Music Monday with Eels, Part 2

Eels - Manchester 2005

Eels – Manchester 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I said in Part One, some things you really cannot talk about in detail online. No, seriously, you really can’t. Or more possibly, you can–people often do–but you cannot do it well, so you shouldn’t. We are still catching up to this text and technology thing. It’s marvelous, miraculous. I remember AOL Instant Messenger (I think it might still exist–does anybody use it?) I don’t know how I would have survived as a single father without cell phones and tech. What a soul-saving thing it was to be at work back then and see the AIM message pop up on my computer from my son Josiah, after he got home from school: “Hi, Dad!” Instant joy.  Immediate connection.

But as much as I love the intimacy and open-book style that many of us, myself included, try to take to online writing, there are still things that you just can’t say, or you shouldn’t say them, not just yet. Millions of Facebook posts and tweets should just never have been made. We are not wired to communicate intimately with 2000 friends.  Neither are we adept as a whole, at learning so much about some people on our  “friend” lists.  Sweet Aunt Loraine is a rabid political conservative? Can you handle that knowledge? She posts sweet pictures of the kids though, doesn’t she?

So on this Music Monday, as I attempt to say more with music than I can say in prose, I bring you two more songs by Eels. Yes, Eels. Did you miss Part One? I don’t think Ogden Nash was thinking of this band when he penned the poem:

I don't mind eels
Except as meals.
And the way they feels.

In any case the first song is about how I am working to not repeat old mistakes, to learn from the past. Last night I had a discussion, if you can call it that, with a dear friend who is hurting. We’ve known each other for nearly 20 years now, and perhaps he is close enough to me, trusts me enough, to just lay bare his feelings at his worst. I had hurt him inadvertently, and when I explained the misunderstanding, it seemed to help.

But really, there is so much more he is battling. And he was, I think, mostly latching on to some tangible reason to be angry. Not that there might not be other justified reasons to lash out at me, but he has been physically ill, and often in pain for some time, and that takes its toll on the mind and the spirit. I am trying to not take it personally, but I do want to learn and make sure that I take actions to prevent such a misunderstanding from happening again.

English: Arlo Guthrie at Bardentreffen 2010 in...

Arlo Guthrie at Bardentreffen 2010 in Nuremberg . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The final song is a cover of an old Elvis Presley tune. I first shared it here sometime last year in post with singer-storyteller Arlo Guthrie. It’s a song that my sons and I have sung together. The first time that a friend heard the mini-concert is when they were quite young. He and the four of us were crammed in one vehicle. When the we finished singing there was silence before my buddy let out his breath and said, “Wow.” It’s one of those tunes that can mean so much more than what it says, simply because you of sing it with someone else.

You might remember from previous music posts that I have a deep affection for bands with multiple traditional instruments. There is magic here. Have a good Monday, or at least don’t let it get to you. You are loved, and you are worth it.

How This Whole Thing Got Started

DavidSince I am too impatient for (or intolerant of) Throw-back Thursday, and since Flash-back Friday has become passé, I will attempt, while back-gazing, to get ahead of what’s fashionable, and call this post a “Way-back Wednesday.”  But here, alas, I see Twitter has already hash-tagged this. So be it.

From the Way-back Machine, here are two videos from my past. The first was recorded as a response video (back when YouTube allowed that activity) to a Billy Collins reading by the great SpokenVerse, who goes by the nome-de-net of Tom O’Bedlam. I was stunned and so pleased when he actually wrote back to me. What a voice that man has! He still corresponds with me from time to time, and I consider it a great honor.

The second is from 2009 and the very beginning of my YouTube channel under the screen name SonofWalt, and what has led to over a hundred and fifty poetry readings on YouTube, and later another sixty-plus tracks on SoundCloud. My son Micah decided to start filming while I read a different Billy Collins poem (the first of his I had ever read I think–when it appeared in Poetry Magazine) to my friend Miranda.


Labor Day, by Joseph Millar

josephmillarHere’s a short poem for this day, written by a man who understands what labor is about. A fellow Pennsylvania native, Joseph Millar is known for his “blue-collar” poems which, unlike much contemporary free verse, have a rich music and rhythm all their own.  I just love how they sound, how they feel on the lips and resonate in the ear. I plan on reading “Love Pirates” soon!

Working as a fisherman and a telephone repairman did not prevent him from studying at Penn State (where I once worked and lived) and John Hopkins. You can read all about him on the Poetry Foundation, and explore more of his work on his own beautiful website.

Follow along with the text of the poem here.

Photo by Charles Ericson at the 2012 Dodge Poetry Festival.

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Saturday Songs, and Poems in the Park

You and your crazyIt’s rare that I actually take a Saturday off, and so waking up slowly, coffee in hand I found myself reviewing some old videos, wondering why I’ve let some of them survive, when the recording quality was so bad. But sometimes it’s just the beauty of a live moment captured, not posed for, that really moves me.

Recently at the Cross Keys Poetry’s Art in the Garden (which ended up inside the library due to Thunderstorms), the theme was related to cats, and so for my contribution to the evening I recited Theodore Roethke’s “The Kitty Cat Bird,” a poem I did not yet know by heart back in 2012 when this poem was recorded.

This morning I stumbled across this video from three years ago. We might have been a bit flat, but this was my crazy family with chalk and guitar celebrating a Saturday of National Poetry month in the local park on King Street, across from the library, before I worked there. In many ways it was not unlike a normal day on the porch or anywhere with our crew. We  weren’t planned or poised; we were just enjoying ourselves on a sunny day in April. So here we are, without makeup and off key, but happy.

The poem in chalk was a bit from Dr. Seuss, “Oh the Places You’ll Go.”

Mom Meant Well, a Poem Called “Stray”

English: Daedalus and Icarus by Anthony van Dy...

Daedalus and Icarus by Anthony van Dyck. (Toronto) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just like Daedalus advising his son Icarus not to fly too close to the sun, your parents meant well when they told you not to talk to strangers. But I remember questioning this when I was quite young. Isn’t it colder the higher you go? Wouldn’t he have to leave the atmosphere in order to get close enough to the sun to melt the wax? Yes, I watched Star Trek. And even, as a child I was bothered by the science, or more precisely, the lack of science in the Icarus story. But undoubtedly, his dad and my mom meant well.

As Kyle Hill from Discover Magazine told us last time, flying as close to the sun as possible (presuming that means not flying so high we can’t breathe) is actually what we should do. Wax at low altitudes will melt under the sun’s heat much faster than it will in the frigid upper atmosphere. So while it’s good to be cautious, being irrationally so is dangerous in the real world–even if the danger is in never trying, out of fear, and therefore never learning how high you can fly.

Similarly, while caution has its place, and your parents once had the right to tell you what to do, you will miss out on so much by being timid. Not talking to strangers is among the rules, along with not flying too high, that you should learn how to break. You’re a grown up now, better able to assess risk and reward. Work it out for yourself and trust yourself. Take the leap. I have met some of the most beautiful souls on the planet by waving aside the cautions against talking to strangers. As a matter of fact, my best friends were all once far away strangers, and had I not dared to trust my own instinct in such matters, well this would be a lonely life.

So, yes, look both ways before you cross the street, but go swimming right after you eat. Be curious. And whenever you get the chance, talk to strangers. You’re life will be so much more beautiful by doing so. And if you should land in the sea, you can learn how to swim.

This poem first appeared in Contemporary American Voices last year in June alongside the poetry of Brian Fanelli and Jason Allen.


In the Bible it happened—Fishermen, Levites
They just went away and kept on going
—William Stafford, from “Saint Mathew and All”

He asks me with a grin,
What advantage do you
young guys have over me

He stands there with his neat blue
cap and casual shoulders.
I cannot think of one.

Certainly not smarts, I say.
Wisdom would be the word, but seems
too cliché, too patronizing.

Not charm, for sure. I follow him
toward the door, while a clerk
shouts to me, holding up my bag.

He smiles and waits
as I retrieve my groceries.
When I was a boy, he says,

my mother’d make a list,
and I sat reading comic books
while the grocer filled the sack

We pass a few moments in the parking lot,
lingering for what reason, wondering aloud
where we had parked. I could leave
more than what I’d bought.

Someone else would eventually find
the car. My inadvertent tempter smiles

again. Take care now, friend.
And I think, one could do worse
than follow to strangers.

© 2015 by David J. Bauman

First printed in Contemporary American Voices, June 2014