review: bill callahan ‘apocalypse’ film tour

Bill Callahan showed up in my city last night with a filmmaker named Hanly Banks, who had filmed Bill on his Apocalypse tour last summer and made a documentary about it. They showed the film outside on a giant inflatable screen that looked like a moonbounce. This was behind an art gallery in the heart of the city. Trees grew out of the surrounding abandoned buildings. Literally out of the walls. Given time and an absence of interference, nature always trumps concrete and brick. Think how beautiful that could be. A local brewery served beer. I was there with my friends. After the movie, Hanly Banks answered awkward audience questions, such as “Did Bill’s laid-back nature help offset the mundane aspects of touring?” And “Do you feel that how you captured Bill’s personality in the film is how he really is in person?” Not that I’m one to talk. I sometimes obsess in a similar manner over writers, just not so unabashedly. I cultivate my obsessions secretly. Jung would likely not approve.

I’d never been to the art gallery before and when I looked it up on the internet the map made it unclear which side of the street it was on. When I arrived in the vicinity, I crossed the street to the other side, thinking it was over there because of the grassy lot that looked appealing for movie-watching. Then I turned around and looked across the street and saw Bill Callahan moving around inside a storefront. Bingo.

After the film, Bill played a few songs. He joked that he’d been hoping for more screen time in the film. He also mentioned a strange object he’d seen in the sky a few minutes before, like a fixed light, but with a body is what he said. It was probably Foxtrot, I thought to myself. After his third song, he said good night. People kept yelling for an encore, but I knew he wouldn’t be back. Five bucks for a film and three songs was a good deal. I was content.

The film made me think about how many non-zomblobbies there are in this country, doing their things, just trying to make their way in the world. It lifted the bleak veil a bit and let me peek through to the golden light. But then there was everyone with their devices, so frantic to capture this moment as it was occurring. Why can’t they just sit back and enjoy the show. Why with the constant recording of everything that happens around them. When you watch it later, you think, “there i am with my device, recording that guy on stage and updating my status to reflect how much fun i am having.” [Note to self: stop thinking about this]

But the golden light, remember the golden light. And now these intoxicating scents fill the space around me. I drowse into a trance of sensual overload…Labradford’s feedback washes onto the shore of a delicate lack of sleep, coming rain foretold in the shaking cottonwood leaves, rare essential oils pungent and desirous unravel me…and I am gone, like Rumi, on a visit to the elsewhere from whence my soul comes. Or…maybe I’m only going downstairs…


I’m back from The Great State of Texas, inspiration for much fine cinema and home of many fine musicians, such as this fellow (one of whose college friends I ate lunch across from last Saturday [see, Texas is not always as big as it seems]) and this other guy (note: not a native Texan). I have photos to share but it will take me some time to organize a photo post. In the meantime, the new issue of Vine Leaves has appeared, with my vignette “Silver Jean” printed within its digital pages. Travel photos to follow soon!

my ideals involve observing sleeping raccoons

One day in Maine, I walked to the edge of the bluff upon which sat the house where we were staying.  Straight ahead was the sea.  Also straight ahead and slightly to the left was a tall tree about 30 feet away or so.  Just below my eye level was a hole in that tree.  And in that hole a raccoon was sleeping.  After discovering this, I took it upon myself to check on this raccoon every chance I got.  Sometimes all I saw was a patch of fur in the hole.  Another time I spotted the raccoon about to enter the hole.  It paused, looking out at me with a guilty expression, as if it had been caught red-handed.  I gradually realized that it was not going to crawl into its hole with me staring at it, and so I discreetly moved away.  The final time I saw that raccoon, it was lying on its back in the hole, its head sticking out and tossed back like that of an old man dozing in an overstuffed armchair. Its mouth slightly agape, I could almost hear it softly snoring from where I stood.  Not a bad life, I thought.

It’s forever a balance, the hours we stare at pixelated images and the hours we don’t.  I’m always on the run from this monitor, even as I sit in front of it.  And I guess this song keeps meaning different things to me, since this is the second time it’s come up here.

I can’t be held responsible for the things I say
For I am just a vessel in vain
And I can’t be held responsible for the things I see
For I am just a vessel in vain

No boat out on no ocean
No name there on no hull
And it’s not a strain at all to remember
Those that I’ve left behind
They’re all standing right here beside me now
And most of them with a smile

My ideals have got me on the run
Towards my connection with everyone
My ideals have got me on the run
It’s my connection with everyone

Such free reign
For a vessel in vain

gargling truth serum

Never swallow, never swallow, but keep that golden truth serum swirling around in your mouth. That way it can become anything you want. A brilliant answer to a dusty question, a missing piece to a bruised and broken puzzle, a misplaced passion found again. Passed by the stairs at the top of this page again a day or so ago. Stairs to the future…stairs to wildness…stairs out of this purgatory. Traveling through the woods with my avian friends…walking the Mason-Dixon trail…coulda kept walking and walking and never stopped. There was no real reason to stop. The birds just kept singing and they just kept moving, and I just kept moving with them, ticking them off as I went. The water was there, too. And the sky. And the trees. The ground below my feet felt good. Everything felt good and right and I felt alive. I felt so good, high on the experience of being where I was and nowhere else at that moment. Something extraordinary seeking to burst out from inside…seeds laid to rest on bare soil and rising toward the warm sun. Rich feeling pervades for mere moments, gulp enough to sustain another few days, few weeks, few months. Don’t wanna be the second-guesser anymore…don’t want to renege, reinterpret, revisit, re- anything. Just clearing the path, one heavy stone at a time….all we can do, all we know to do.

morbidly beautiful

“Permanent Smile” by Bill Callahan (aka Smog) is one of the more powerful songs about death that I’ve heard. I couldn’t find a video of him performing it on the YouTubes, and reading the lyrics alone doesn’t do the song its full justice, but here they are anyway…

Oh God, can you feel the sun in your back?
Oh God, can you see your shadow, inky black on the sand?
Oh God, can you hear the saltwater drying on your skin?
Oh God, can you feel my heart beating in my tongue?

Oh God, by being quiet, I hope to alleviate my death
Oh God, by sitting still, I hope to lighten your load
When your shadow covers me from head to toe
Curtain every flies, tell me it’s mine, my time to go

Seven waves of insects make babies in, in my skin
Seven waves of insects make families in my skin
(It’s just like animals) It’s just like animals that play
And the flesh…flesh…flesh…rotted off my skull
And then I will have earned my permanent, my permanent smile

Oh God, I never, never asked why
Oh God, I never, never asked why

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