Entry 0107: The Collector of Records

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7-inch: If I Should Fall From Grace With God by the Pogues

1988 Pogue Mahone Records FG-1, Red

Favorite Track: If I Should Fall From Grace With God

 

When he finished hanging the nine records in a grid pattern opposite his dining room table, he sighed, placed his hands over his eyes, and groaned loudly. He uncorked the bottle of Malbec and poured a deep drink, knowing this was a full bottle night. Unconsciously, he had ordered the nine albums from the start of the relationship right to the break up. The very freakin’ album that was playing when Sandra stormed out the door. He had made a tapestry of his misery.

When she finished hanging the nine records in a grid pattern opposite her bed, she sobbed once, fought back the anger, and curled up inside her favorite blanket. With deft precise, she sliced off the label of a Tempranillo and poured a heavy glass, understanding this most likely was going to end up as a full bottle night. Unconsciously, she had ordered the nine break-up albums in order from first relationship (Tommy: high school: ended via text) to her last (Grant: the last five years: February 12 in Grant’s old apartment). She had made a snapshot of her sorrow.

Grant took the first album down and put it on his player. Rubber Soul by the Beatles. How funny one night at trivia, an offhand comment about the different tracks on the UK and US versions of Rubber Soul could actually start a full-blown relationship? At the moment, a sickly sensation surging up from his stomach and making his skin feel cold, he dreamed of keeping his mouth shut. Denying the five years a chance before they were born. What would have his life been like?

She placed the first album on the platter and hit the on button. Then back to the wine for another glass. She settled down with her blanket on her bed as the needle scratched through some dust and began the opening track of Blondie’s Parallel Lines. He had kind eyes, a warm touch, and always had the other boys laughing at the lunch table. His kiss was lackluster and most of the time he hardly paid attention to her words, then later when Gina McDavid, the new girl, came along, her affections. At the best the relationship felt like a roller coaster, but at worst it was a roller-skating party, full of spills, falls, and running into old people. Where was he at this moment and was he the exact same as he had been?

The second album was Grant’s favorite, but he hated to admit to himself that it was all about the sex. One Track Mind (by Egyptian Lover) indeed. They couldn’t wait to touch each other, launching out of their stiff dreams into a passionate embrace that spilled them over the sides as their nakedness warmed with the rising sun and each other’s immediate contact. Afternoons on days off were the best: wrapped around each other on the couch reading or chatting about future plans, only for his intrepid cock to rise to the occasion again and off they were moaning filthy pleasure and forgetting the clock. Already halfway through the first bottle, Grant held back the tears. Looking down, he saw that he was erect.

Sandra’s second boyfriend was short lived. The only good thing Brad did was introduce her to punk rock. Group Sex by the Circle Jerks was as short, violent, and scathing as their three week hell. Tommy had been in puppy dog love with Gina for three weeks now, never missing an opportunity to kiss her in front of Sandra. He never winked at her and almost always seemed embarrassed, yet she was sure it was done on purpose. Brad was just a dark leather jacket nearest her the time it got to her. She grabbed Brad, forcing her mouth to open his, slithering her tongue in like a dart. She tasted beer even though Brad was only fifteen. Her virginity would be lost by midnight.

Two songs into the third album, he wasn’t sure if the self-titled Undertones album was the right choice. He knew that “I Know a Girl”‘s breezy, simplistic guitar work captured his own rather narrow but happy enthusiasm about Sandra, but was everything really peachy keen during that first year? Their friends said they were the “perfect couple”, yet none of them seemed to pick up either Sandra’s or his fears. After all, didn’t he at one time believe she cheated on him with Russell, the stranger they met at the art museum who claimed to be her long lost first kiss? Grant never voiced the doubt. He just trembled every night for two sleepless weeks. Surely, Sandra had her own doubts. When she surprised him at the office and Katie was there, he saw dangerous eye contact. Grant turned the record off before the A-side was down.

Tago Mago by Can. A double album for a duplicitous relationship. At first, she was carried away by the complex rhythms of Ivan’s wandering lifestyle. He pulled her through worlds she had never witnessed before: movie sets, garrulous agents, flashing photographers, stunning magazine models, Italian sports cars, rabid fans, and, even, the brutal dance performance of the matador. Before Ivan, she had never left her state, and now she had not only traveled to two dozen countries with him, but she caught the bug herself and replaced comics with travel guides. It was, on self-reflection, easy to become one his accessories, which she in her gullibility  became. His confidence was never tested, his will to continue doing what he did unfazed by any of her questions. Everyone always asked her how she did not know that he slept with his secretary, the models (male and female), the director’s assistant, the Macy’s girl, a few from various pubs around London, and even his sister’s best friend, Matilda. Sandra could only point to the A-bomb explosion of “Mushroom”. She didn’t know. Or she didn’t care to know.

Grant filled up his glass, took his socks off and then put them back on when he realized how cold the floor was. The fourth LP wasn’t a mystery as to why it described the most difficult part of their relationship: the death of Sandra’s father. The album brooded in its own sadness, wallowing like a drowning horse in a murky, dank swamp. Each track secretly whispered: suicide, suicide, suicide. Grant wished he was listening to Suicide instead, or, hell, even Tim Buckley’s Starsailor. The album wasn’t even his; it was Sandra’s. She must have left it behind because she knew he would do this: catalog their life together in music and this album was the only way to describe 2016. Which was like her. She could always see through his fake indifferent face and tell when he was hiding something. Then, with a simple gesture or sentence or look, she could extract the confession with ease. However, during 2016, when he needed to get inside her head, he found all his attempts useless. She remained impassive, a stricken bundle of dirty clothes and ruined make-up. He shuddered when he flipped the record over to Side-B. The latter half of the year was even worse. Grant just wished he could forget it.

22. The Rolling Stones concert. Sandra had met Adam a few days before at a trivia night competition. He was brought in because of his extensive knowledge of literature, which netted them five points for Tom Wolfe being dressed in all-white for a magazine cover and the final bonus question, which he singularly answered the locations for five novels. He smiled too much and seemed too eager, but he had an extra ticket and seemed a little wounded. Sandra didn’t realize how wounded she was from Ivan. The Stones were better than she gave credit for, but it also may have been Adam’s primo weed. He put his hand around her waist during “Brown Sugar” and she let him feel a little ass. He tried to kiss her before getting in the car, but she put a finger to his lips, gave a coy smile, and made him drive her all the way home before she blew him to his immediate satisfaction. Maybe it was a control thing, she thought later when Adam tried to bring up the subject of sex–she certainly dangled it in front of him, but often never let him have it. Her dreams were filled with Ivan’s rough hands and she was certain that Adam would never understand. A year into the relationship, he surprised her with a gift, his first as they often talked about how nerve-wracking buying gifts in relationships were: Aftermath by the Rolling Stones. Sandra flipped it over to side B, a little too nervous to hear “I am Waiting”–a song Adam played relentlessly the second and briefest year of their relationship. Words choked her throat as part of her past she blocked out returned to her. She had always suspected him of listening to “I am Waiting” because he was cheating on her. He wasn’t, but she was cheated on him.

Sandra snapped up in alert one morning and squeezed against him. It was a warmer sense of bodily contact since the death of her father. She didn’t need a hug, or silence, or someone to listen, or encouragement. She needed him. It was brief, but it lifted a heavy stone from his chest and, well, his testicles. Each morning, she returned to him: clouds lifting away from her green eyes like a leaving fog; the corners of her mouth turning up; a trip to the museum which lead to the symphony which lead to a three-day vacation in the woods; the strange obsession with the Cramps. So album five naturally had to be Songs the Lord Taught Us. There was a spontaneous burst of sexual activity, even more than when they first met. Each track reminded him of a specific time: “TV Set” doggy-style on the couch to a midnight creature feature; “”Rock on the Moon” her on top with her billowing red hair framed by the eclipsing moon; “Garbageman” interrupted by a knock on the door; “I Was a Teenage Werewolf” again outside in the Jewish cemetery down the road (which he still felt a little guilty about but they were pressed up against a tree, not a grave); “Sunglasses After Dark” a threesome with a drunk blonde from the bar that taught him a thing about his prostate gland and ice cubes; “The Mad Daddy” when a morning bout ended up with her sobbing–the death of her father returning to mind; “Mystery Plane” when they couldn’t get away with joining the Mile High Club on a flight to Chicago, but play-acted it in the Hotel room’s shabby bathroom; “Zombie Dance” where both of them went through the motion after a bottle of wine; “What’s Behind the Mask” the most epic Halloween night of his life; “Strychnine” more a fingering and heavy petting during an acid trip; “I’m Cramped” a failed attempt which left him washing the bedsheets at three in the morning; and “Tear it Up” when they both lost buttons to their favorite clothes. When Songs the Lord Taught Us finished, Grant opened up another bottle of wine.

Seeing the Stones in concert and had brought Sandra to a ’60’s music phase. At times, she suspected she was chasing her indifferent father through each album, catching coattails of his personality, his tastes, and, perhaps, his penchant for psychedelic drugs and free love. Sandra herself considered free love. Why entomb yourself with a person whose love for you will only die or become hatred? She saw what happened to her parents and she remembered being five years old and aware she was uncomfortable and sad, but couldn’t further explain away the despondent feelings. But Adam wanted nothing to do with free love; he had eyes only for her he said over and over. When Carl came along to the bar one night and he began expounding on the influence of American jazz on the French and the Argentinian cultures, all while wearing that flippant smile, a Moody Blues T-Shirt, and that wet, shiny, carefree ponytail of his, Sandra found herself holding his callused hand (because of course he played guitar) underneath the table. Adam was in a sour mood that day–his work had become increasing erratic with the promotion of a co-worker–and he decided to dip out after one drink. Carl, Sandra, and Lily stayed until closing. Lily left with a pool hustler with a gold tooth and the swagger of a man about to get laid. Carl kissed her the minute Lily turned her back. Sandra hadn’t feel this much love in years. It was almost like falling in love for the first time all over again: that precious delicate moment when your childhood erases itself with the thudding of your heart and a lascivious flash through the mind and body. But afterwards, wrapped in Carl’s arms in his gross bachelor pad, Sandra could only think about Adam. The reasons she was with him came back hard and fast. But she found she couldn’t resist the temptation of Carl. A line from Blood on the Tracks–her fifth choice–came to her mind almost thirty seconds before it came out of the speakers: “And when finally the bottom fell out / I became withdrawn / The only thing I knew how to do / Was to keep on keeping on like a bird that flew / Tangled up in blue.” Carl was more like a color, an abstraction, a maze to get lost in and to mess up. Once again, she considered she was just chasing her father, but did she even know if he really cheated on her mother? Then Adam found out. There is no album for that. Tonight, Sandra sang to herself her favorite track of the album, crying when she mouthed: “If she’s passin’ back this way, I’m not that hard to find / Tell her she can look me up if she’s got the time.”

The vacation. Grant was pretty sure he did something here, well actually he did something in Paris that was the beginning of the end. C’est Chic: French Girl Singers of the 1960’s was a breezy romp through the catchy pop tunes of the revolutionary times. Sandra was a fan of those bizarre directors who seemed more interested in cutting-up film to make political statements (Godard) or using pulpy crime noir as a means to espouse cafe philosophy (Truffaut, Melville, Malle). She bought this record as a surprise gift to him, explaining he didn’t seem interested in the trip, or in anything, until he understood its music. Sandra went on to say she just found it sexy. Grant remembered them pouring over maps, leafing through museum websites, Google searching landmarks and bookstores, and eating plenty of pastries and drinking more than enough overpriced red blends. For all the bohemian nature of Sandra, Grant never understood why she did not just want to fly over there and explore, discover whatever they happen to stumble upon. But she was insisted that they plan everything, as if in the very process of planning they could visit half the tourist spots and then be able to skip past them when on actual French soil. Grant had to admit, about a week before the trip, he wanted to cancel. A band previously broken up for almost twenty years was reunited. The only chance he had to see them (they were volatile enough to maybe not even make the 12-city tour in its entirety) was smack dab in the middle of the trip. He knew it was a mistake when he brought it up. That night he stayed up until three in the morning while she snored on the couch, looking up the perfect apartment to rent in the Latin Quarter. This surprise had seemed to do wonders. And then they arrived at De Gaulle airport and quickly things began to unravel. They had trouble buying a phone and then the instructions were only in French. They took the wrong train and spend two and a half hours trying to find their way back to the other side of the Seine. Their first night’s dinner was spectacular and has they pressed their longing lips together in the shade of the tree in the Jardin, Grant forgot the troubles of the day for one lingering moment. The next morning, Sandra seemed distant. She kept returning to the Mona Lisa, staring at it from all different angles, pushing people out of the crowd with her elbows, fuming, then setting off for the Egyptian Wing only to turn around and come back. Finally, as they were leaving, he asked her. Her reply: “It seems too small.”

The seventh relationship was foggy but the album was not. Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks always rang as clear as a church bell on a cloudless summer Sunday. Van Morrison’s vocal delivery sent pulses and waves cresting along her ear canals, brain lobes, and spine. From the opening track–a hypnotic drugged feeling–to the sweet release of the closer, Sandra danced in dirty white socks and her pants halfway undone. Because she could not really remember Nicholas–a beanstalk with curly red hair or was he the broad-shouldered beast with the shiny blond hair?–she found herself just enjoying the music with no associations, even starting to formulate ideas that Astral Weeks was created specifically for her by a secret lover, or, now wine drunk, by a young (and more handsome according to her standards) Van Morrison himself. It even dawned on her how much she was tainted her own taste in music by hanging albums up defined by relationships–by boys! What good was that? How would she truly see herself if she limited her perspective through the filters of the men that barely understood her, hurt her, or ignored her? She–like all the other women out there–needed their own song, their own individual power. She held hers now. No wait, she dropped the wine glass, but she would not fall to her knees and sob into the stained carpet even though she wanted to not because she had ruined the beige apartment carpet that felt like small rocks under her bare feet, but because she had wasted a copious amount of good wine, and was she so sure it was her idea to cry over spilled alcohol or did she fear her friends would rib and tease her relentlessly for wasting a good portion of Syrah, but at age twenty-seven, wasn’t this the only time where it was appropriate to cry over lost alcohol? Did Nicholas ever cry? She was nodding her head at herself in the mirror. Her cheeks were rosy she noticed. Yes, Nicholas cried and the sight of his tears had made Sandra feel embarrassed more than anything. She was Nicholas’s first girlfriend and she had to push aside the ugly thought that it was pity more than love that brought them together. Nicholas and his tears and his musical taste in acoustic rocker chicks, ambient snoozedom, and Van Morrison. God, so much Van Morrison. Was this is album or did she buy it after she broke up with him? Why would she do that? But what girl hasn’t done something stupid because of a man? Why did some of them wedge into the very core of your being like a metal splinter and why are some of them so on the peripheral that they may have well been spectacular comets or barren moons? She retreated from the mirror and looked down at the purple bruise on her floor. She almost missed Nicholas now for he didn’t even feel like a ghost–the way thoughts of Brad still made her flinch. Nicholas was free, carried away by invisible winds, roaming in search of love or perhaps settled down and anchored in warmth and companionship. She was too, she realized, yet she still felt a prisoner. Just like wine in a bottle, waiting to be poured forth.

 

*I’m on a crazy writing schedule this week, trying to do 500 words every day. I will return to this story. Check back soon!

 

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Entry 0102: The Mythic Thief

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LP: Chelsea by Chelsea

2015 Daily Records, DAY.07VS, reissue

Favorite Track: Decide

 

Last night, after a boisterous concert, I crashed on the couch of my friend’s cold living room. The cool air must have acted upon my imagination because I had one of the most vivid dreams in my lifetime. Plus, the dream was a completely thought out and intricate plot unlike the typical dream logic where walking through walls is normal. It also involved a ridiculous romantic subplot, but I will get to that later.

The dream had a title: The Mystic Thief. It has a title because it is a novel I wrote. It begins during the end of the Regency era of British history, but the Victorian era that is emerging is much more advanced in technology and cruelty. From the common people to certain royals, people have fallen in love secretly with a censored book called The Mystic Thief. When people read the book, they are sent to a sensual fantasy game world where everyone lives out their wildish inner desires: heroes rescuing damsels in distress; damsels saving heroes in distress; sexual freedom; murderous revenge; etc. But the main goal of the game is to learn who the Mystic Thief is. The Mystic Thief is treated as if a god.

The problem is if you are caught playing/reading The Mystic Thief, you are horribly punished. Men and women are locked into high-tech iron maidens that cut off and grind up genitals that are sucked out of a clear tube protruding from the front of the maiden, so every one watching knows what is it store for them if they think about playing. Then there is the Emerald Maiden: saved for the most dangerous of thought criminals that has rumored to have never been used or used once on King George the III.

The protagonist of the dream successfully learns who the Mystic Thief is. The Mystic Thief is a god who steals time, controls fate, is both the cause and effect. It is herself, the reader of the book. She is caught and put in the Emerald Maiden where she hallucinates. It is there that the readers of my book are confronted with a mirror. They are Mystic Thieves too.

This book becomes so popular, it is turned into a movie. I am invited to the movie premiere and take my nephew Miles along. It is in the lobby of a grand movie theatre that I run into the star of the film, Emma Watson. She is beautifully dressed and I compliment her on it all the while wanting to flee to some cave when Miles asked me who I am talking to. I answer “Hermione” and he goes all-kid mode and demonstrates her casting spells, making her laugh and causing me to blush. Then she shakes hands and when I reach out with my right hand, I spot her checking my left hand for a ring. This little action gives me the confidence to smoothly ask her on a date and she agrees.

Then I woke up.

And there is no movie coming out about a book I have never wrote and Emma Watson is certainly not waiting for me somewhere. Also note that I find it weird that my brain picked Emma Watson as I normally are not drawn to actors and I’ve seen her in movies since she was 11. Then again, nothing was really normal about that dream anyways.

Now will I actually write this novel? I find the reveal to be a little gimmicky, but maybe when I start writing it, I will change what happens instead of following the plot of my dream. But as Shakespeare said, “A dream itself is but a shadow.”

Entry 0099: Campfire Tales Re-Write

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LP: Public Image (First Issue) by Public Image Limited

1978 Virgin Records, V2114

Favorite Track: Public Image

 

For this entry, I am going to take one of my previous blog entries and add elements from the library and see what happens.

 

“There’s a man in the woods…”

The recoil from the rifle shot still reverberated through the hollow with a rumbling decrescendo. Sparks snapped into the air, dancing and swirling through thick clouds of smoke. The 796.5 Club’s annual retreat to the Gorge was just settling down for the night. The five librarians sat on uneven stones more or less making a circle with a small gap on the sinister side. Two or three of them had glasses of amber liquid in their hands while the tallest boy dragged on a medicinal herb and passed it to the boy with the most spaced-out eyes.

He said, “The Federal Reserve is involved with five conspiracies. They got their hands on money. They got their hands on time. They got their hands on the work force. They got their hands on the government. They got their hands on space.”

The newcomer gave him a stern expression which immediately broke into a grin. She adjusted the shawl wrapped around her lilac sweater, mumbled about needing a heavier coat, and threw some dry sticks into the flame. “Is it always this cold when you go on this trip? I think the last time I was in the Gorge, it was a hundred degrees. Much more to my liking. And why is it called the 796.5 Club?”

The other woman answered, “That’s Dewey’s classification for camping. It was his dumb idea.”

Unaware he was being pointed at, the boy with the spaced-out eyes inhaled for several seconds, then continued his thoughts just as unaware that they were being vocalized, “There are wizards roaming our libraries They are profiting on selling time and distributing money that gets you high…”

“There’s a man in the woods…”

The tallest boy arched his head back to take in the stars. They were crawling around again, a fuzzy matrix of possible routes through different universes. For a moment, he wished they would just make up their collective mind and freeze in place so he could assign them names in case he ever had to ask them for future advice. When he shifted his head back down to the fire, the stars came with him, showering him in a silvery waterfall.

The youngest member of the club spoke to those who seemed to be listening. The uneven growth on his cheeks and chin partially concealed his baby face, but his soft voice and large eyes betrayed his underage status. “I’ve got a woman in my life now. Met her at karaoke at the Crepe Underground. Lovely nature, a kind soul, albeit a tad garrulous. I think I’ve only gotten two sentences in, which is probably why she is still dating me…”

The light illuminated about five feet from the fire so the cabin and most of the birch and oak trees were hidden in the darkness. Most of their faces were cast in flickering shadows, only a large nose, the whites of teeth, or elongated neck were visible. Someone swallowed some liquid. A waft of sweetness tinged the air.

“I should go back to the cabin,” the newcomer said against pleas for reconsideration. After adjusting her shawl again–it had became entangled with her long graying hair–she paused looking at the bottle, face breaking out into that grin which was made sharp by the shape of her incisors, and drank straight from the uncapped lid. “So what does the 796.5 Club actually do? Sit around and listen to the warlock here blabber–”

“Oh, he’s always like this on the first night. It is like taking him out of the library sort of unhinges him. He can’t exist without doing intense research all day long. You know, he comes to the library two hours before opening just so he can root around the stacks and peek at books in the John Dee Restricted Room. Now this girl, on the other hand, I bet she never has been to the library before. She keeps asking me what book I read that day, blissfully unaware that I have missing lists, music requests, and piles of books with incorrect labels to fix…”

Examining the many rings on her fingers, the youngest woman did not hesitate to refill her glass from the bottle. Her lilting laugh sounded strained when another blast from the hunting rifle echoed from far off. She shook the blue bangs from her face and launched into her own narrative, “A large crack of lightning struck the tree fifty feet from me. Splintered the trunk in half. A piece of the bolt broke off and bounced toward me like a rolling sphere of jagged purple spikes. Came at me before my eyes could truly register what was happening, but I knew the hairs were standing up on my arms and I had instinctively stopped breathing the hot air…”

“Stop quoting all the literature you read. Always with the scientific phenomena, the mystical experiences, the weird. You probably saw your bathroom light bulb burst when you went to vomit after a night of heavy drinking. And now you are trying to pass it off like a zen koan. That’s why I normally don’t touch the stuff (indicating the bottle in her gloves) but since all of you seem contend with freezing to death and I couldn’t find the cabin in the dark…”

“It’s weird being in love again after losing it. First, it was discovering that I missed it. Missed being in love, I should say. Loneliness had became so consistent that it felt natural…”

The fire was raging now. The smoke grew thicker obscuring the five librarians from seeing each other. The boy with glasses added more unnecessary sticks to the fire. The tallest boy looked up at the stars again, trying to lick each one. The bearded boy whistled a love song about a girl with curly crimson hair. Another rifle crack thundered around the ridge like shifting ice.

“They make twice the profits because they sell the public library its own time to use their own business, but we librarians have to pay for the time using Wizard Bucks, which we have to buy from a different Federal Reserve wizard who is using the library’s own copy machine to make the Wizard Bucks. And the wizards aren’t affiliated with the library so they can pocket this double cash…”

“I should have been dead but the ball lightning exploded soundlessly before my eyes and in its place floated a will o’wisp. Just hovering and beckoning me so I trounced off into the forest, away from the fire, heading toward Star Gap Arch…”

“There’s a man in the woods…”

A gust of wind cleared some of the smoke before the boy with glasses threw on more wood. The tallest boy noticed their were four boys sitting around the camp. A cup of bourbon sat on a rock. No sonorous whistling fluttered in the air.

“You are always reading that pulp garbage. Monsters wearing human skin, alien devices that can extend your mind to the ends of the universe, impossible maths. I’ve always said you needed to become grounded in reality. Take a fucking science course. Rotate in the same directional orbit as the planet you are standing on. By the way, where the hell is that herb?”

“Oh, now I see you smoking. You are quick to pass judgment but then partake in the fun. Maybe your science is just as corrupted as my occultism. And ball lightning is a scientific fact…”

“These wizards sell us our own atmosphere. Each breath enriches them. When Congress tried to extend the length of a moment,  they embezzled our tax returns to bribe lobbyists…”

“I’m experimenting. You know I discovered something interesting in the John Dee Restricted Room. Your supernaturalism is just scientific poetry. If you can make sense of the Book of Obfuscating Codes, the author is coyly letting the reader know magic is just science wrapped in religion to give the “wizard” or “witch” power, control…”

“There’s a man in the woods…”

“Not everything is a formula or a sigil. We can theorize and prove how the universe came into existence, but we do not have a clue as to why. And magic is a way to learn what is happening on the inside of life or, possibly, beyond life…”

“The library’s mission is to actualize every single person. Not just in our county. The world over. But we can’t if we are being controlled by budgets, space restrictions, and access points. We have to liberate ourselves from the wizards. Dismantle them and their symbols of power. We do not need a Dewey Decimal System, we need Chaos Control…”

A wide shadow stretched over the camp, hovering over the puffs of smoke rising from burning embers, and landing on a branch right along the cliff side. The bird was big from the sound of its weight swaying the branch. The joint made it back to the tallest boy, who puffed on it while nervously fingering his skinny tie. The smoke mixed with the darkness made his vision hazy, each tongue of fire seemed to be an amber crystal fractal pattern stabbing the neon black sky like the claws of some fantastical dragon. He was distinctly aware there were only three librarians sitting around the fire now. He glanced in the direction of the cabin but none of its lights were on. Surely someone brought a flashlight or head lamp?

“There’s a man in the woods…”

“Remember that story you told me about the Thing? Not the John Carpenter movie, but from that weird guy. An amorphous creature that haunted kids at sleepovers, threw knives with deadly accuracy, but whose Achilles Heel was a silver knife? Kind of ironic, if the author spelled out that it was killing all those children with knives that could kill it, but he wrote prose like a swollen eggplant…”

“Yet you can’t fight them. You would have to ask them permission first and they will make you do all this paper work and you’ll just cut your wrist while they fill out another Requisition to Draw Swords…”

“He must have gone back to the cabin. I am glad he found Emily even if she does wear him out. He won’t admit how much he needs her. And after all he has gone through, it is nice to see a smile on his face. Am I talking about love? That’s enough experimenting for me or I’ll start waxing my theory about Spock and James T. Kirk…”

In the blackness of space, the diamond moon began to put itself to sleep. The boy with spaced-out eyes couldn’t find his mug anymore but found another cup of bourbon and finished the rest of the rust-colored contents. It tasted more bitter than he remembered, but another puff and he was right back among the wizards.

“Wait, where did you even go with your ridiculous stories? You know I was kidding right? Always so sensitive. I like Poe and Machen and even Derleth can set a dark, unsettling atmosphere, but the woods are just woods. There are no monsters. There is no unspeakable evil out there in the beyond, watching and waiting.”

“Is the public library even real? Maybe we are all patients in an asylum and our neuroses and disorders have made half of us pretend to enjoy organizing chaos and the other half to linger all day in a vast warehouse of knowledge and not want to touch a single tome. That would explain 99.9% of the reference desk shifts…”

The silence was thick enough to breath like smoke, however, no one had added wood in quite a while. The pile could last them another night, perhaps two if they were crafty. The logs that had roasted for the longest began to split into fat square embers spitting sparks with pops and crackles at an insistent rate. Rubbing his spaced-out eyes underneath his glasses, he tossed the finished joint into the flames. Sitting alone, he realized that none of the cabin’s lights were on. He couldn’t even tell if he was facing True North. His desk at the public library seemed far away. He longed for the research he kept locked in the upper drawer. Not that it would do him good here in the woods where even the rifle shots had stopped. Fear crawled intolerably slowly through his body as if something was really touching him with some paralyzing caress. There were real horrors out there. He had proof but not truth. Just an indication and, in many ways, that was more terrifying than ball lightning or lost love…

“There’s a man in the woods…”

As the diamond moon sunk so did the embers extinguish themselves. The tallest boy stood above the other boy, wiping the blade of a knife on his maroon-stained skinny tie. A vast shape danced in front of his face, eyes twinkling in stark, utter chaos.

 

 

 

Entry 0098: Haunted Library Story?

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EP: Halloween/Escape from New York themes by John Carpenter

2016 Sacred Bones Records SBR156

Favorite Track: Halloween theme

 

I’ve been asked to write a short story that includes libraries so I am going to use this blog entry to play around with some ideas. If anyone was asking how I come up with story ideas, this is how: I just start writing and see where it goes. Later, I’ll think about it (maybe) and throw out the crap, keep the good, and keep on writing, repeating this process as many times as needed or until sick of the tale.

John heard about the ghost in the stacks on his first day of work. It was the same tale he heard when he started working at Alden Library in Ohio and the same at the main branch in Buffalo. As the cataloging librarian told the tale (with extra emphasis on the old card catalog still found on A stack), John had to bite back a bit of sarcasm. Librarians were intelligent, crafty, and curious, but a strange streak of superstition invaded the profession like a stain on an asylum wall. In Buffalo, Ruby the children’s librarian read Where the Wild Things Are backwards every Bills game day. John heard at an ALA conference about a director who covered his naked body with dewey decimal numbers before boarding planes.

Of course, John believed he lived a more pragmatic lifestyle. One of the main library missions was to assist its users with education. There was no room to spread false rumors, poorly researched health articles, and certainly nothing about ghosts–humankind’s silliest fear from the olden days. So, naturally, it annoyed John to no end that this library had two rare book rooms: The Pierce Grayson’s Rare Books and Antiquities located on the climate-controlled third floor and the unmentioned one none of the patrons knew about down in the stacks, sometimes colorfully referred to as the Dead Room, that held all the occult literature. A waste of the taxpayers money, John thought about the Dead Room, but he didn’t dare voice that opinion. Everyone he worked with was in love with it. They constantly quoted John Dee and Madame Blavatsky and the Victorium Witches Handbook, the only supposed copy in America.

John had left for the day when, at home just about to open a bottle of pinot, he realized he forgot to set up the holiday display at the reference desk. He had learned real fast that everyone in Melas took Halloween very seriously and the Halloween display was revered by the whole community. John groaned. Tomorrow would be the busiest day of the year and he was feeling rather burned out. It didn’t help that his ex-girlfriend just told him she was seeing a distant friend. He signed corking the wine bottle but knowing he would stay up an hour later than normal to drink half of it when he returned. Putting on his jacket, John walked briskly through the fallen maroon leaves. The brittle crunching attracted the curiosity of a beady-eyed rat, who sniffed a couple of times at John, but returned to the warmth of the dilapidated building it came from.

The door opened without noise and immediately John noticed a lamp on in the back office. Adam probably left it on again. He was rather absent-minded and always in a rush to run to his hippie girlfriend. John hung his jacket on the coat rack and walked around the art installation–a nine-foot tall spider made out of painted soup cans. The eyes were Campbells and they seemed to follow him as John began to feel an eerie dread prickling the back of his mind. Damn, am I really going to get superstitious now? he thought and then laughed. No, he just had a lot of his mind and he was letting the stress get to him. When he got to the reference desk, he found the Halloween display already up. Books with ghastly illustrations, scary soundtracks, and videotapes of Vincent Price and Boris Karloff were arranged in a kindof spider web pattern. John froze, pondering. Perhaps Adam put it up, he thought then dismissed the idea. Adam was lazy and probably sat on the computer face-timing his lady. Maybe Barb? John was about to turn around and leave when he remembered that Barb was on vacation.

Icy shock ran through his body. For a moment, John was positive he heard a terrifying humming–an unearthly noise made of nonhuman vibrations. It’s just my heart, he told himself. He went into his office to check the schedule. Somebody remembered to put it up, that’s all, no big deal and other pathetic attempts of calming himself crowded his mind, making him more anxious. The schedule added to the growing dread: only Adam and John worked today.

Maybe I put it up without realizing it, John thought, at least, it is done so I can go home and forget everything over a bottle and a fire…

He went back to look at the display just to make sure his eyes weren’t fooling him. It was there, but the center piece was missing. Spiderfeast was a book written by the town’s founder, Viktor Leitfield. In it, he claimed that Melas was built to worship the spiderqueen Shebboth, or so the rumors say. The book was bound tightly in thick, white cords resembling spider silk and nobody had opened the book in close to two hundred years. It was kept in the Dead Room.

John sighed and fetched the key from his desk. That’s when he heard the scuttling of a million tiny legs.

Entry 0091: Conan Strikes Again

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LP: Ace of Spades by Motorhead

1980 Mercury Records SRM-1-4011

Favorite Track: Ace of Spades

 

This has been an extremely busy summer for me, but it has been filled with special times. To top it off, everything I have been reading since June has been outstanding. V.E. Schwab captured my imagination with a swashbuckling adventure with A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows. Then Michael Moorcock’s Hawkmoon series was full of violent death, psychedelic imagery, and a sorrowful ending. I finished the first book in the Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon and started the second: what a beginning! Everything hinted at in the first book (i.e., magic, elves, gnomes, larger world building) comes flying right out of the gate and has me reading much faster than the first book. M.R. James has been keeping me up with his ghosts.

And then we come to Conan the Cimmerian. Two more spoiling reviews below:

“The God in the Bowl” – 3 out of 5 broken skulls

Robert E. Howard

This story almost got 2 broken skulls, but I bumped it up one for some fantastic images at the end of the story. The weakest aspect of this story is the locked room murder mystery framework it is told in. A curator dead! Conan the prime supsect! The night watchman and magistrate standing around interrogating the barbarian and each other! The premise is amusing enough to be hilarious, but the tone is too serious. Also, the real murderer is pretty damn obvious from the start. Had Howard used this opportunity to explore primitive or feudal justice systems, had Conan moved to jail, stand trial, interact with different levels of the judicial system then the atmosphere and environment of the story may have been better. Instead, we get some mediocre dialogue and some blind to the obvious guards.

However, we do get some interesting world building and a hint at the conflicts between nations. The sarcophagus was sent from Stygia–a place Conan has not visited yet that I am vastly excited to see happen. But the saving grace of the story is Howard’s descriptions of the giant bowl and its engravings and the final conflict between Conan and the murderer. Needless to say, the Lovecraft influence is still touched upon these stories and I’m curious to see if they will stay that way or turn toward more typical hack’n’slash.

“Rogues in the House” – 4 out of 5 broken skulls

While reading this story, I wished I had kept a Conan kill count. His sword has tasted much blood at this point. This story is similar to other Conan tales: Conan goes a-plundering, meets people, dodges traps, and slays anyone he can. However, this one puts a magnifying lens on its characters: Conan, Murilo the aristocrat, and the Red Priest, Nabonidus. At first, Conan is the rogue–Murilo attempting to free him from prison to serve his bidding. Then the Red Priest is the rogue for his strange house, rituals, and using the king. But, at last, Murilo admits his own rogue behaviors, being forced to admit he sells state secrets to other cities. It’s some nice introspection some of the other Conan stories lack. I easily could have spent more time with these characters.

But the stars of this story are Thak and the Red Priest’s traps. Thak is the Red Priest’s servant–a grotesque half-evolved man with more cunning intelligence than giving credit for. Which is why the Red Priest gets knocked unconscious and thrown into the basement while Thak runs around in his red cloak. He disposes of most of the challenges he faces and provides to be Conan’s toughest enemy in combat by far, however, he is slain. Conan admits he did not kill a beast, but a man–due to some barbarian battle honor. Which makes an interesting question: most of society (at least the rich represented by the Red Priest and Murilo) look down on Thak and especially believe him to be stupid, but Conan’s morality is based upon strength and combat which Thak is strong in. Whose view of Thak is correct, or more-correct? Is Thak a rogue as well?

Then there are the DnD-styled traps. Oh, I love when houses have secret passageways and hidden switches and poisonous gas clouds.This story is high fantasy approaching greatness.

Entry 0077: Well, I Never Thought I Would Own That

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EP: Procession by New Order

1981 Factory Records FAC.53

Favorite Track: Procession

 

Yesterday I was interviewed for the local paper about my record collection. The photo shoot was fantastic. I don’t have any desire to have a media presence but I am enthusiastic about records and how my collection came to be. After all, I just bought some records one day never realizing it would turn into a hobby or lifestyle or whatever it is that I’m doing. During the interview, I realized just how long I have been collecting for, how much it has become engrained into my weekly routine.

For the photo shoot, I got to pull out all of my precious rarities and first presses of punk and alternative music. One of them was a recent purchase–the orange version of Procession by New Order. I never thought I would own this 7-inch. I looked at this record on Discogs.com all the time, dreaming of which of the nine different colors I would discover at a record store. I even once almost bought it online. But the record remained elusive. Why would anyone sell it? The song is fantastic, the album cover iconic, and non-bootlegged Factory Records kind of a rarity these days. Maybe not super rare, but uncommon enough to be noticed by someone who record shops a lot.

How I found the record was typical record store shopping luck. I walked in and looked all around the basement. Found nothing worth buying. Hungry, I was about to leave when I decided to look at the new upstairs section for 7-inches. My eye scanned the wall and then froze. There it was in orange, one of my favorite versions of it. I laughed. But then I laughed harder when I got home.

While I was being interviewed, a story floated up from my subconsciousness but I didn’t have time to say it. But when you have a large collection like mine, you forget what you have and there is always a special day when you realize you are listening to a record you have owned for seven years but haven’t listened to in a while. That happened to me with New Order. I played a compilation that I bought way back when I lived in South Carolina and was pivotal in sparking my interest in that band. On that compilation was the song Procession.

I didn’t realize I already owned it.

But that wouldn’t have stopped me from buying the 7-inch. I live for record album art.

Entry 0076: Downs and Ups

earthangel

EP: Hey Senorita by the Penguins

1980’s reissue DooTone Records DOO-348

Favorite Track: Earth Angel

 

Who knew Earth Angel was a b-side hit? I found this gem on a good record shopping day. It was the classic twist: go down into the basement, search around, find nothing, feel slightly disappointed, go back upstairs to look at the seven inches and there is one of your dream records: an original Factory Records Procession single by New Order, the orange color! Oh, and here is one of your favorite doo-wop songs as well. I left the store feeling pretty good.

And that has been the story of my life recently. After a series of downs, a whole lot of ups have happened. I can barely take it all in. The shift was fast. To make a silly analogy, it was like buying a completely unknown album, hating the a-side but just for completion sake, throwing on the b-side and discovering your new favorite song.

I recently had a chance to be on television, which was an exciting opportunity. I was promoting the library’s 50 Years of Star Trek exhibit and I was interviewed on a morning show. It was somewhat different than I envisioned. First, the green room is the same as a waiting room at the dentist’s except with coffee, which I don’t drink. Then I was told to come to the studio where the host was being filmed live while I set up the Star Trek toys. I was fascinated how at ease he was with being on camera. When they cut to a commercial, he was quick to start making jokes with the cameramen and other staff while they counted down to ten. Then, after being miced, we were on and the whole thing lasted a fast three minutes. The host was a little bit difficult to get words in but a lot of co-workers agreed that I did a wonderful job. I don’t know about that but I certainly had to think on my feet. I thought I would be asked what the exhibit was about and had a small speech prepared. Instead, I had to wing describing the toys and showing him how the communicator had a secret calculator inside of it.

I also have found a lot of good records lately, including some new bands. I am not known to staying hip to current music but lately there has been a wonderful surge in post-punk music that has captured my ears. The two front runners are the bands Shopping with their surf-style bass-heavy anti-consumerism rants that sound straight out of 1981, and the Savages, a gothic train rolling into a bleak futuristic station and who I am going to see in Cleveland in May. Other bands that I enjoy are Ought, a Canadian band where Mark E. Smith and David Byrne have merged into one happy singer and the Nots, a snotty smashing good time.

To top off the goods things happening in my life, I ordered an original US version of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures to make up for the biggest record regret I’ve ever had. I will probably order an original Closer in the sometime future. These two albums have gotten me through some tough times and there is nothing better to celebrate getting through the rough times than by listening to your favorite band.

Entry 0071: New Cha-Cha-Changes For Storiesonrecords

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LP: Aftermath by the Rolling Stones

1966 London Records PS 476

Favorite Track: I Am Waiting

 

Many new things are happening in my life. Since October, I have traveled back and forth from Cincinnati to Milwaukee in an attempt to land a full time job with the Milwaukee public library. I was in the Top 5% of test scorers to be granted an interview. The interview went well. Long days and nights happened with me flip-flopping on whether I was glad to be leaving Cincinnati or not. I had so many friends here; I could make new friends. I would have more time to write; I would have less time to write because I would be working full time. There are two incredible record stores in Cincy; there are awesome records stores in Milwaukee. It would be a fun new adventure which would be refreshing; I am slowing down and looking more to settle down. Then all kinds of thoughts about money. Was it enough? I would lose all that sick pay I have accrued. Etc.

Then, after months, the rejection letter arrived in my mailbox on my 33rd birthday. Luckily, I was distracted catching up with a friend that I didn’t find it until the next day. I did not get the job. I trembled. I could not tell you if it was because I was disappointed, elated, or just relived that I had to stop thinking about it.

On a lighter note, for my birthday I received Beethoven’s 4th Symphony on vinyl. It is my first piece of classical music in my collection. I am excited to create a small classical music section devoted to my all-time favorite pieces. I am hoping not to exceed 30 records but we will see. I love classical music. Expect my next post to be a list of potential favorites.

Finally, the most exciting news. I’ve decided to add a new page to this blog. Collaborating with one of the best artists I know, Cassandra Gallagher, I will be writing a longer story and she will be adding illustrations. My dream is for me to update one month with about a thousand or so words. The next month, she will update with some illustrations. I am hoping the story will roughly be about 10,000 words. I will constantly be adding and editing it, fixing bad grammar and poorly written sentences. So watch it grow here at https://storiesonrecords.wordpress.com/the-scatterdoyens/.

Entry 0057: Personally Strict with Salt Man and Mirror Me

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LP: Strictly Personal by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band

1968 Blue Thumb Records Stereo S1, BTS 1

Favorite Track: Kandy Korn

I may be hungry but I sure ain’t weird.

You’re a me and you’re a me ain’t no fat man’s toy sopping wet hammer thinkin’ a postman’s groovy. I ain’t blue no more mirror man. Salt Man gotta touch without take. In the mirror way, soft-cracker bats harp smiling yellow and orange and candy corn. Salt Man–the path is a mask of love. Beatles bones and smokin’ Stones, sorrows lollipop lands stick-broken with a telegram I said.

Oh mirror, mirror, red mirror, blue mirror, yellow sunset mirror. You’re a me and you’re a me big chicken legs beat when she walks let the lying lie. Aluminium rhythm whining trashcan blues. Mirror man, I never heard it put quite that way. We’re for you, Salt Man! Well my cigarette died when gracious ladies nylon sorta lazy sleazy cheesy harp cry “be reformed! be reborn!”

Can-can-can-can-can-mirror me.

Ol’ glass roosters–ye ole feathered kind–rolled around the corner turning up seven come eleven. The cheese in the corner with a mile long beard, golly golly. You gotta feel to reveal, Salt Man, Mirror Man, Salt Me, Mirror Me. Gon’ blow pure joy-girl, candy corn. I ain’t no golly golly anymore. Mirror Salt, Man Me. Me’re a you and Me’re a you dropped some drops in an ashtray. Saw a movie dropped the stamp and strawberry feels forever.

I blow rich electric bulb been out for years on the dark carnival ground. I ain’t no blue icebox inside looking like a harp smoke anymore. Salt Man harp kiss the dark, the light, the dark, the day. Stay stay stay warm.

I may be hungry but I sure ain’t weird.

Entry 0044: Satan Summer Mix ’15–the Only Way to Combat the Heat, Baby

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LP: Kick Out the Jams by MC5

1969 Elektra EKS-74042, CENSORED

Favorite Track: Kick Out the Jams

Yes, I have the original Kick Out the Jams where “motherfucker” is changed into “brothers and sisters”. The LP is a little water damaged buy plays fine. I love it a lot. Come listen to it with me.

A co-worker of mine asked me about a year ago to make a Satan-themed mix tape. I took too long in making it but I finally finished it up today. I strived to only put a couple of metal songs on the mix as a) I could easily do a whole metal mix with my eyes closed and b) metal is not her preferred music genre. Plus, I wanted to go back and forth between scary Devil songs and the Devil is My Best Friend songs. I am sure I forgot a few classics.

This mix tape is dedicated to the oppressive heat of summer. Here is the Satan Summer Mix ’15:

  1. Satan is Real – The Louvin’ Brothers
  2. Number of the Beast – Iron Maiden
  3. Running from the Devil – the Ohio Players
  4. The Devil’s Paintbrush Road – Wailin’ Jennys
  5. Crossroads – Robert Johnson
  6. Go to Hell – Alice Cooper
  7. Lucifer Over Lancashire – The Fall
  8. Devil’s Resting Place – Laura Marling
  9. Black Juju – Lydia Lunch & Rowland S Howard
  10. Running with the Devil – Van Halen
  11. Red Right Hand – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
  12. New Faith – Slayer
  13. Swamp – Talking Heads
  14. He’s Waiting – the Sonics
  15. Hessian Bodyfarm – Agoraphobic Nosebleed

Throw up those horns!