you start to tear me
Limb from devoted limb, you’ll smile and spare me.

Fifteen [Ava’s Birthday Sonnet]

If beauty was a knife, then I would bleed
To death in seconds every time we meet.
If elegance was one unplanted seed
Then gardens would grow up around your feet.
If sweetness had a tongue, then it would sound
Like bells on Christmas morning when you laugh.
If lovely was a teardrop, I would drown
With HE DIED HAPPY as my epitaph.
If your smile was a snowflake, I would freeze.
If your touch was a feather, I could fly.
If words were music, you’d speak symphonies.
If your kisses were life, I’d never die.
So many ways to paint your beauty true;
So many diamonds, and the necklace you.

Sixteen [The Strand Books sonnet]

Sweet are the afternoons I’ve spent with you,
Touring the kingdom of your high-shelved alleys,
Reaching for rarities or something new,
Arms full of paperbacks or next month’s galleys.
Night after night I haunt a different section;
Day after day I scare up some new find:
Barthelme, Cabell, Wodehouse in collection,
Oscar Wilde’s letters, Auden’s poems (signed).
Offer me novels, journals, poems, plays;
Know what I want before I even look --
Stranded with you is how I’ll spend my days:
No need for rescue –- just a self-help book.
Yours is the siren song that always calls:
Come browse away your life within my walls.


Each night’s the same -- you fix me with a stare,
Pull me in close, lean hard against my hips,
And then, when I reach out to stroke your hair,
You’re always just beyond my fingertips.
And I will always reach, because with you
It’s not about the capture but the chase --
The plans to meet up trump the rendezvous;
The finish line is trash next to the race.
You’ve got “anticipate” down to a science.
To you, there’s nothing purer than the pleasure
Of long engagements stalling the alliance --
To you, X marks evasion: that’s your treasure,
And that’s why no one else on earth can match you --
You never let a single suitor catch you.


You change the board each time we play the game --
Replace the unsurprising with the new.
Only the pieces ever stay the same;
The rest, from roads to rules, is up to you.
Today, low score might win; tomorrow, high.
Yesterday’s short cut? Now it’s a dead end.
Last week the truth scored ten; this week, the lie.
Last month the lover; this month, just a friend.
You really love to keep me on my toes
Almost as much as I love keeping up
With all your moods, your whims, your change of clothes
Like different drinks our of the same sweet cup.
Each time you pour, my tongue tastes something new;
Each sip I take makes me more drunk with you.


You walked me past a vacant lot today.
A week ago it was my favorite store.
“It’s still the same old me inside,” you say.
“It’s just a different look.” But no -- it’s more.
I think inside you’re terrified, and so
Unsure of who you are that all your fears
Drive you to throw yourself at some young beau,
Spurning the heart who worshipped you for years.
And so you preen to please his roving eye,
And if you think he hates our favorite haunt,
You’ll tear it down, and kiss our past goodbye --
Tell him: “This place is yours –- what do you want?”
That’s you, my love: you crave today’s caress
But always dream about tomorrow’s dress.


There’s something naked in the way you look
At people who can open doors for you.
You cast your smile out like a baited hook
And reel them into shore -- no matter who
They’re swimming with or how much they resist,
You make them want to jump into your net:
Grateful that their mythologies are kissed
By your intentions -- glad to be your pet.
And when they’ve walked you through whatever door
They have the key to, and you finally come
To where they cannot help you any more,
You toss them into your aquarium,
And point to them and smile at me and coo:
“If you can open doors, that could be you.”


When I expose my vulnerability
You handle me with adolescent gloves
And try your best to never let me see
How low my name is on your list of loves.
The moment that I tell you how I feel,
You treat me like I’m guilty of a crime.
You lock your heart up like it’s the Bastille.
The same thing happens every single time:
When I show need, then you show me the door;
When I talk love, you sigh and shake your head;
I pour my heart out and it hits the floor;
I give birth to a hope -– you strike it dead.
And I come back for more –- I’ll never learn
Because your cold heart is what makes me burn.

Copyright 2010 Matthew J Wells

Monday, September 13, 2010


There’s a film on the short list of Greatest Movies Never Made which is right up there with the Howard Hawks Much Ado, the Spencer Tracy/Clark Gable version of Man Who Would Be King, Francis Ford's epic western Sundown, and the Cary Grant Great Gatsby. It was made in the late 60’s by Jean Pierre Melville; it starred Alain Delon as a hit man, Catherine Deneuve as his client, Philippe Noiret as his shady boss, Lino Ventura as a priest, and an absurdly gorgeous Claudia Cardinale as a hooker with a heart of gold; it was based on a story by Graham Greene; and it had maybe twenty lines of dialogue, tops, all of them classic. As was the movie, which was called Le Professionnel.

All of which is my roundabout way of saying that The American, starring George Clooney, feels like a remake of a lost French classic. Which means that, despite a hyperactive trailer, this is not a thriller as American audiences have come to undertstand the word. It is a largely silent mood piece, substantially told from a single point of view, in which the inevitability of violence hangs over George Clooney like the inevitability of dancing hangs over Fred and Ginger.

Guess what country he's from.

This mood is established in the first five minutes with a moment which is so genuinely shocking that you just know it will echo throughout the rest of the film. It has to; it’s that much of a “Whoa!” That it doesn’t, except for a brief flashback, is one of the reasons why The American doesn’t live up to its premise. Instead of a Graham Greene entertainment where guilt opens the door to redemption or damnation, you get a one-last-job flick where the female assassin dresses like a Vogue model, the love interest lolls around half-naked while the guy keeps all his clothes on, and the main character totally obeys the Parallax View Law--“In order for the plot to work, nobody who is in a thriller has ever seen a thriller before.”

The movie also goes wrong when Clooney’s hunted and supposedly haunted gunmaker decides to hide out in an Italian town whose winding streets and hidden stairways give him absolutely no idea what’s around the next corner. (This gets an A for tension and an F for logic.) On the plus side, this is the best town in the world to be a wanted man on the run, because it doesn’t have any cops. Which means there’s no one to officially question the only foreigner for miles when another foreigner winds up dead in a shoot-out. No one except the local priest, who (a) preaches about good and evil like all Catholic priests are supposed to do, (b) gets pretty much ignored by Clooney, which is what all good American Catholics do whenever they hear a priest start preaching about good and evil, and (c) gets exposed as a hypocrite, which is what happens to all Catholic priests who start preaching about good and evil to Americans in an American-made movie.

So where does the movie go right? The style, for one--the wordless passages outnumber the scripted segments, which gives it that European feel. There’s a visual motif that’s established in the credit sequence and reappears throughout, with Clooney in the foreground, shadowed but in focus, and the rest of the world blurry and out of focus, like he’s the only real thing in a formless void. (There’s a deliberate visual echo of this at the end--in the credit sequence, Clooney is driving through what looks like a cross between pointillism and impressionism; in the final moments, there’s a shot of him driving through a real world where he’s partially out of focus and his destination is crystal clear.) The only time we don’t see this story from Clooney’s point of view is when he’s threatened--only then does the director cut away to omniscience, to establish the threat and create tension. And the only time you hear music is when Clooney is working on creating a gun. Which is also the only time you ever see his face relax. The rest of the time, he’s either worried about something or scared shitless that he’s going to get killed.

While we’re on the subject of faces (the chief subject of all silent movies, after all), those of the women are much more interesting than their characters. Thekla Reuten, the mysterious client, has a face which, like her name, is the perfect mixture of hard and soft. And the oxymoronically named Violante Placido as the hooker-with-a-heart-etc. is not only the most fresh-faced small-town prostitute in film history, but naggingly familiar. With good reason:

That's right--the woman in this picture?

This woman's daughter.

And this is where you know her from.

One other piece of rightness: in a genre where guys can get hit with twenty pounds of bullets and make bad puns ten minutes later while getting it on with absurdly-named females, it’s refreshing to see a movie where a single bullet actually, y’know, takes something out of you. Like, potentially, your life.

So why does a movie with all this going for it still leave you feeling like there’s something missing? One big reason: because it doesn’t rub Clooney’s face in the collateral damage of his decisions. As a maker of guns, which are then used by other people as murder weapons, he is perfectly correct in saying that everything he has done, he has had good reason to do (as long as you count money and self-preservation as reasons). But perfectly correct is not morally correct. In that sense, there’s a political allegory here which is just as unexamined as Clooney’s moral compass--it’s not just The American, but America, out there selling guns and weapons and then claiming to have clean hands. Thankfully, the movie never actually makes the allegorical dilemma explicit (which is good) even though it does make Clooney’s American look like an ignorant tourist (because really--only an American would be dumb enough to actually go down on a small-town Italian prostitute). But unfortunately, the movie never actually makes the personal dilemma explicit either.

Bottom line: as the third of Clooney’s recent movies about men trapped in their jobs (after Michael Clayton and Up In The Air), The American feels like it could have been the best of the three, if only it had followed through on those first five shocking minutes by planting itself firmly in the minefield between action and intent, between guilt and self-justification. One of the first things you hear in The Wild Bunch is somebody saying “I don't care what you meant to do, it's what you did I don’t like,” and everything that happens for the entire rest of that Western (including the flashbacks) is a comment on those 15 words. All I can say is, if The American had been that focused, then it would have a solid film in its own right, instead of a flawed, if entertaining, remake of an imaginary classic.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Songs for the Matthew Comp: Buh-beep-buh-beep-buh-beep-That's all Folks!

Michael Maltese meets Franz Liszt. Back when listening to FM radio was a musical adventure, WBCN in Boston was to eclectic what Mt. Everest was to mountains--the one everybody looked up to. Not least because they would follow a song from Pearls Before Swine with something so completely off the wall that you had to stop what you were doing and ask yourself "What the hell are they playing now?" The song below being a prime example. Sung by Mel Blanc and written by (among others) Michael Maltese, I first heard this coming out of the radio one weekend afternoon in 1970 right after "Rocket Man." For the next two weeks I combed local record stores, not even knowing what I was looking for, until I finally found the song on an LP of Warner Brothers cartoon songs in the children's record section of the Harvard Coop. I dare you to listen to it and not smile.

Daffy Duck's Rhapsody

Set the Way-Back for 1986. This song I heard on WNEW, and while I can't remember the exact circumstances, I do remember finding it on a two-disc collection of club hits at J&R Music titled The House Sound of Chicago. I used to play this a lot, because it was silly, and because it would drive everybody else crazy. I also used to walk around repeating "I've got my uke-a-looloo and my hare stickum." What can I say, except that the 80's were a weird time to be in your 30's.

Hey Rocky

Good evening and welcome to Slaggers. Ah, but 1970 was an even weirder time to be 18. Especially if you were me. Cocky, stubborn, and with more unjustified ego than a second-year financial analyst. 1970 was also the first time I tried to ascend Mount College and (like the other two times) got no further than the foothills, hurriedly shouting "I quit!" before anyone could fire me. Fondest memory of that time: sitting in the McElroy cafeteria at BC (or was it the Lyons cafeteria?) listening for the umpteenth time to some yahoo playing Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" on the jukebox, and finally getting so pissed off that I plugged two dollars worth of quarters into the box to play the song below (the B side to the single of "Let It Be") 24 times in a row. By the fifth time the song played, the jocks three tables over were approaching the 1970 version of roid rage. When it started a sixth time, one of them went over to the juke box, picked up the thing like it was a toy, and banged it three times on the ground. Dead silence for ten seconds. And then, out of the wreckage, and to the cheering and applause of everyone but the jock at the juke box, the song began playing again. At which point the jock ripped the cord out of the wall, breaking the jukebox completely. It was out of commission for a week. When it was fixed, neither Led Zeppelin nor the song below were on the play list. I call that a fair trade.

You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Other Nine Muses

As everyone knows everyone who got taught by Jesuits knows, the Muses are the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory). And as everyone also knows, Zeus pretty much screwed around with any female he could find, as everything from a bull to a swan to a good stiff breeze. And one of those females was Mnemosyne’s twin sister, Lethe (Forgetfulness). Given that Lethe had the power to make even the gods forget things, if he remembered it at all, Zeus probably thought he was fooling around with Memory. But the fact remains that his union with Lethe also had nine offspring, the so called Amnestai, the Unremembered Muses, who are, according to the lost appendix of Hesiod’s Theogony, also nine in number, and named as follows:

Chariclea, the muse of delays. The closer you get to completing something, the more she gets your attention. She can usually be found inhabiting your spouse or significant other, and saying things like, "Will you please come to bed?" "Wanna go out for a drink?" and "We have to talk."

Atelesia, the muse of the unfinished. Probably the busiest of all the Muses, Atelesia inspires all writers at least once, and abandons anyone who actually finishes something. Rumored to be the most pleasure-giving of all 18 muses, Atelesia's favors are enjoyed the most by writers with day jobs.

Peripoleia, the muse of getting sidetracked. This particular Muse, like a faulty GPS system, always highlights roads with great scenery that lead either nowhere or as far as possible from your original destination. She's overly fond of saying things like, "Oh look. There's a stable. Let's stop and play with the horses," or, "Hey, y'know what? If you're going to write something about Nazis, I know 20 good books to read!" Which is why she is also the muse of excessive research.

Apergasia, the muse of perfectionism. You'll know her when you see her. You just won't be able to describe her to anybody else. Or, rather, you'll start to describe her, and if somebody doesn't stop you, you'll spend the rest of your life looking for the right words to bring her to life to someone else. Also known as the muse of perpetual foreplay.

Apageia, the muse of doing everything but actually sitting down to write. The second-busiest of all the Muses, Apageia is also the prettiest of them all, and the only one who never puts out. I mean never. Not once. Not for you, not for anyone. She is the Prom Queen of the Muses. The only thing that gets into her pants is lint. Keep telling yourself that as she smiles at you. It might actually help you to write something now and then. But whatever you do, don't show her anything you create. She'll think it sucks, and you'll believe her.

Lepodeia, the muse of trifles. Currently presides over blog items, television news, Facebook, and most of the Internet.

Atopia, the muse of total originality. The good news is, if you’re lucky, you actually get touched by her once in your life. The bad news is, you’ll only find out she touched you about fifty to a hundred years after you’re dead.

Acheira, the Muse Without Hands, who is the muse of writer’s block. Along with Atelesia and Apageia, part of a triumvirate referred to as the Devoir Sisters in old French chansons and tales of King Arthur, whose influence can only be thwarted or checked by a blood sacrifice.

Eumeithea, the muse of writing in bars. Used to haunt the Cedar Tavern, Chumley’s and the Lion’s Head. Currently homeless.