Thursday, February 16, 2017

These Blackbirds

Above my head darts a cloud of agitated blackbirds. Shifting, sweeping, course correcting, it fills up the sky. 

Blackbirds barking their complaints. Their chorus follows me. Cacophonous, cackling, cuts the air. A million serrated steak knives. Blackbirds cloaking, dark and heavy, every rooftop, every phone pole, all the streetlights. A blackbird balancing on every inch of the thick, black wires that hang above my street.

An undulating cloud of blackbirds. Blackbirds spread wide across the sky. They land on the tree branches that hang low. They land on the tree branches that reach higher. Blackbirds frying on the fat, black wires that canopy the street. 

Blackbirds squawking, squawking, squawking loud. 

These blackbirds are hungry for some meat. 

Yes, I do believe these blackbirds are hungry for my meat. 

(FYI: The instrument I'm playing is called a pipa. Pretty cool, right?) 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Next Time for Your Vacation, Choose Darfur!

The sun, she is shining warm in Darfur!
The days, they are kissed with love!
The moonlight makes bright each African night!
So what are you waiting for?

Come see the beauty for yourself!
It's waiting for you 
in Darfur

Yes, come to Darfur!

Imagine your worries drifting away
on the whisper of a tempered breeze. 
The golden sand of the fertile Sudan 
as far as the eye can see. 

Suddenly you haven't a care in the world!
It's waiting for you!
It's waiting for you! 
It's waiting for you in Darfur!

Everyone is welcome
and everyone is free.
Everyone is waiting for you! You! YOU! 

From the music in the air
to the peace in our hearts
to the flowers forever in bloom! Bloom! BLOOM!

Just sit back, 
and enjoy the good life
and all the magic that's in store.

Yes, paradise, she is waiting for you!
Waiting for you in Darfur!

Take some time
leave your worries behind. 
That's what vacations are for!

We think you're going to like it!
We know you're going to like it!
Who wouldn't like it?!
Everyone, they like it here 
in Darfur!

Think of Darfur!
Visit Darfur!
Remember Darfur!
Come to Darfur!!! 

In September 2016, the Sudanese government reportedly launched chemical weapon attacks on civilian populations in Darfur, killing at least 250 people; the majority of the victims were children. It is believed that the munitions contained mustard gas or other blister agents.

Monday, March 16, 2015

St. Patrick's Day: Something More for Heterosexuals

This year I will not be going out for St. Patrick’s Day.  In fact, not only will I not go out, I will actively stay in. I will stock my fridge with food things, restock my liqueur cabinet with booze things, shut off my phone, close the blinds, and bolt the door. If this Mick sees any of the nonsense March 17th has to offer, it'll be through his “lace curtains”.

Now please don’t get the wrong idea about what I am and am not. I am not anti-Irish. In fact, I love the Irish! I love U2 and Guinness and Jamison whisky and long, well-wrought narratives and potatoes and boiled food and cable-knit wool sweaters and James Joyce and the movie My Left Foot. In fact, a large number of my ancestors hailed from that Emerald Isle. My last name is McGarvey, for Blarney Stone’s sake!

No, I am not anti-Irish, I’ve just come to realize that St. Patrick’s Day is just simply not my sort of thing. It’s more the type of thing that heterosexuals enjoy.

I realize that St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in many different countries – not least of them Ireland. It is, in fact, the most widely celebrated saint’s day in the world. Alas, I have never been to St. Patrick’s Day in Australia or Switzerland or Japan (that’s got to be a whole new level of bizarre) or the UK (that’s got to be a tad awkward) so I cannot speak to their interpretations.

I am, however, very familiar with what the good people of the United States have done with it. 

It goes something like this:  Wear something green to the office. Maybe even add some extra pizazz to your look with a “kiss me I’m Irish” pin or a broach that looks like a leprechaun or a tie covered with shamrocks. Pinch people who you encounter that have failed to incorporate green into their outfit. Leave work with less friends than when you arrived because pinching people is obnoxious. Go straight from work to the nearest bar and begin your mission by ordering something strong and a shot. Meet up with friends, some of whom have no doubt come laden with St. Patty’s Day paraphernalia (think: plastic green bowler hats, light up flashing shamrock necklaces, light up flashing shamrock antenna headgear, more things that say “Kiss me I’m Irish” or some lewd variation there of, oversized plush leprechaun hats, and, of course, a large assortment of various things to make noise with.)  Order a round or two of shots. Notice a slightly heated exchange between two gentlemen standing nearby. Decide to leave the bar you’re at because it has gotten too crowded and it isn’t “Irish” enough. Head to the next drinking establishment making sure to use those noisemakers during your transit. Arrive at next bar to discover that it is even more crowded than the place where you started.  Immediately order a round of shots and more strong drinks. Claim to be at least one eighteenth Irish (this will endear you to your fellow celebrants because each of them will most likely also claim some percentage of Irish heritage before the end of the night). Order another round of shots, this time specifying that you want them to be “Irish Car Bombs” (neither you nor the bartender will likely find this appropriately offensive) Also, while you’re there, go ahead and get two strong drinks for yourself instead of just the one because it’s getting more crowded and who knows how long it’ll be before you can get back to the bar. Remark on how many cops you’ve seen so far that night. Start to sing Danny Boy but then realize by the second or third line that you don’t actually know the words. Yell to your friend who’s going back up to the bar to not forget the shots. Witness an escalating altercation between several women on your way to the bathroom. Try to use the bathroom as quickly as possible so as to escape the pungent odor of vomit. Decide to again move locations. This time while in transit, strive to be the loudest, most enthusiastic band of revelers on the sidewalk. Pass an intense screaming match between two groups of obviously inebriated merrymakers. Arrive at next party place to discover that it is the most crowded yet and that there is a cover charge. Once inside, order shots and more strong drinks. Realize that you haven’t had a Guinness yet, so order one of those too. Complain about how much money you’ve spent. *SCENE MISSING* Decide that this is the most opportune moment to bring up that thing that your friend did a while back that’s been bothering you, speaking loudly enough so that the whole table can hear you. *SCENE MISSING* Pick up your drinks and your belongings from the table before they’re knocked over by the handful of burly men embrangled in a fisticuffs that is heading in your direction. See a middle-aged woman fall off of her chair. *SCENE MISSING* Fight your way back to the bar. While waiting for the bartender to notice you, engage in a back and forth of name-calling with a rough woman wearing a low-cut, tight fitting Celtics shirt. *SCENE MISSING* You make your way out to the sidewalk to find that it is a sea of snarling, stumbling, wobbling people all wearing uncannily similar outfits. You correctly recognize that this crowd is not friendly, but volatile. You go to a street corner where you are one of a dozen people trying to hail a cab. All around you are flashing blue lights, car horns, and yelling. You observe a man throwing up a few feet away. The luck of the Irish is conspicuously missing as you wait for what seems like an hour to catch a cab. Once homeward bound, you resist with everything you have the urge to throw up on the floor of the taxi. *FADE TO BLACK*

The Irish have had more than their fair share of misery to deal with throughout history: English invasion, the great potato famine, the IRA, Sinead O’Conner. They are proud, strong willed survivors and they bloody well deserve to have their very own day of international recognition. But St. Patrick’s Day (The American Version) really has little to do with Ireland at all, but is, instead, a designated day in March where being fall down drunk is not only acceptable, but expected. And listen, before you jump to assumptions about my own personal habits, let me assure you that I drink and often. One might even classify me as a professional. St. Patrick’s Day, on the other hand, is for amateurs. People who are looking for an excuse to go out in public and get rowdy.  

If Thanksgiving is for family and the Fourth of July is for barbecuing and Valentine’s Day is for lovers and Columbus Day and President’s Day are for sleeping in, St. Patrick’s Day is for blacking out.

And how wise are the Irish for putting their day of celebration in the middle Lent? The Catholic Church conveniently lifts Lenten restrictions (such as drinking alcohol) on St. Patrick’s Day. Because, you know, it's what Saint Patrick would have wanted, right? Yet, never ever have I heard of “going to church” as being part of the St. Patrick’s Day agenda…

I’m sure I could dig up a “Kiss me, I’m Irish” pen somewhere (or at least a “Kiss me, I’m something or another).  And I actually own a fantastic dark green velvet shirt that’s been pulled from the back of my closet on many a March 17th. 

Look, I’m an egalitarian through and through. I would never say that heterosexuals aren’t invited to Gay Pride, Hot Mess Sundays, or a Madonna concert, just that I don’t think there are very many of them (particularly men) who would enjoy it all that much.  Different strokes for different folks, right. Likewise, I know that I would be welcomed at many of those sports bars that have a hundred plasma screens all tuned to different games. It’s just not for me.

There’s plenty of heterosexuals who don’t like sports and there’s plenty of homosexuals that do. There’s plenty of straight people who never get into fistfights and there’s plenty of gay people who do. But on the whole, gays tend to drink too much and get bitchy. Straights tend to drink too much and get black eyes.

But when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day, just in case I happen to have failed to recognize the undesirable elements that characterize the overall celebration as “not my sort of thing”, the folks running the parade have been more than happy to make the message loud and clear:

If you’re queer, steer clear of my green beer!

Here in Boston, our Irish-American mayor marched in the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday. The first mayor to do so in some 20 years. Why have mayors in this very Irish city stopped participating in one of the nation’s oldest and largest Patty’s Day parades? Because gay veterans have been expressly banned from participating. Just like in New York and D.C., parade organizers have stubbornly upheld that including gays would conflict with the “Catholic heritage” of the celebration.

In recent years, companies such as Sam Adams and Heineken have pulled their sponsorship because of this policy of exclusion. Funny that allowing gay veterans to march alongside their straight comrades is considered morally divergent from good Christian teachings, yet accepting sponsorship from alcoholic beverage companies is perfectly in line with the righteous values of the archdiocese.

Yet, 2015 brought capitulation. For the very first time, it wasn’t only closeted gay vets who marched. They even allowed a handful of representatives from Gay Pride to wave a few rainbow flags. And guess who brought their checkbooks back to the party? That’s right, Sam Adams and Heineken. Sure, a few usual participants pulled out because of the decision, but whatever. Money can thaw even the coldest of hearts, no?

Why do gays want to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade? you may ask. Well isn’t a gay soldier’s service to this country just as real as anybody else’s? After all, bullets don’t discriminate. Besides, gays love a good parade!

Of course, I can’t help but think that some of the Allied War Veterans Council’s
hesitation to open the gay gates is a result of the Gay Pride parade. Shirtless, chiseled men in hot pants grinding atop garish floats blasting the beat of a techno pulse, drag queens on roller skates, butch, leather-covered lesbians astride roaring Harley-Davidsons, condoms raining down on the crowds like chocolate coins at a bar mitzvah – these are the things that a great Gay Pride parade is made of. And I wouldn’t want it any other way! So I supposed the old, white Mc’s and Os are under the impression that that’s how homosexuals act all the time. So by that logic, are we to assume that Irish Americans and those that turn out to celebrate them act like drunken, shamrock sunglass wearing, vomiting, and violent miscreants all the time?

But whatever the reason, their misconceptions or their bigotry, the Allied War Veterans Council has made it clear that we’re not welcome, but that enough money will make them grin and bare it. This has made a lot of people in this town very happy. It has also made a lot of people in this town very angry.

I personally don’t really give a shit. Fighting for equal rights is one thing, fighting for an invitation to a party where you aren’t wanted is not something I’m interested in. So to that end I say to the Allied War Veterans Council -  Thanks, but no thanks. I wouldn’t be caught dead at your obnoxious green puke fest. So you can blow my bagpipe.

Nevertheless, if they should ever decide that they would like to participate in our prideful brouhaha in June, I can guarantee that they will never be told that “Irish Need Not Apply”.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Riders

I've started playing around with Soundcloud. Hopefully soon I'll have some real recordings to put up there. But for now, shoddy demos will do. I recorded this on an old Tascam 4 track.

The Riders

They rode from the east to descend in the west
The melody from their trumpets was astounding
And their faces were awash with the sins I had done
My head, it kept on a poundin'
And I knew that my time could be counted to the minutes
For the bells of Saint Stephen's were sounding

And the riders closed in around me like the bars of a cage
As red rolled and thundered from behind
And low and behold I's caught 'neath their blades
Yes, this was the way that I'd die
Yes, this was the way that I'd die

Imagine your ribcage growing tighter to hold you
As the air grows thin and vermillion
And your eyes are wide with regrets and goodbyes
And the beating of the drums is a building

Aye. The riders

And all you can do is reach out your hand
"Help me, brother! I'm burning!"
As the earth begins to crumble from where I stand
Watch the towers of industry overturning
Yes, man's house of cards is collapsing


The Queen Bee

For Jenn

Romeo and Juliette, not in love enough.
Sartre and Simone, not smart enough.
Martin and Lewis, not strange enough.
Abbott and Costello, not funny enough.
Barbie and Ken, not beautiful enough.
Barnum and Baily, not entertaining enough.
Cesar and Cleopatra, not powerful enough.
Baskin and Robbin's, not delicious enough.
Tweedledee and Tweedledum, not similar enough.
Chang and Eng, not close enough.

But like Siegfried and Roy or Sony and Cher,
Diva and The Queen were meant to cross paths
just as sure as Hollywood and Vine.

Happy Birthday, fruitcake. I am nothing without you.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Philosopher's Quick Start Guide

Do I move freely, or am I freely moved?  Are these my thoughts, or are they my commands?

Anyone who's ever had a dream knows how hard it is to make it.  And though they say you'll never have that dream, you still can't bring yourself to forsake it.

Is the dream just a desire of mine, or am I the agent of the dream's desire?

Anyone who's ever been in love knows how easily it can control you.  And when that love ever cuts you deep, you know there are seldom any words that can console you.  And though they tell you you'll never hold that love, you know that that love will always hold you.

Is the love just an expression of me, or am I an expression of the love?  Is my heart working for me, or am I at work for my heart?

Anyone who's ever lost a friend knows how hard it is to let them go.  And if you've ever really lost a friend, it's most likely the hardest loss you'll ever know.

So did this life exist so that I might know my friend, or does it exist so that I might know the suffering that loss creates?  Are we here so that we may experience the intangibility of emotions, or are we here so that emotions can be made tangible?    

For example, am I the creator of these words, or am I just a vehicle through which these words are choosing to be delivered?  

Anyone who's ever turned the other cheek will know the sting of humiliation.  And if you've ever really turned the other cheek, you know the harness that is frustration.

Is the frustration the intended result of such an action, or does such an action just result in my frustration?  

Anyone who's ever fought a demon knows that they aren't easily overcome.  And if you've ever really fought a demon, you know it's the demon who's ultimately won...

Am I a man infected with a demon, or am I a demon that's burdened with the body of a man?  

Am I meant to forever wonder, or am I meant to one day understand?

Does life test me or am I a test of life?  Some experiment in confliction; some study in both pleasure and pain; a marker by which to measure the threshold bordering what we call "abnormality" and what we label "sane".  

Am I just moving through this world, or is this world just moving me through?    

I honestly don't know.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Private Dancer

On a boring afternoon in October, 2011.  "Do your Tina Turner impersonation, Charles!"