Progress Report #117

September 13, 2018

Today marked a milestone in my long journey to get my memoir Street Song out to readers. I handed a spiral bound copy of it to my agent. She reads it now and starts looking for a publisher. (Contrary to what a lot of people assume, I don’t have a contract.) It’s a real relief to get that child out the door. Twelve and a half years of isolation and preoccupation. It’s the last time I do that! We’ll see what happens now.

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God and Mammon Again

July 14, 2018

I don’t know if there are any Christians supporting Trump who read any of what I write. But in case there are, I would like at least one of them to answer this question: Trump has said many times that he loves money. In the Bible it says you cannot love both God and Mammon (Mammon means money) for you will inevitably hate one and love the other. So how can it possibly follow that, as many evangelical types assert, that Trump is God’s man?

The Christians are Coming, The Christians are Coming

June 29, 2018

When I was 12 years old I attended, for around a year, a Baptist Church. I was going with the family next-door because I was attracted to their daughter. I went to Sunday School in the early morning and then to the church service in the late morning—all in all, a dismal experience. I don’t remember much except for one Sunday school class. The teacher, a thin, wiry and intense man in his 30s or 40s, with jet black hair and severe glasses, told us boys that if the Russians ever invaded America and started going door-to-door to find out who was Christian, and we denied Jesus to them, we would go to hell. There would be no way of ever overcoming our denial. I can still see his face telling us this. He clearly delighted in what he was doing. And he looked lurid—the way I imagine a child molester does while violating someone. Essentially, that’s what he was doing—violating us. Even though I didn’t know if what he was telling us was true, I could feel that he was doing something horribly wrong. Technically, it was heresy—that is, not spiritually true. Today, that kind of guy is seeking great power. He needs to be resisted and called-out.

Progress Report #116

June 21, 2018

Question: Now that you’ve finished your book, what’s going to happen?

Answer: Actually, I’m working on it some more…I decided to take one last pass, a final read through before handing it off to my agent. It was a smart decision. I’m cleaning up some bad edits and improving the flow. No heavy lifting, though. It’s done in the sense that there’s no more creating to do. Just pruning. I’m also waiting to hear from some readers to whom I’ve given the manuscript. Street Song is not like any book I’ve ever read and I want to get a sense of how various types of people might respond. After my agent gets the book, I intend to start posting to my blog here with more regularity and in greater depth than I’ve been doing. I have some ideas that are more complex and detailed than what one can put on Facebook, and I want to get into them. By August at the latest.

Poem

May 15, 2018

When the world is vicious,
And the path is vicious,
Who can feel welcome anywhere?

Progress Report #115

May 11, 2018

Finished

I finished Street Song yesterday—a huge relief for my poor weary skull. There’s still work to do, though. If I were to compare Street Song to a head of lettuce, I’ve grown and then picked the head. Now I manicure it—pull off a few of the outer, funky leaves—and find a buyer. In prosaic terms, I’m going to make some print on demand copies so that I can look at it as a real book, make a few minor changes, and then look for a publisher. But for the next few days I’m going to do whatever I feel like doing—something I haven’t really done in more than 12 years.

Progress Report #114

April 6, 2018

So where’s the book? I’m currently making my last pass through, cutting certain things (small things), modifying the language here and there, and changing names. I just finished Chapter 14 and have 28 more to go. Usually I get one chapter done per day, but sometimes half a chapter, and occasionally two chapters. I can see the end now, but it doesn’t invigorate me. I’ve just entered my 13th year working on this and I’m tired. Instead of dashing to the end, I stop, catch my breath, rouse myself, and start forward again. When I began writing one part of me wanted to say everything, while another part of me knew that that wasn’t possible. It’s interesting when you have to decide what not to say. I’ll write again when I’m done–a month or so.

Onward and upward.

Emma Gonzalez

March 25, 2018

Emma

There isn’t anyone that I hold in higher regard right now than I do Emma Gonzalez. It’s extraordinary how she got pulled so quickly into the national spotlight and how much strength and poise she has shown there. But the very qualities that make her so riveting—her courage and her focus—also put her danger. In this madhouse we live in today the dangers are not simply those who would inflict violence on her if they got the chance, but those who would lead her into traps where she might get compromised, trivialized, or turned into a parody of herself. She’s young and the temptations can be strong. I hope the people around her are looking out for her. I’m rooting for her to be around a long time and to be effective.

The World’s Most Powerful Criminal Organization

March 17, 2018

The Republican Party has turned itself into the world’s most powerful criminal organization—a criminal organization with a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons. It no longer has any ideology. Its former ideology, which was really only ever egotism, got pushed and pushed to the point that it became total selfishness. And naturally enough, one of the biggest, if not the biggest, egotists on the planet came to lead them. None of this can end well. Evil has to suck away the energy of whatever good there is in order to keep going. At some point, the entire edifice collapses. I watched this get started under Reagan. I kept saying to myself, “this has got to be stopped before it gets really dangerous.” But it never was stopped. And now we’re in what almost seems an unbelievable, unreal situation. I say “almost” because I’ve been predicting it for so long. The only thing different from my vision was the ludicrous, buffoonish aspect of the man who came to lead them. I always pictured it being someone more blatantly sinister, like John Bolton or, say, Mike Pence…

Within You, Without You

February 28, 2018

harrison2

I’m recording a collection of songs (called Street Songs) as a supplement to my book (called Street Song). One of the songs is the George Harrison song from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, “Within You, Without You.” One day, around 20 years ago, I was curious to know which scale he’d used to create that Indian sound and discovered it was C Mixolydian. The scale is used a lot in folk, mountain, and bluegrass music, and I thought it would be amusing to play it as a hillbilly tune. But “Within You, Without You” contains some unusual, non-hillbilly meter, and I didn’t have enough interest at the time to work it out—until this recording project came along. Once I’d come up with a suitable rhythmic and chord structure, I recorded it—me on guitar, my sister Beth Lyons singing a duet with me, Peter Lacques on harmonica, Matthew Lacques on mandolin, and Bruce Kaphan on Weissenborn, a kind of lap steel guitar. I loved how it turned out and will make it available when my book is finally published. It was a group effort. The musicians came up with some great ideas, taking my original concept well beyond anything I was capable of.

Some people disparage the original recording of “Within You, Without You.” One reason given is that it’s not rock and roll, which is a pretty dumb reason. It’s excellent music, but there are a lot of rock fans who don’t really love music—just rock and roll. Some criticize it as faddish—that it’s just Indian-sounding pop music. But that doesn’t hold water. When Harrison wrote and recorded the song, he was a serious student of Indian music. (He remained one his entire life.) At the time, he was, by his own admission, neglecting  guitar in favor of  sitar, taking lessons from pupils of Ravi Shankar as well as from Ravi Shankar himself. He wrote the piece with an understanding of the forms of Indian song. He played on it without any of the other Beatles, just some Indian musicians and an orchestra whose parts were arranged by George Martin. In recently released outtakes you hear him guiding the Indian players. He’s not asking them for something “Indian-sounding.” He knows the scales he’s playing and how to count time in their tradition.

Another complaint some people make is that it’s too “preachy.” I think that’s something people say when they don’t want to hear a strong truth. Every word in that song is true—more true, I think, than anything Bob Dylan ever wrote.

Within You, Without You

We were talking about the space between us all
And the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
Never glimpse the truth, then it’s far too late, when they pass away

We were talking about the love we all could share
When we find it, to try our best to hold it there with our love
With our love, we could save the world, if they only knew

Try to realize it’s all within yourself
No one else can make you change
And to see you’re really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you

We were talking about the love that’s gone so cold
And the people who gain the world and lose their soul
They don’t know, they can’t see, are you one of them?

When you’ve seen beyond yourself then you may find
Peace of mind is waiting there
And the time will come when you see we’re all one
And life flows on within you and without you

Having lived with that song for more than a year, I’ve come to appreciate it more rather than less. It’s a great song—one of the greatest I’ve ever heard. Harrison had a creative idea that grew out of what he was experiencing, and he made it work. It’s something of a miracle that millions of people were exposed to it when it came out. We live in a time where its sentiments are seen as naïve or too idealistic. But that’s either going to change or we’re going to do ourselves in.