Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Our love is like a hurricane.  It blows
   A squall of driving horizontal rain
Against our hearts, until it can bulldoze
   Between our reaching hands a wall of pain,
A levee for the flood we want to drown
   Our loneliness in--but we’re high and dry:
Two bitter idiots who played the clown
  To expectations and their tempting lie.
So we prepare for things that never happen.
  We make bold promises we’ll never keep.
You cut me dead and wave another chap in.
   The wind howls out your name, but I will sleep
      And face the morning drained and empty of
      All but the hope of your torrential love.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Monday, August 29, 2011

Last Monday in August Music: Not going left, not going right

I saw Follies last Thursday (review to come), and now, what, four days later, I can't help but think that one of our modern follies is Disaster Panic, that damned-if-you do damned-if-you-don't state of mind where you prepare for the absolute worst and then get peeved when it doesn't happen.  The movie analogy for this state of mind is perfectly expressed in the following exchange from Philadelphia Story, where Tracy Lord, who thinks she got drunk and did the dirty deed with Mike Connor, hears Mike explain what really happened:

MIKE CONNOR: Kittredge, it may interest you to know that the so-called “affair” consisted of exactly two kisses and a rather late swim. All of which I thoroughly enjoyed, and the memory of which I wouldn't part with for anything. After which I deposited Tracy on her bed in her room, and promptly returned down here to you two--which doubtless you'll remember.
GEORGE KITTREDGE: You mean--you mean to say that’s all there was to it?
TRACY LORD: Why? Was I so unattractive?

Or in Irene terms:

NEW YORK: Oh Irene--you passed me over for Philadelphia?!?  Why? Was I so unattractive?

Or in Sondheim terms:

NEW YORK:  Oh Irene--you said you wanted me!  Or were you just being kind?

Heh.  Yeah--guess what song I've been listening to all weekend?  But not the original.  And not even the gloriously insane Liza Minnelli cover of the original.  No--I've been listening to the Pet Shop Boys' demo of the gloriously insane cover that they produced for Liza Minnelli. Along with a lot of other PSB songs, because they make me happy and they make me want to dance, two things you should always do when a hurricane is on its way.

So here's that demo, along with an extended version of "Jealousy" (the spoken quote is from Othello, which makes for a great trivia question), along with another demo of a song they wrote for Kylie Minogue (which is my all-time favorite Pet Shop Boys song), along with the hoot-and-a-half AbFab number they did after getting plastered with Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley (true story).

Be happy and dance, people.

Losing my mind

Jealousy (extended version)

Falling (Demo for Kylie)

Absolutely Fabulous

Friday, August 26, 2011

Last Friday in August Music: I'm not in it for the money, no

As summer winds down--no--wait--who am I kidding?--as summer careens to a hurricanish halt, and the last weekend of August, which seemed so far away in June, is actually starting right now in Australia, here's some fun music to listen to. I could just have easily called this post "Behold the power of cheese," because these three songs totally fit that description. Like good cheddar fits that description--in the best possible way.

Yes, it's The Raspberries. If you were anywhere near a radio in July of 1972, you would have heard the opening riff of "Go All The Way" about once every 20 minutes on AM Radio, which actually played music back then.

These songs sound like they were deliberately designed to make anyone in the world feel 18 again. Or in my case, 20.


Go All The Way

Let's Pretend

Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Actors and Aussie Girls

Actors and Aussie girls
Drink shots on a Sunday night.
Italian boys don't care to;
I-Bankers wouldn't dare to.

Actors and Aussie girls
Will all get as high as kites
After a night of shooters
At Hooters.

In the Pony Bar
There’s a regular
Whose attire will match his sandals.

He drinks Jamie neat
Till he’s indiscreet
And delights in causing scandals.

Yet even he
You'll never see
On the Sabbath getting tight

Only actors and Aussie girls*
Drink shots on a Sunday
Shots on a Sunday
Shots on a Sunday night!

*And, uh, me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Surprised by Grief

Today would have been my brother Gary’s 53rd birthday.

I know this not just because it’s written down in my daybook, which I bought and filled in a month before he died, but because when I turned on my home computer I got a Google calendar reminder, and when I got into work I got an Outlook Calendar reminder and an e-mail from a site called Tagged.

The e-mail was what got me. I remember when Gary sent me the invitation to join him on the site, and I remember my annoyed reaction: “Oh please, Gary--another social media site? And one that sounds like it was named after somebody’s dog?” But I joined, and God knows where that login and password is, because outside of joining, and looking around for a few minutes, I’ve never been back.

So why did the e-mail get through my emotional defenses? Or why, in other words, did a randomly-generated automated reminder from a social media site I never visit make me miss my brother more than a handwritten calendar entry, or even my own memories?

Possible answer: the word “defenses.” I’ve already been defending myself against grief since December. It’s nothing I’ve consciously done; I haven’t said, “Okay, today for the next two hours I am going to work on all that grief I feel,” or, “By the time Gary’s birthday rolls around, I want to be able to think about him without bawling my eyes out.” But then I didn’t have to say it, not consciously. I didn’t even have to push a button to start the process. The process takes care of itself. It’s called the day-to-day, and what it does is, it shells you. It distances you. It turns the unexpected into the what-happened.

Carlos Fuentes, in talking about love, wrote, “The most ardent romantic passion can languish and fall into habit or irritation with the passage of time. A couple begin to know each other because, first and foremost, they know so little of each other. Everything is surprise. When there are no surprises left, love can die.”

I think the same applies to grief. When there are no surprises left, we grieve painlessly, behind the armor of our distance, in the comfort of our routines. But when we’re surprised, we’re pierced as if we’re naked. Instead of the distant echo of a long-passed storm, we hear the thunderclap right over our heads and it all comes at us in a rush, like sideways rain.

That’s why the e-mail got me. I wasn’t expecting it. But I’ll be expecting the next one now. I’m prepared. Which means, in a way, something vulnerable has died in me. The way waking up to someone next to me for the hundredth time is something I will never feel as strongly as I felt it when it was a first.

I know it’s impossible to live like it’s a first all the time, to live unprepared and ready to be surprised. I know the day-to-day will eat away at everything on my plate until there’s no meat left to sink my teeth into. I know this, but I don’t have to like it. The fact that I can be surprised by grief, by love, means that there’s something underneath my armor that not only can be touched, but needs to be touched.

An open wound, that reaches out with open arms, and cries out not to be healed because it’s sick, but hugged because it’s alive.

Monday, August 15, 2011


“Go long,” said Life when I was seventeen,
And I’ve been looking over my left shoulder
Ever since.

Copyright 2011 Mathew J Wells

Friday, August 12, 2011

a breed apart

I see famine, plague and flood,
I see evil men;
I see dreams covered in mud,
Pain beyond God’s ken,
Horror, failure, pleading, blood--
And reach for a pen.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Thursday, August 11, 2011


My soul packed up its bags and left my body
Five minutes after meeting you. “That’s where
I want to live,” it scribbled in a brief
Dear John letter it tacked up on my heart
With a refrigerator magnet. “She’s
The mate that I’ve been searching for. Good luck
Finding yours now, with just an empty body.”

I haven’t seen it since, but I’ve seen pictures.
It sends me snapshots of your smiling face
With notes like “I just made her laugh -- ha ha!”
Or “Find a soul-mate yet without a soul?”

I want to say, “Yes, actually, I have.
You’d be surprised how many empty bodies
Are out there looking for more emptiness
To make them feel as if they’re not alone.”

I want to say, “It’s easier to love
Without a soul to make you yearn for more
Than all the fleeting pleasures of the body.”
I want to say, “I bless the day you left me.”

But every time I speak, I only hear
The hollow echo of the null and void
Reverberating till it fades away
And vanishes inside my vacant heart.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Night on The Town - first draft

Hey baby--don’t just stand there--got a light?
My name is Drama--I’m your date tonight.
Get all dolled up--you’re coming out with me
Where you’ll get tongue-kissed by catastrophe.

Don’t even try to tell me you won’t play--
You’ll take the weather personally, okay?
It’s just the thing to trash your family name:
A self-destructive crapgasm! You game?

And yes, you will be picking fights tonight,
So count your teeth and buckle up real tight.
Fisticuffs? Knife fights? Drag races? Your pick.
You won’t be getting home until you’re sick.

I’ll make sure Trouble snuggles in your lap
And cripples you worse than a spinal tap.
Mayhem, misunderstanding, the absurd--
I can do bloodshed too--just say the word.

For punishment tonight, we’ll both be gluttons.
By midnight I’ll have pushed all of your buttons--
The easy ones to reach, the well-protected,
And one or two you thought were disconnected.

Put on that Kevlar vest; take a deep breath--
Everything from now on is life or death.
Tonight you’ll redefine debauchery,
So hit the gas and aim right at that tree.

We’ll start off slow with drinks and appetizers
And then I’ll throw in one or two surprises--
A waiter who will double-charge your drinks;
A bartender who speaks before he thinks;

The girl who called an hour ago--the one
Who scores a hundred on sheer facial stun
And had a standing date with you to go
To dinner, then that sold-out Broadway show--

The one your heart’s a sucker for -- who said
She felt so sick she thought that she was dead
And had to spend tonight under the covers?
You’ll see her hip-grinding one of her lovers

Outside an East Side club at half-past seven--
A guy who makes King Kong look four-eleven--
A Rugby player with two trees for legs
And a six-pack as hard as Guinness kegs.

And when you say, “Hey honey--how’s the fever?”
And call her names like skank, bitch and deceiver
For sucking spittle with a pea-brained Brit,
The git she’s with will use all of his wit

To cry, “Oi--Septic!” (as in septic tank,
A term that’s Cockney rhyming slang for Yank)
And with a cheery “Compliments of Mersey!”
He’ll kick your sorry ass from here to Jersey.

That’s just the prologue to the evening’s fun.
The starting pistol, not the party gun.
Everything after that will be as manic
As the last hour of RMS Titanic.

Each drink tonight will help to make you brave
Enough to reach for what you fear to crave--
And then that one drink more will tip you over
Into the cesspool of the devil’s clover.

And as you ride that queasy carousel,
You’ll meet and greet the sweetest scum of hell:
Hit-men and hookers, liars, politicians,
Ex-convicts, dope fiends, critics and musicians.

Whispers that lead to miscommunication,
Vanities punctured by humiliation--
Everything on the menu is your fault:
Your life’s the wound; tonight will be the salt.

Loud conversations, fueled by shots of Jäger
And wilder than the north face of the Eiger,
Will lead to insults, challenges, and blows
And (if you’re lucky) an unbroken nose.

You’ll push the envelope until it breaks,
Eat Fugu while you pound down Rattlesnakes,
Pick fights with cops and snarl at maitre d’s,
Blitzkrieg the bars like little Germanys,

Steal risky kisses and get roundly slapped,
Make perfect plans and watch them all get scrapped,
Say the wrong thing to someone who could like you,
Make the wrong pass at someone who will strike you.

You’ll compliment a cutie on her boa
And she’ll blow up at you like Krakatoa--
Get hit on by the girlfriend of a mobster
Who’ll be the boiling water to your lobster--

Go to a play and groan, complain and cough--
Call up your exes, tell ‘em to eff off--
Buy teenage girls martinis and car bombs--
Get chased by their incensed, indignant moms--

Stiff waiters every time you order meals
And tweak Propriety until she squeals,
Then take the piss at every traffic light--
In other words, a normal Friday night.

So take my hand, my love, and take the plunge
I’ll squeeze the goodness from you like a sponge.
Suit up, get in that ring, and take a dive--
You need to feel like death to feel alive.

And when you find yourself succumbing to
The tempting fruit of sin’s hullabaloo,
Just keep in mind that, when the night is through,
The fun was all on me; the tab’s on you.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Life 101

Two things make life on earth a Catherine Wheel:
Heart needs to know and brain just wants to feel.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Dennis and his Hula Hoop

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Jottings from the notebook

Whenever clouds fight, it ends in a marriage.

The mailbox's idea of travel is to swallow a letter with a foreign address.

"The truly new always looks truly wrong." *
 -- Alice Fulton

Each love obeys its own unbending law of pain.

As far as Reality is concerned, English is a second language.

"As a writer he has mastered everything except language; as a novelist he can do everything, except tell a story; as an artist he is everything, except articulate."
--Oscar Wilde on George Meredith

A fact is a lie supported by evidence.

Swimming pools wish they could close their eyes when it rains.

Love is like a cruise ship.  You leave the dock to cheers and confetti, and when you finally sail far enough away to lose all sight of land, you discover there's nobody else on the boat but you.  You're the captain and the crew, the engineer and the deck hand, the navigator and the cook.  You have to do all the work to make the cruise a success.  And if you don't watch out, you'll totally forget that you're also the passengers.

We all speak a language that will be dead someday.

Potential Country Music song title: "I'd Love To Be In Virginia, But  She Has A Husband Now."

When it comes to love, it's not the word that scares me--it's the echo.

"I'm just a red nigger who love the sea.
I have a sound colonial education.
I have Dutch, nigger, English in me
And either I'm nobody or I'm a nation."
-- Derek Walcott

I'm at that age when the barber doesn't charge me for cutting my hair--he charges me for trying to find it.

Death hibernates inside us till
the winter of our lives becomes
the spring of its awakening.

Poetry: a lightning bolt you build electron by electron.

Writing a play is like open heart surgery.  Writing a successful play is like open heart surgery where the patient lives.

The phone book is a novel about people who want to communicate.

He killed her the slow way--he married her.

"If you want a happy ending, read a cookbook."
-- Dean Young

We were put on this earth to surprise God.

*Corrected quote in the comment below.  Thanks, Shawn.
Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Monday night in Manhattan

I saw a kid throw himself in front of a cab last night.

Of course, if I was on the witness stand, I would have to admit, under cross-examination, that I was walking on the island where Park Ave South peels off to 4th Ave around 9 PM when I heard a woman scream “No-o-o-o-o-o!” for a good two seconds in a voice that sounded like she was watching someone get killed.  I looked to my right and three things happened at the same time: I heard tires screech, I saw a kid bounce off the front left headlight of a cab, and I heard that same woman yell: “What are you DOING!?!”

The rest of it I can say I saw first-hand.  The driver of the cab opened the driver-side door and stepped out onto the street as two guys and a girl ran up to the kid on the street and picked him up. Amazingly, he looked unhurt.  Not even shook up.  Just angry.

The kid yelled: “It’s so STUPID!”

My mind went: whoa, he’s angry because they’re saving him.

The driver of the cab yelled: “What do you think you’re DOING?”

“LEAVE HIM ALONE!” yelled the girl.

The guy tried to shake everybody off and yelled a bunch of curses so loudly his voice hoarsed out by the fourth one.

My mind went: whoa, he’s angry because he’s not dead.

They dragged the kid back to the island, where three guys and a girl were sitting on the railing watching.  One of the guys had a skateboard; the girl wore black leggings and a ripped T-shirt and had tri-colored hair: jet black, Lucille Ball red, and Lucky Charms green.

“It’s all so STUPID,” the kid said, as everyone clustered around him and started yelling at him. 

“It’s not that bad!” the tri-colored hair girl said.

“Yes it is--yes it is--yes it is,” said the kid, over and over again.  He put his head in his hands and bent over, either because he was in pain or because he was trying to shut out everybody and everything.

He only looked up when the kid with the skateboard touched his shoulder.

He shook off Skateboard Kid's fingers like they were five cockroaches.  "The world is full of ASSHOLES!"  he announced.

My mind went: whoa, if he thinks that now, wait till he gets to be my age.

Then the woman in front of me started taking pictures of the kid with her iPhone.  I looked at her and my mind went: whoa,  assholes is right, and that’s when I shook my head and turned away.