Friday, August 05, 2005

beta sweats gut-buckets, sings about his grandpas

a noon show, on a noon that is dog in a car head-cooking barbacoa kinda way. i've already got a heat headache by the time i walk onto the MetroTech common grounds, the hot breezes blocked on all sides by campus. James 'Blood' Ulmer is already playing, growling, seated in the shade, in a Dawg pound throwback. of course with the number of the baddest brown, linen slacks, a wide-brimmed hat. Charles Burnham and Warren Benbow (the Odyssey trio) complete him, Burnham's 'lectric violin scratching out perfectly barbed faux-harmonica peals. thay echo pax americana, saw overtones with the blues, skin 12-bar drones, kin also to the drones of Henry Flynt, or backbeat post-Bonham. Ulmer knows when to ride the boiling water that Benbow roils around him and when to lance and burst into outer spheres. it's hot enough to bake a jellyroll, boil skull meat, roast pigeons and chickens.
the kids don't seem to notice it, nor do the older aunts and nanas, who fan themselves in the shade of the thin, infirm trees. springing about in skipped circles, they heed not to notice the adults nodding in the heat, hypnotized by the slow sweat of Ulmer. it's as he says here, diotonic harmoladic music in perfect attunement, and no matter how gut-bucket, mud-blooded, how crawling and hallucinating in the desert slow it gets, they move as one. seated on stage, slowly slinking into "Sittin' on Top of the World"; how grand it must be in the center of the universe, on top of the stage, cooking such a song down to viscous syrup.
"Geechee Joe" is a song Ulmer wrote about his grandfather. in heatstroke's reverie, i reel and wonder about my own grandfathers, and what kind of songs i could write about them? i try Grandpa Edmund, who passed away 3 weeks after my mother married:

"Everday, he ate bacon and eggs; Everyday, he had the blues."
"You used to be in the Army; there's a picture of you smiling on the mantelpiece."

then i think of Grandpa Dominic "Dickie," who i actually did meet a couple of times:

"Dickie stacked up every damn newspaper; freaked us young'uns out."

"Travelin' pen salesman, we still have pens with your name and number on them."
"You used to bake jellyrolls in the bathroom, shavin' po' grandma dry."

i wonder what key segment of my heritage is lost in my inability to write either a blues or a polka or an aria about the paternas of the family. why don't i know anything about these men?

"Aren't You Glad to be in America?" asks a sad and stinging question, trembling yet defiant. "Don't You Want to Strangle that Open-Mouthed Nanny that is Doing Interpretive Dance to This?" is how another one seems to go. and in that wise voice of his, Ulmer gives me the best pick-up line i've heard in some time:

"Your blues and my blues, we could have alot of fun."


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