March 31, 2005

Two Old Songs

Two old songs. One of the most devastating things someone said about my CD which came out in 2001 was, "It’s so nineties." And I thought, shit he’s right. It was outdated because most of the songs had been written in 1995 or even earlier but I didn’t get around to recording it until years later. The second half of that guy’s review was the extremely stupid/still deflating, "The eighties are really big in New York right now."

Case in point, these two songs, which no one’s heard until now even though I wrote them when I was around 23, which is going on ten years ago. They’re about the same girl as "Succeed or Fold" who I only went out with for six months. Motor Beds is only about her in part. Long time ago now. The point of putting music up here is to get it all down no matter how dusty.

I think the lyrics to "Be My Wife" are kind of cheesy. I’ve thought about rewriting the lyrics but I’ve gotten used to them and they did come from some place honest. I didn’t know at the time that there’s a David Bowie song called "Be My Wife," from the "Low" record. That’s just how old the song is.


Motor Beds

Be My Wife

The Ladybug


Good news: When I was walking back from daycare with my daughter the other day we discovered a ladybug crawling on the driveway. I let it walk onto my hand and I showed it to her. Later that night she drew this picture: the first real picture of me and the first scene she’d remembered. She called it "Daddy and the Ladybug." It’s another record cover in the making.

Bad news: I was all set to upload two old, old songs--something a bit more straightforward than the last one I put up. The server keeps telling me, "Unknown Connection Error." It’s been one problem after another. Tell me this isn’t weird. I wonder at what point I should just give up. Or, rather, give in. It’s better to believe that my equipment is trying to tell me something than it’s arbitrary bad luck. Maybe I'll put all my efforts into fiction.

March 30, 2005

Tortilla Curtain

I’ve started reading T. Coraghessan Boyle’s The Tortilla Curtain. So far it seems like another Bonfire of the Vanities type novel. Rich man hits a poor man with his car, social commentary ensues. I once had a whole theory laid out that The Bonfire of the Vanities is a straight retelling of Richard Wright’s Native Son, down to every character. I wonder if this has been written about anywhere. Instead of a black man killing a rich white girl, a rich white man kills a poor black kid. Native Son begins with the indignity of rats in a project apartment. Bonfire begins with the indignity of a man walking a rich wife’s dog. It’s been a while since I’ve read either of them. I’m sure Tortilla Curtain is going to go in another direction.

I’m glad to see that it’s been making fun of liberals. These days, reading liberals makes me want to become a conservative and reading conservatives makes me want to become a liberal. Whining self-righteousness about politics is annoying no matter who’s doing it, including myself.

So I was reading the novel and I came across a sentence like this: "The windows cut holes in the fabric of the night, bright rectilinear slashes against the black backdrop of the mountain." I shouldn’t pick on T.C. Boyle because he’s hardly the most guilty of this kind of writing. And this sentence isn’t even the worst example, but it got me wanting to write about it. Never in my life would I write a sentence with a word like "rectilinear." This is what I think dicks me as a writer in the eyes of the literary gatekeepers. I don’t play the game of using heady words which people think makes good writing. To me it’s not at all how people think, or talk, or feel. Maybe there are people out there who look at something and describe it to themselves as rectilinear but I really doubt it. Perhaps fiction is supposed to transcend reality, but reading words like rectilinear takes me out of the prose, not deeper inside it.

March 28, 2005

Cement & Sky

I am going to follow the example of the Empty Drum and put up music with flaws in place. He’s got some cool new stuff up. Hope he doesn’t mind the attention. I bought a new digital cable this weekend and the distortion problems still remain. I don’t know why. I can’t go out and buy a new CD burner so I am going to stick with what I’ve got. It’s probably not as bad as I think.

So here’s a new song. It might get redundant to some of you. If you get bored, just know that there’s a second part coming at the end--one of my favorite things I’ve written recently. I’ve rewritten some of the lyrics, especially in the beginning, but I’d rather get it down and out there than keep working on it. Some of the lyrics sound like they were written while stoned--which I was. Not on anything I smoked but on the books I was reading at the time.

Here is Cement & Sky.

March 25, 2005

Good Parents


Despite exposing our daughter to deranged clowns, we’re still good parents. We just got her the complete set of "Yellow Submarine" toys. She’s a "Yellow Submarine" freak. Amazon has these toys on sale for 50% off. All this was only around $25.

And then I found out there are others.

On another note, the world hates me. I set out to record some new music only to find out that my CD burner has a terrible hiss. I don’t know where it’s coming from. Mysterious timing just as I started this online project. More ghosts are out to get me. I’m only partly kidding. I had a great time working on a song but for the moment I can't mix anything down. I could take this as a sign, but I won't.

Also, I lost my keys. And I’m sick. But the toys are nice.

March 24, 2005

The Complete "Curcus Town"


The whole thing w/ frame. Needs an ironing but I’m afraid of messing it up. This is hanging in our living room across from where my daughter’s high-chair is set-up. It occurs to me--too late--that it’s a fairly fucked-up thing for her to be looking at while she eats. She still seems sweet and well-adjusted. I’m not going to put this in the header just yet cause I’m liking the blue simplicity.

March 23, 2005

Smash Your Head


I was listening to No Means No, my favorite band in high school. I don’t put on many of my old punk rock records these days--mainly because I don’t have that many. Most of them were on LP and they’re gone. There aren’t that many that I’d keep listening to after the fact, but I keep listening to No Means No. They had the best musicianship of any punk rock band. John Wright’s one of the best drummers anywhere. His brother Rob’s the best bassist. They’re kind of like a much harder, darker Devo. I discovered them with the record "Wrong" and then I bought everything I could find.

I always liked the weirder, jazzier punk rock. Victims Family was another. Their records were produced by NMN’s John Wright. Listening to their CD got me thinking about the statement I made about Richard Yates hating my writing because it’s too explicit. He would also hate punk rock pretty severely. The man loved show tunes. My fiction writing comes out of the music I grew up with as much as what I’ve gained from reading Richard Yates.

My favorite punk rock drummer was Bill Stevenson. Played for Black Flag, Descendents, All. I learned to play drums partly by playing along with Descendents records. In high school, I was in a punk rock band called Caustic. This uplifting picture was our tape cover--drawn by the guitarist/singer. I was the drummer and wrote some of the songs. Many lyrics about "the government." One line I remember is "The end of culture could prove the end of time, even if we’re still alive." Punk rock youth. So my literary outlook comes out of this, even if it was a lot of years ago.

Really Richard Yates was pretty conservative, like Kerouac who let it show later in life when he became a reactionary drunk. Kerouac’s first novel The Town and the City is almost right wing: pro small town, anti-city, anti-beat in a weird way. It sheds some light on his later descent. Richard Yates would probably hate Philip K. Dick’s writing too, and science fiction in general. He’d hate Bukowski and other heroes. Probably wouldn’t call it real writing. So I shouldn’t feel so bad.

That’s how I’ve justified my writing style recently. It feels better than being hated by a ghost.

March 21, 2005

Contemporary Press

I’ve been told that the people at Contemporary Press are going to be discussing my novel in the next two weeks. Maybe I should start an email campaign. Everybody send them waves of positive feeling about the serial killing celebrity novel, "North of Sunset," which almost none of you have read.

March 20, 2005

Behold! Again


Another template work in progress. I was thinking that I wanted something a little more understated than the last template, especially since I’ve started putting up music which is pretty lo-fi. Sometimes I loved the banner in the last place and sometimes I thought it was too much.

I’m thinking of putting some of my own graphics in the banner, eventually. Such a lovely shade of brown on the right. I thought about putting up this clown that I made when I was 7 or 8 years old. It was made on cloth with hot wax and tie-dye. I had a hippie art teacher. There’s more to it than the clown. A plane’s trying to shoot it down like King Kong, and a little person, probably me, is yelling "Help." It’s called "Curcus Town." I’ll put up the whole thing at some point when I manage to get a decent picture. I always wanted it for an album cover.

Let me know if the site doesn’t work. Or if this is a drastic mistake. I’ll be surprised if everything went smoothly. I’m going to try to make this the last change for a while.

March 17, 2005


All right, screw this. I like writing here. I just have to train myself so it doesn’t matter so much. The man takes things too seriously again. You have to take writing seriously in order to write an entire novel, but I shouldn’t have to give up something I’m enjoying. Not justification--I’m hoping. I’ve made some good progress on the book. I’ve made a point of working on the book at night, after my daughter goes to bed. If I get at least a page done a day, I’ll be satisfied by the end of the year. If I duck out again, you’ll know why.

I think I just needed a vacation from blogging, or at least the knowledge that I could take one if I wanted to. I was feeling tethered/shackled to the thing. I can put up one post a week if I feel like it--without making a big show about it, there’s no obligation. A blinding glimpse of the obvious. I’ve never been very good about keeping a journal and I’ve always regretted it. Just the thought of having an audience gets me writing here.

Maybe this blog will become something else. The journal of a novel, rather than the journal of a writer. Whatever it is, I don’t want to end it.

March 11, 2005

Inside World

So yesterday I wrote a post that will go down in the annals of depressive history. I was feeling lonely and unloved, but it turns out that some people were having trouble making comments. It was a good thing because it told me that I may be becoming too attached to this place and I need to take a step back. This isn’t about posting music, it’s about everything. I have to get back into my own head. I’m going to stop posting at the same pace.

I am going to take Spiral Stairs lead and put my efforts back into my fiction for a while. A lot of my energy goes into writing blog entries and wondering if people are reading them. Too much time goes into the wondering. I check my referrals like a madman. I need to conserve that energy. I spend so much time on my paying job--so much of my will--that not much is left for writing, not to mention taking care of my girl.

I learned some of this from the Richard Yates book. He was so much the real thing, and it’s made me rethink my devotion to writing. It’s actually made me doubt myself, but an instructive kind of doubt. I feel like I’ve yet to write something that is a pure, enduring expression of myself. Something I can give to people and say, This is me. I've got to get back to it. This resolve might last all of two days. If I get some good fiction writing done, I may feel justified to write a blog entry or two.

March 10, 2005


This song is the kind of thing I unearthed when I went through all my old recordings. It’s not a song, just a short instrumental piece. When I’m bored, I keep adding guitar tracks to a song. It’s a good thing I only have an 8-track because after a while it stops sounding like anything.

Thanks to my wife for taking Olivia to my parents so I could get some mixing done, which was a nice vacation. On second listen, some of those mixes aren’t so good. Also, I think I’m going to go back on my idea of posting shorter fragments and maybe turn some of the stuff into longer songs.

I don’t know what to call this so I’m calling it: Instrumental.

March 9, 2005

A Tragic Honesty


I’m only 250 pages into this book--it’s 600 pages long--but I’m probably going to have the same reaction at the end of this book as at the beginning. It’s been a really profound experience, another book that hit me at exactly the right time. If you don’t know Richard Yates, this book might not be so interesting to you, but Richard Yates is my God. I wrote about it somewhat in this older entry, one of my first posts here.

It’s awfully strange to read the biography of my God and see what was going on behind all the writing I’ve loved for so many years. Part of me wonders what it would have been like to read this book when I was at the peak of my Yates obsession. I recently rented the live Led Zeppelin DVD "How the West Was Won" which has live footage from 1969 to the late seventies. It was awesome but I thought, "Damn, why couldn’t I have seen this when I was fifteen?"

The Yates book is different because now I have a better perspective on his life: his countless rejections, raising a daughter, writing business manuals and pamphlets for pay--not so dissimilar from the job I am doing now. I am not equating myself with him, but I can empathize in a way that I couldn’t have when I was 19, 20, 21 and reading everything I could by him--I’ve read every word of his ever published.

I was pleased and sort of alarmed to find that his own father doesn’t look so different from mine, at least the picture in the book. Weird too because my family is thoroughly Jewish and his was thoroughly not. Unfortunately, Yates looks a lot like a "friend" of mine who I later found out beats his girlfriends. Yates was often a disturbing mess which I can’t say I aspire to be--though at one point I thought it was romantic.

The most ridiculous anecdote in the book is that the character of Elaine on "Seinfeld" is based on his daughter. Larry David, Seinfeld creator, once dated Yates’ daughter and based the character on her. There’s even an episode where they go to meet Elaine’s father, the "great writer," which is based on the time when Larry David met Richard Yates. These are two worlds that should absolutely not cross. The sarcastic wise ass and Yates who’s painfully sincere--ironic, yes, but always after the truth, which you can’t exactly say about "Seinfeld."

The book itself is well-done, but the author is so enamored with his subject that it sometimes reads like a Yates novel so you cannot always tell what’s true and what’s a fictionalized account. I was surprised just how much Yates’ work is autobiographical--almost to a Thomas Wolfean extent. My main complaint is there are too many footnotes so you have to keep looking down on the page. Man, if something is important enough to print, put it in a paragraph. Better than on the page than in the back. To be honest, there aren’t that many footnotes.

One thing that has disconcerted me over the years is that I think Richard Yates would hate my writing. He once said that there’s no reason to write about villains because there’s enough villainous behavior in people’s everyday lives. I am just not that interested in writing about people’s everyday lives. And my writing is absolutely not as refined and subtle as Yates’--where people give themselves away in conversation. Sometimes I think I get too explicit, but that’s what comes out of me.

If you’ve never read Richard Yates, start with Revolutionary Road--I link to it down on the right. It can be harrowing and depressing but the detail he presents in people’s every waking thought, conscious and unconscious, is masterful. I guess I am also interested in the underbelly of things, so instead of berating myself that Yates would hate me, I’ll just look at it like I’m doing something different with what I’ve tried to learn from him.

March 8, 2005

Porn Happy

Susannah Breslin has the right idea about getting money to write her novel. I should do the same thing, but I won’t. She’s better-known and foxy and writing about sex, which makes it easier. So, you want to support my habit for writing a demented novel and a rock opera? Please hit the Paypal button.


Back to my life. I got two form rejection letters, one from "Zyzzyva," the other from "Glimmer Train." Actually, I couldn’t tell if the one from "Glimmer Train" was a form letter. It looked like one and said it was a "good read" but they may send that out to everyone. The one from "Zyzzyva" bugged me. "Dear Gentle Writer" it begins. It’s trying to break it gently but to me it seems patronizing. And I’m not even bitter. The great thing about getting published by Cloverfield is that I can let the rejection letters roll in and not feel that bad about it. I’m expecting around ten.

On an unrelated note, I feel somewhat guilty that I am on political blog lists like the Progressive Blog Alliance (lower right) when I don’t write much about politics these days. Left-leaning people may be more likely to get my fiction and songwriting, but that’s not enough of a reason. I’m on another list at American Samizdat, a site I like more than the Koses of the world because they’re not afraid of conspiracy. But I haven’t been writing about politics so much. I think I overdosed with the election. While I am a progressive politically, it really doesn’t interest me to nitpick daily politics. I’ll let other people do it for me, which may be what that list is for. When something really hits me, I’ll write about it.

I’ll admit it, getting on that blog list was a way to get traffic. That’s not saying much, it’s the same for everybody. I just don’t consider myself a political person--at least not in the daily activist way. When Samantha and I moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, we knew some people through my brother’s ex-girlfriend. They were very helpful to us--showing us around town and the like. I remember the first car ride around town. The guy--looked like Kris Kristofferson, a kind of golden hippie--asked us, "So, are you guys political?" It was like he was asking us, "So, are you guys smart?" This was not the only time we were asked that question. It was kind of laughable and alienating. I am not political in the way he was asking.

Some of the fiction I’ve written has political ideas in it--especially the religious cult novel I mentioned earlier. The cult is actually a sort of revolutionary, terrorist cult bent on making a socialist America. It’s also mixed in with a weird religion and a charismatic cult leader named after my ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend after we broke up. So I guess that’s where I put my politics, but that’s off stage.

Not to jump on the Progressive Blog Alliance, but I don't feel the need to link to the same story that a thousand other blogs are linking to. I guess people feel there’s strength in numbers, especially these days, and might call my attitude a kind of apathy. It’s just not where my brain’s at right now. Anyway, I felt I had to write a disclaimer--to people from those political lists who might come by here. Maybe I should just remove the thing.

March 7, 2005

Day of Protest

At the request of my wife, Samantha, here’s the song called "Day of Protest." I think the lyrics are a little bit too self-pitying, even for me. And it’s too Cobain-esque, but anyway. It’s all right too. Posting music here has been a beautiful thing so far, ominously good, like steam has been let out of my head and the future likes me. I get to combine both writing and songwriting. What a great medium blogging is. I’m writing the stuff that I might say in an interview if I was in an actual band. I’m going to post some fragments I’ve recorded which would end up on a box set or on the extended tracks of a famous record. But I can do it right here myself. Presumptuous maybe, but no more presumptuous than anything I’ve written so far. No one has to listen or read but it’s nice to have the option.

I’m going to make this the last one for a little while. There’s enough now to listen to. Here’s Day of Protest.

March 6, 2005

Kill are We.

All right, maybe I should post something jumpier to begin. Hell, I think I am going to post everything from that CD. If you’re wondering if I’m going to post about something other than songwriting, I’ll get to it. I’m enjoying this right now. I'm a little obsessed actually. It’s a long time coming. Here’s the weirdly titled "Kill are We." about suicide cults. Also sounds like Killer Weed, but maybe I shouldn’t mention that. I wrote this soon after the Heaven’s Gate cult story. I also wrote a never-published novel about a suicide cult called the New Society.

Kill are We.

Come with me,
We can start a family
and our embrace will be chaste
Come with me,
We can form a colony
it's good and safe with our blind faith

Come with me
Pray to your complacency,
what it takes is a clean break
Come with me
We'll wash our senses clean,
a laundered brain, a sign of the sane.

Who are we?
Kill are We.

Come with me
Practice what I preach
the human race is a rat race
Come with me
Look into my eyes and see
the stars in space are heaven's waste

Who are we?
Kill are We.

Come with me
Lie down in harmony
and your next taste will be God's grace
Come with me
We'll be in ecstasy
and your next trace will be news waste

Who are we?
Kill are We.


I had a great time this weekend. I went through all my old recordings, cataloging them, figuring out stuff to post here, and unearthing things I don’t remember ever having recorded. Like a 30 second heavy metal instrumental, which you can never have too many of. I am going to post many of the scraps and fragments here, because why the hell not. I’ve got to mix it all down and complete some of the songs. There were a lot of instrumentals--the equivalent of musical doodling, but I like them, and I felt good about myself listening to this stuff made over the past several years, some of it recorded during my two years in North Carolina.

I always had this vision that I’d, you know, make some friends and play some of the stuff for them and they’d say, "Wow, that’s cool," and I’d feel good. Maybe I was envisioning myself posting stuff in this place, where I can post anything I want. It was an ego boost to hear that I’ve been productive when I always feel like I’m not doing nearly enough.

Until I get it mixed, I’ll post another song from the CD. I don’t know if anyone ever clicks on the "CD" link in the upper right where you can hear long snippets of the songs. I like this slow song. Might make you sleepy. I like the lyrics, an ode to insomnia and agoraphobia. Just so you know that I don’t always write sensitive folk-type songs like the last song I posted. Always moody though.

P.S. Thanks a lot to Mousemusings for the mention about Succeed or Fold.

Hear and read:


Does the sun arise at night?
or is it just that I've lost my mind
among keys, and dust, and pens
that are out of ink but write in light
that I see up in the sky
when I awake in the morning night
then I pray and make amends
to the apartment that keeps me dry

Now let's take a step outside
wear your raincoat cause it's wet with sight
and all the people on their minds
a raining crowd of progressive spies
in the park the mass alive
in the bars under blankets of eyes
watch me walk out wearing hide
to the apartment that keeps me dry

March 4, 2005

Succeed or Fold

Holy shit, I actually figured out how to post music. Partially I am inept, and partially they don’t make it so easy. Sorry to those people I hounded asking for help. You’re all linked in the new "Music" section if it’s any consolation. Thanks to Mystical Beast who actually wrote me back. I didn’t know about the whole mp3 blog world and I like it. This is a great venue for people to finally hear the songs I've written. I've been keeping it private for too long. Five people is better than no people at all. Don’t know what the old reading regulars will think of my songwriting. It comes from a different wing of my mind.

I thought I’d start with a song from the CD I released, unfortunately named H. Baum. Actually, I always wanted the name "Ash Tree" to be for my imaginary future rock band. Hasn’t happened and this is the next best thing. I recorded that CD five years ago. Many of the songs were written five years before that. I played everything on the CD, including programming the drum machine, which is the small square thing you can see in the studio picture. That picture shows everything I used to record the CD, except for an acoustic guitar.

This song’s about my ex-girlfriend. You know who you are. Really, I doubt she’s ever read this blog. I haven’t seen her in years. She’s now married to an indie rock star.

So, here’s to the new phase of Ash Tree. I’m really excited about this.

Succeed or Fold

March 3, 2005

Kitchen Studio

I‘m thinking about posting music here. I’d welcome any suggestions about how to host music files so I can make a blog post out of one of my songs. Basically, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Recording’s been few and far between these days and I think posting new music will get me recording like this blog has gotten me writing. I have a digital 8-track studio set up in my kitchen closet and a number of unfinished songs. Mainly I get held up on writing lyrics which sometimes feels like a chore, for some reason. I want people to finally hear the songs and I don’t have any great hope of starting a four-piece rock band. I mainly talk about fiction reading and writing here but songwriting is a large part of my life.

March 2, 2005


At the request of Darling Maggot, I want to mention some of the regulars here. I was actually thinking of doing this anyway, which is the strange thing about the Internet. Think about something and sometimes it happens.

Darling Maggot’s Lithium Journals: Nice new template which has no threat of crashing and is easy to read. It’s also easy to read because the writing’s good.

Banality Fair: My daily check for nice guy sarcastic bastards. But where’s Spiral Stairs?

Somewhere on the Masthead: Incredibly engaging writing. I’m on a daily quest to find out his secret identity, i.e. what "world-famous" magazine he works for. My guess is Rolling Stone or GQ or Juggs.

Headaches are Underrated: Don’t visit her site because it makes her nervous. It started rough with some political arguing but she keeps coming back, amazingly. A real nice personal, poetic site.

Empty Drum: His blog just started and he doesn’t update enough. But wait for the music. He is my songwriting mentor and other kinds of mentor. We lived in NYC together, played in a rock band, and…

Light Reading: Buy Jenny Davidson’s books. She helped me out with a publisher and she’s got a good blog which is smarter than me.

Indiscretions: She’s the smartest college student I’ve ever read.

Seeds of a Madness Flower: Billy’s been coming here the longest. Literally, he commented on the very first post, which got me thinking that maybe people would actually read this blog. Best blog title.

Damn, that's an impressive list of people. I’m sorry if I’ve left anyone out, and I have. We should have a party and meet each other, but that might be really awkward.

March 1, 2005


Today's discovery: the all-important Generator Blog.

Prepare to waste valuable time. Maybe I should apologize. Thank God for the Internet.


Yesterday, I sent out a mass e-mailing to tell people about the site. If YOU didn’t receive one, it’s cause you already know about the site. I sent it out to a bunch of people from long ago who probably don’t remember me and don’t know why the hell I have their e-mail address. Mostly, I did it to get a brief spike in traffic, which I Need.

I got a reply from Matthew Rose of Paris, France who asked me to alert people to his artwork. We know each other in passing. Once we belonged to the same writing site which lasted for about five minutes--set up by my roommate in Paris who’s a web designer. If you can picture my life in Paris: imagine a bitter, awkward type living with a Casanova who brings home girls with astounding ease. This was my life, partly. Going from bar to bar, drinking large amounts of pastis and rum punch and wine, my roommate bringing home new heart-breaking European girls every night, me frustrated and putting it into a book. Not quite the vision of a dashing writer taking Paris by storm. Anyway, check out Matthew Rose:

Art of Matthew Rose

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