Guess what happened at the airport.
I’ve been thinking about all the cigarettes I smoke lately:
–The Victory Cigarette
–The Poor-Me Cigarette
–The Get-Me-the-Fuck-Out-of-Here Cigarette
–The I’m-Getting-Drunk Cigarette
–The Pensive Cigarette
–The I-Need-A-Break Cigarette
–The Airport Cigarette
–The I’m-Smoking-Inappropriately Cigarette
–The First-Cup-of-Coffee Cigarette
–The “Finally” Cigarette
–The Sex Cigarette
–The Getting-to-Know-You Cigarette
–The After-A-Meal Cigarette
–The Interrupted Cigarette
–The Chain-Smoking Cigarette
–The Bummed Cigarette
I’m not sure which one is the best. I know some of them feel pretty lousy, though– that’s for sure.
You should know the context of how I came about writing this, though. It was one day last spring when I was writing a paper, then decided it’d be best if I drove down the University of Chicago, just to see what it was like– the ivy and the sidewalks and the kids. Part of my ever evolving method of perverse procrastination. Now I kinda like it (after I cut half of the bullshit out).
Here we go:
I lost my voice, And I’m going to get it back. With my heels cocked and my legs tense,
I stretch my neck straight and long,
part my lips, stretched them wide,
clench my fingers, my knuckles, my palm,
and I thrust a fist into my mouth.
I go past my teeth, past my jaw,
plunged down to my throat,
and felt a lump, stuck.
Fondling its flesh slimmed with fluid
I feel its pulse, pinched and slow.
I slide a finger past its mass
to hook the blob and tear it out.
That blood, that muscle only slid down.
I can’t breath now. My arm, that girth,
blocks hacks from my lungs.
The hunk slides deeper now, deeper down.
I pulled out.
I know now that that lump will never leave.
It will throb, near burst, never fail.
My god, I gasp, in the dirt,
I can’t do this alone.
Will you try?
To get me in the mood for my only trip while I’m in Europe (besides that god damned Barcelona trip; don’t get me started), I’ve watched The Lives of Others (that was killing two birds with one stone; we’re coming up on Good Friday here, and I had to know what the military junta was like in the seventies in Greece!) and I’ve been patronizing art book stores.
I found this guy, Josef Koudelka, and I really love his stuff. This isn’t the one I had in mind, but it’ll do, right? I think it’s beautiful.
The one that I really liked was called “The Wall.”
Also, Friedrich Seidenstrucker does this split of a long table filled with greatly dressed lunchers snacking and talking, then a photo of the table with no one sitting there anymore, with all their dishes, their cutlery, their napkins still lying out on the table. It’s beautiful, and so melancholy.
Can’t find that anywhere on the fucking internet, either. I hate computers.
I had an idea the other day: I’m going to write a self-help book.
My only chapter or whatever it is so far is this suggestion: when you’re feeling good, and you know sooner or later you’re going to be feeling bad, you might as well write your suicide note now. That way, you’ll have the energy and wit that it takes to pull something like that off, ‘cuz you know you’re gonna be feeling like shit when you’re about to do the deed.
Obviously, this will be geared toward the manic-depressives types, but maybe not exclusively. It could be geared towards AIDS patients, too, or anyone suffering from some terribly terminal disease.
Also, do you think I’d have to write my suicide note now if I was really going to pull this off? If so, I’m not sure I have the inspiration yet. That I haven’t thought of. Maybe I should watch 4 Months, Two Days, and 7 hours, or whatever that horribly depressing film about illegal abortion was.
Here’s a thought: write eulogies for your friends and family! I catch myself thinking about what I would say at so and so’s funeral all the time. (You do it, too). And you better believe Percy Shelley had something in mind before Keats croaked.
(I won’t say who I’ve written eulogies for, because you all would freak out on me.)
When I say “playlist,” do not fret. For those who don’t have a way of listening to music– like me– printing out lyrics works. You just have to recall the tune. Tapping your feet is very helpful.
So it goes:
1. “Do I Disappoint You” — Rufus Wainwright
“For just being human?” the rest of the chorus goes. My other favorite lines are, “Why does it always have to be chaos? / Why does it always have to be wanderlust? / Sensational / I’m gonna smash your bloody skull.” Those are among many.
2. “Smile” — Nat King Cole
This is a hard one to listen to: “Hide every trace of sadness / Light up your face with gladness / Although a tear may be ever so near / That’s the time you must keep on trying / Smile, what’s the use of crying? / You’ll find that life is still worthwhile / If you just smile.”
3. “It Don’t Worry Me” — Barbara Harris, Nashville
You can’t find the lyrics to this one anywhere, so I took the liberty of transcribing them:
The price of bread
May worry some
But it don’t worry me
May never come
But it don’t worry me
Depressed, not me
My spirit’s high
As it can be
And you may say
That I ain’t free
But it don’t worry me
They say this train
Don’t give out rides
But it don’t worry me
And all the world
Is taking size
But it don’t worry me
Cause in my empire
Life is sweet
Just ask any boy
That you might meet
Life may be
A one way street
But it don’t
Refrain, x5, interspersed with such interludes as, “I ain’t gonna be worried,” “No, not me,” “I got a smile on my face,” “You can’t stand my smilin’,” “The song, the song say,” “I’m gonna walk with my head held high,” “It ain’t easy,” and “I’ve done my cryin’!”
The song’s got soul.
3. “Sonnets/Unrealities XI” — Bjork
“It may not always be so,” Bjork owns in the first line, but “If this should be, I say, if this should be, / You have my heart / Send me a little word / That I may go unto her, and take her hand/ saying / Accept all happiness from me / Then I shall turn my face / And hear one bird / sing terribly afar / in the lost / lands.”
If you aren’t too that point of generosity, acceptance, or resignation, one, try reading Walt Whitman, or, try these lines first: “In such a silence / as I know / Or such great writhing words / as uttering overmuch / Stand helplessly before the spirit / at bay.” There’s a little more pathos, a little more conflict there.
4. “I’m Still Here” — The Follies
Strong woman after strong woman has covered this song, and it’s still good, every time. One of my favorites is Shirley McClain’s version in Postcards from the Edge, a wonderful Meryl Streep movie– one of those where she really proves she can sing beautifully– written by none other than Carrie Fisher. It’s her life story.
“Good times and bum times
I’ve seen them all
And my dear,
I’m still here.
Plush velvet sometimes,
Sometimes just pretzels and beer,
But I’m here.”
5. “Proud Mary” — Tina Turner
Sometimes all you can ask is, “Big wheel keep on turning.”
6. “The Boho Dance” — Bjork
Now this is a killer. Bjork covered this Joni Mitchell for a whole album of covers, including, if I remember correctly, the likes of a Prince remix, among other greats.
Joni Mitchell, while I don’t prefer her voice, knows how to write a song. I’ve come back to this one for years, and I’ve already made many references to it on this blog. My newest favorites lines are, ” Nothing is capsulized in me / On either side of town / These streets were never really mine / Not mine / These glamour gowns.”
You try dressing for a riot.
7. “The Times, They are A-Changin’ ” — Bob Dylan
Well this one’s just essential. My new favorite lines, “Your sons and daughters / Are beyond your command / Your old road is / Rapidly agin’ / Please get out of the new one / If you can’t lend a hand.” I dare you to read some daddy issues into those.
8. “Paper Bag” — Fiona Apple
“I got to fold cause these hands are too shaky to hold,” that sweet, angry Pagan princess says, “Hunger hurts, but starving works, when it costs too much to love.”
9. “American Beauty” — Annie Lennox
I know, I know, Neil Young wrote this one, but I am simply more familiar with the Annie Lennox version. And c’mon, she is extraordinary. I always thought it be such a great Mother’s Day present for my friend Stephanie and I to take our moms to an Annie Lennox concert.
“Don’t let it get you down / It’s only castles burning / Find someone’s who’s turning / And you will come around.” It was in the film American Beauty, too– it has the titular line. (This whole “turning” business is connected to the word volta, my all time favorite.)
10. “Better Version of Me” — Fiona Apple
Another fucking Fiona Apple? Yeah, you doubters. This ones kinda self-explanatory. “Here it comes.”
11. “A Good Man is Hard to Find” — Tom Waits
I always thought this song should end a Woody Allen movie: “How far from the gutter / How far from the pew / I will always remember / To forget / About you.”
12. “Big Guns” — Rilo Kiley
13. “Rise Up” — Daisy May
14. “The Party’s Over” — ?
15. “Waters of March” — Simon of Simon and Garfunkel
16. “There’s No Place Like Home (for the Holidays)”
17. “Stormy Weather” — Martha Wainwright
18. Mickey Rourke’s swan-song speech at the end of The Wrestler
19. “Natural’s Not in It” — Gang of Four
20. “Wise Up” — Aimee Mann
21. “Unison” — Bjork
22. “Both Sides Now” — Joni Mitchell (You might start crying at the line, “So many things I would have done” — that or shout in your head, “And I would have appreciated so much more than those fuckers! For clouds, read: economic circumstances, getting sick, finding yourself trapped with that fucking idiot… the possibilities are nearly endless.”
23. “Cover Me” — Bjork
24. “Extraordinary Machine” — Fiona Apple
(“Nobody’s Off the Hook” — Rufus Wainwright; “Knife Chase” — Tom Waits (cuz you can’t afford no cab no more; your ass is walkin’!); “What’s New for Fall?” — Bright Eyes)
I’ll flesh this out later, duh.