"I was having a bad time of it back then. Running ecstasy in the deserts of New Mexico, across the border and back. But shuttling between Texas and California began to take its toll on me, and after one big payoff, me and my girl headed to Juarez and just burned ourselves out. Pills, 'shrooms, coke, anything we could get our hands on. We blew apart like dust down there at the border. An awful ending to it, man. So bitter."
"So I just blew back into town for a few weeks, no money, no nothing, just the clothes stuck to my back, and telling myself that I’m just crashing here for a few days, to make up some time with a lost friend. Trying to recollect my scattered self.
"So I’m sitting in my friend’s living room one morning, listening to Bob Dylan leer out ‘No man alive will come to you with another tale to tell...’
when a scrap of paper on the hardwood floor catches my eye. It’s wedged between these books; one's called Way of the Animal Powers
and there's a purple book saying Be Here Now
. It's under these small clouds of cat hair and weed twigs. There, on this tiny piece of paper were these slanted, scrawled words my friend had hurriedly written out in his shaky hand:I send my love to you.
I send my hands to you.
I send my clothes to you.
I send my nose to you.
I send my trees to you.
I send my blues to you.
Won’t you send some back to me?
"Just then I heard him stir in the other room, slowly shuffling into the bathroom. Even with the vent on, I could hear him murmur a small chant before the cracked mirror and stained porcelain sink. When he emerged, I couldn’t contain myself.
"'Man, did you write these lyrics? This is really fucking good!'
"Mumbling and clacking his new prayer beads together, he moved for the stereo, yawning out: 'No. I got it from him.' He handed me this broken jewel case. A crack sliced the black, backlit head of someone in front of a curtained window. Impossible to make out the face of this individual, but he almost seemed familiar, even in the shadows."
"Had you ever seen these Jandek records back in Houston? Weird shadowy faces and drum kits gleaming in the evening light? That's what the cover always reminded me of."
"Nunh-uh. But when he put it on, it was the strangest thing. There was just this hiss of room air, a sigh of breath, a rustle, and then the hesitant plucking of a guitar, attuned to itself but much looser, at a lower pitch. Then this flicker of a flat voice warned and warbled in a whisper: 'When you have no one, no one can hurt you.'
"The songs mumbled along to themselves. And just that morning I had this dream about stumbling into a room, and seeing myself separately in the creaky pink chair, leaning forward a little to sing in a wretched voice. Neither able to play or sing, I was somehow doing both, a set of fingers and thumbs, a pair of heaving lungs. Awkward chords, squeaking strings, wavering words in the vacuous room. And I watched as this shadowy self billowed about like wind-stirred curtains. It was fucked-up. That's what this thing sounded like. The more it became me, the more alien it was, too. And when we got to the song from that scrap of paper, it was like some crazy prayer sung on the verge of tears.
"I became obsessed, had to hear it all the time. All of our friends, too. We listened to it at his place every day, over and over again, trying to crack its code like we had cracked the plastic case that reflected it darkly. We grew beards, picked at guitars. Was it a Palace Brother, even if the only name on the case was plural? Was he an Oldham? Pushkin? Little Willy Bulgakov? My friend showed me the other things, these dusty seven inches of sketched covers, obscured with the shifting of names and people. It seemed like it could all be the same person, emanating from the backwoods like a nimbus on nimble little goat legs. I mean, it was him and his brethren that were bellering out like loosed wolves on "Come A Little Dog," wasn't it?
"At the same time, it seemed like it could be us as well, as we too took to the streets at night, our heads empty with acid and dope. Devout, we were. Read Timothy Leary, Diary of a Drug Fiend
, Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly
trilogy. Crazy on the Holy Spirit, we thought, like wheels about to explode.
"We would see these curs out too, their nails clacking down 3AM's unlit streets in ragged packs, digging for nourishment among the garbage and table scraps. Every encounter with the wild dogs would raise the questioning voice in my head: 'Where'd the little dog come from?' And my voice would answer back like a skull echoing with webs: 'The little dog came from you.'
"This quavering voice told us of the fantastical tucked into the bleak, even in near-rural isolation with sheep and cow mewls. In daylight, it would be insurmountable, but with night's descent, all seemed possible. Taking the shit out of your pockets at night could turn you into a cosmonaut. Or did he say astronaut? Not only had this little man been a big ol' bear once, but also a duck out on the pond, saying 'fuck the land.' There was that one song with the storm on it, with the birds still chirping..."
"Oh yeah yeah, that's the one where Stable Will morphs into a racing horse. Or that little sliver of a song where he told how Pretty Polly, or whatever her name was, could change her form: "Down the hill I'd like to take you, where I shot a little deer. My little dear, I'd like to take you down there."
"That one is called 'All is Grace.'"
"Grace…That's a weird word. Anyway, I kept expecting these prophecies to reveal themselves though, the lyrics to make sense, veils lifted, a lasting transcendence to come, but it always fell away. If we partook and got high, so would we come down.
It is to be on one thing only
On the road to God knows where.
"I was giving up. Does God even know where? Does God lie within? Was it all a lie? Or was it just this emptied earth, only animals and people, one form changing into the other? I didn't know shit. Who came by the way that he walked? Enigmas became tiring and useless. By the end of it, I would listen to the end of the record and laugh that he was actually singing that he was 'a kiddie pornographer.' And when that next Palace record came out with those Neil Young rockers on it, I mean, I still liked it, but that religious shit was just over for me."
"So what do you listen to these days?"
"Eh, mostly just Fiddy."
(Originally published in Sound Collector Audio Review #5.)