Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas & Happy Everything

After the Christmas morning festivities, after one family group has left, and while we wait for another to arrive, I sit on the front porch, enjoying the quiet stillness that can only occur on one day each year.  Is everyone gone to visit far-off relatives?  Are they all hunkered inside their homes, keeping to themselves?  Every five minutes or so, I hear a car in the distance.  A neighbor kid rides what looks like a brand new bike in circles in the deserted intersection of our road and a cross street.  I hear two men’s voices about a block away, laughing; probably stepped out for a smoke and/or a beer.  My daughter has her new doll perched in the windowsill, combing her hair.  Her mother’s enjoying a long, hot shower, with her fancy new soap.  Me, I’m back inside, sitting on the couch, watching my dog snooze at my feet, carefully keeping watch over her new Christmas bone. 

Christmas.  The one day when everything feels OK. 

“Daddy’s on the couch, not thinkin’ ‘bout his worries…”  - Binky Griptite, “Stoned Soul Christmas” (Daptone Records)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Look for the Helpers (Thanks Mister Rogers)

Like most folks, I suppose, I've been a lot more sensitive over the past week to all things dealing with children, schools, etc.  

This morning, when I dropped my daughter off at kindergarten, the principal of the school was out front, as always, helping every kid get out of their car and greeting parents (a class move I believe).

After I got Kate inside, I was headed back to my car and noticed a little boy who was crying, presumably because he just didn't want to leave mom this morning and face "The Real World" (and who, even as a grown person hasn't been THERE?). 

The principal was walking with him, all the way to the door, with his arm around him.  He was coaxing the little guy into a conversation about cool cars.  

And my heart warmed a little.  A small gesture, but one that made a big difference.  I'm sure it made a big difference to the kid, hopefully it did to the boy's mom, and it made my day, too.

When things like what happened in Connecticut happen last week, NOTHING good comes from them.  But sometimes, in what takes place in the aftermath, maybe little rays of light break in.

When these things happen, humans do tend to pull together.  I wish it lasted, but typically it doesn't last too long.  We go back to how things were.

In these days, keep an eye out for principals comforting little kids.  I use that specific example, but I really mean keep an eye out for hope and light.  If there's anything this world is short on, hope and light are on that list.  You'll notice those things more as we all reflect on and process this tragedy.

Eventually, we'll go back to not noticing those things so much.  But let's do our best to keep seeing that.  This world is indeed a jacked up place.  And it can get dark.  But there IS light.  Even when it only comes in small glimpses.  Let's also do our best to BE that light when the opportunity presents itself - even if they're small and seem insignificant.  (They're significant to SOMEbody).

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.'  To this day, especially in times of 'disaster', I remember my mother's words, and I'm always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world."  - Mister Rogers

Thursday, December 20, 2012

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - December 20th Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) at www.wgrn.net.

Thanks to everyone for joining us for this once-a-year laid back time of Dirty Roots cheer!!  And an extra special thanks to my daughter, Kate, for co-hosting with me!!  

The Chipmunks – The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)
Keith Richards – Run Rudolph Run
James Brown – Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects
The Sonics – Santa Claus
Aqua Teen Hunger Force – Feliz Navidad
Twisted Sister – Oh Come All Ye Faithful
Miles Davis w/Bob Dorough – Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)
Vince Guaraldi Trio – Linus & Lucy
The Blind Boys of Alabama – Last Month of the Year
The Blind Boys of Alabama w/Tom Waits – Go Tell It On the Mountain
Bob Seger – Sock It to Me Santa
Andre Williams – Rudibaker’s Christmas Wish
Girl in a Coma – Blue Christmas
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – Little Drummer Boy
Chuck Berry – Merry Christmas, Baby
Johnny Cash – Christmas As I Knew It
The Boxmasters – Silver Bells
Jacob Miller, Inner Circle & Ray I – We Wish You a Merry
          Christmas/Ahameric Temple
The Blind Boys of Alabama w/Mavis Staples – Born in Bethlehem
John Prine – Christmas in Prison
The Kinks – Father Christmas
Willie Nelson feat. Norah Jones – Baby It’s Cold Outside
Louis Armstrong – ‘Zat You, Santa Claus?
Reverend Horton Heat – Frosty the Snowman
Rufus Thomas – I’ll Be Your Santa, Baby
Shonen Knife – We Wish You A Merry Christmas
Steve Earle – Christmas in Washington
Lemmy w/Dave Grohl & Billy F. Gibbons – Run Rudolph Run
Jimi Hendrix – Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne
Bob Dylan – O’ Little  Town of Bethlehem

BACKGROUND MUSIC: Los Straitjackets - Tis The Season For Los Straitjackets



"Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.  What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store.? What it Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.?"  
- Dr. Seuss

Friday, December 14, 2012

Kris Kristofferson & Today's News

What the world doesn't need right now is one more voice talking about the school shooting today in Connecticut.  But these are my thoughts on how music helped me sort through my reaction to it today.  This post is rough, but it's supposed to be.  It's too long, I curse, it's probably not well-edited.  But I kind of wanted a raw response, so I left it as it came out of my brain.

Let's please not have an argument here about gun control and politics.  That's not what this is about and now's not the time for it. 


When I got up this morning, one of the news headlines on my regular internet routine was about the man who opened fire in an Oregon mall a few days ago.

A couple of hours later, I saw a headline about a shooting. 

At an elementary school.

I haven’t watched much of the coverage of the situation; partly because I don’t think I can take it and partly because I don’t want any sensationalism of what is already maybe the worst things I've ever heard of.

I don’t know that I've ever cried because of a news story.  I mean actually cried, real tears, coming down my cheeks.  Even 9/11, as horrific as it was, was so surreal and unbelievable that I just stood there, taking it all in, like everyone else in the world, slack-jawed.  I couldn't comprehend it.

But this – a shooting at an elementary school – I can comprehend.  I dropped my five-year old daughter off at an elementary school this morning; one about the same size as Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, where this situation is unfolding.

This story has absolutely broken my heart.  The details I know are that 26 are dead, including one gunmen (as of this writing, supposedly there might be two; one of whom is missing).  Of that number dead, 20 of them are children. 

Elementary school children.  


I wanted to dedicate a song to the kids and families affected and the first thing I thought of was one by a man I consider to be a modern day prophet (not a term I use lightly, by the way), Kris Kristofferson

By Kris Kristofferson

Read about the sorry way he done somebody's daughter
Chained her to a heavy thing and threw her in the water
And she sank into the darkness with their baby son inside her
A little piece of truth and beauty died

Burning up the atmosphere and cutting down the trees
The billion dollar bombing of a nation on its knees
Anyone not marching to their tune they call it treason
Everyone says God is on his side

See the lightning, hear the cries
Of the wounded in a world in Holy war
Mortal thunder from the skies
Killing everything they say they're fighting for

Broken babies, broken homes
Broken-hearted people dying every day
How'd this happen, what went wrong
Don't blame God, I swear to God I heard him say

"Not in my name, not on my ground
I want nothing but the ending of the war
No more killing, or it's over
And the mystery won't matter anymore"

Broken dreamers, broken rules
Broken-hearted people just like me and you
We are children of the stars
Don't blame God, I swear to God he's crying too

"Not in my name, not on my ground
I want nothing but the ending of the war
No more killing, or it's over
And the mystery won't matter anymore"

Read about the sorry way he done somebody's daughter
Chained her to a heavy thing and threw her in the water
And she sank into the darkness with their baby son inside her
A little piece of truth and beauty died

"In the News” is obviously not about today’s school shooting.  Its lyrics allude to the Scott & Laci Peterson story that consumed the news a few years ago and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Please make no mistake – I’m not posting this song with any political intentions about the war.

So many of these lyrics speak to me about today’s news:

“…a little piece of truth and beauty died.”

Whatever kind of statement the gunman in the Colorado theater shooting earlier this year wanted to make, he felt the way to do it was by carrying out some despicable act.  But it was mostly adults and it was in an unaffiliated public place.

Columbine was high school kids proving a sick point against other high school kids.

Again, NOTHING excuses these horrible acts.

But who the hell shoots children?

I have a five-year old little girl.  And every day I’m awed by the beauty of watching her life unfold.  I’m amazed as I can see her personality develop.  Every day that she gets out of the car to head in to school, my heart is filled with a bitter-sweet feeling.  I see these kids going to and fro; so innocent.  The other day when I picked my daughter up, a very rough-around-the-edges-looking little boy ran up to his rough-around-the-edges-looking mom and shouted, “I love you…all in my heart!”  It was beautiful.

I used to work with a homeless outreach project and sometimes I’d take my daughter with me. She was about two then.  One of the homeless guys I became friends with used to always comment on her innocence.  It kind of freaked me out for a while, but I get it now.  He’d been in prison and had lived a very tough life.  He was in awe of the sweetness and untainted, pure innocence of a small child.

I watch these kids and I love their innocence.  Life hasn't knocked them around too much and everything is in front of them.  The hardships and disappointments of life haven’t affected them.  It’s bittersweet, though, because I know eventually those things will take their toll.  My daughter will always be loved by me and will always be beautiful to me; but that pure innocence and unguarded optimism eventually goes away.

But not when they’re five.  Not at school. That stuff happens later.  School should be an almost sacred place, in its own way.  Believe me, I have many issues with the “school system” in general.  (I was contemplating just today a blog post about the frustration of having to try to teach my daughter to color things their “standard/designated” colors when I know good and well that it’s cooler to make things fun colored and not worry too much about staying in the lines).  BUT, especially in kindergarten, school is magical.  Four months ago she couldn't read or write anything other than her name.  She now reads, writes, sort of understands money, can tell time a little bit, knows the days of the week and months of the year, and more.  She’s like Keanu Reeves’s Neo character in The Matrix when they first hook him up to the machine and pump him full of tons of new knowledge!

But all of that magic associated with those early years of school…the unguarded optimism…the pure innocence…that’s gone for these kids forever.  

The feeling of dropping my daughter off at school is also bittersweet because I know that as much as I love her, once I let her out of my care into the school, someone might not be nice to her.  I think about her throughout my day and I hope that everyone is treating her right and that she’s treating her classmates right.  The thought of someone hurting my little girl hurts me.

I understand that thought and concern is a typical part of being a parent.  But what happened today in Connecticut is not typical.  It’s normal for me to worry about someone giving my kid a hard time.  But I should NEVER have to worry about a grown-ass man coming in with an assault rifle and opening fire on my five-year old’s class.

The first picture I saw of the incident was a line of elementary school kids being led out of the building by their teacher, all holding hands in the classic “little duckling” scenario that little kids do.  It was a powerful juxtaposition; a classic “kid pose”, but a look on their little faces that said without question that nothing would ever be the same again.

There’s a little, but tangible, bit of truth and beauty that’s missing from the world now.  And if there’s anything in this world that we’re already short on, it’s truth and beauty.

“Broken babies, broken homes…brokenhearted people dying every day.”

Need I say more?  These were babies.  Their homes – as well as the lives of their families – are now forever broken, eleven days before Christmas.  Kristofferson may have meant those lines differently originally, but their applicability here is profound.

“I want nothing but the ending of the war”

Although I pledged that I wouldn't refer to Kristofferson’s opposition of the war in this song, I think this line fits because of a war of a different nature; a war against humanity.  Everything seems to be warring against humanity.

Institutions, corporations, politics, all seem to be out for themselves and people seem to be paying the price.  The media feeds on it.  We live in a culture of fear.  People treat each other badly all over the world; killing and dying in the name of their religion, on behalf of their government, over greed, and on and on.  We’re quickly losing our humanity.  To borrow a line from Mike Ehrmantrout on Breaking Bad, “I can foresee a lot of possible outcomes to this thing, and not a single one of them involves Miller Time”. 

We've simply got to figure this stuff out and start treating each other like people.

“How’d this happen?  What went wrong?”

An obvious line for today, and a question that everyone in America is most likely – and should be – asking themselves.

“No more killing…or it’s over…and the mystery won’t matter anymore.”

What if we don’t figure this out?  What if one of those situations does play out and, as Mike Ehrmantrout predicted, it doesn't end with Miller Time?

I’m certainly not saying I’m an enlightened person or that I have anything figured out.  But the collective stupidity of humanity astounds me.  Look at the life around you.

Human beings are complex organisms that live on a fuckin’ ROCK THAT’S SUSPENDED IN MID-AIR IN THE MIDDLE OF OUTER SPACE, just precisely the right distance close to and far away from the sun – a gigantic ball of flaming gas that sustains all life.  Ponder the amazing magnitude of that for a minute.

If we’re lucky, we each get about 90 years to inhabit some space on that rock.  We could spend those 90 years, learning as much as possible about this amazing creation we live in, and the amazing variety of people that inhabit the various spots on this rock, but instead we choose to follow our own little mouse trails, keep ourselves busy working toward and consuming mundane shit we don’t need, obsessing over the latest telephone that you can watch TV on, tweeting, and keeping up with Lindsay Lohan’s latest court date.  Rather than learn about each other and lift each other up and help each other though this life thing, we prefer to bicker over politics and kill each other over religion and real estate.

Sometimes when I look up at the stars, I’m simply amazed that I get the privilege for a short while to be a part of whatever this is all about.  And I spend most of that time in a cubicle, trying to get a buck, so I can make my way in the world that is infinitely cooler than we give it credit for.

Joe Strummer used to encourage his fans to wake up to the fact that we’re all here, alive, together, in the same place, and that we need to live that way.  Otherwise, life is truly passing us by.

I sign off my radio show each week by stealing Bill & Ted’s classic – and classically cheesy – line, “Be excellent to each other.”

We’re all we've got in this world, ya’ll.  If you have a family who loves you, you’re a lucky person.  If you have friends you can depend on, that’s a blessing.

Whatever god you pray to, or whatever it is that you believe in, or whatever motivates you – don’t let that stuff divide us.  Everything divides us: money, religion, power, etc.  We need to get back together and wake up and respect the humanity.  We need to treat each other excellently. 

My thoughts go out to the kids in Connecticut, to the families of those hurt or lost, and to the family of the perpetrator of this horrific tragedy.  Don’t forget that there must have been some serious pain and anguish that caused him to do this.

I’ll close with the words of another Kristofferson tune, from the same album mentioned above, “Pilgrim’s Progress”:

By Kris Kristofferson

Am I young enough to believe in revolution
Am I strong enough to get down on my knees and pray
Am I high enough on the chain of evolution
To respect myself, and my brother and my sister
And perfect myself in my own peculiar way
I get lazy, and forget my obligations
I'd go crazy, if I paid attention all the time
And I want justice, but I'll settle for some mercy
On this Holy Road through the Universal Mind

Am I young enough to believe in revolution
Am I strong enough to get down on my knees and pray
Am I high enough on the chain of evolution
To respect myself, and my brother and my sister
And perfect myself in my own peculiar way

I got lucky, I got everything I wanted
I got happy, there wasn't nothing else to do
And I'd be crazy not to wonder if I'm worthy
Of the part I play in this dream that's coming true

Am I young enough to believe in revolution
Am I strong enough to get down on my knees and pray
Am I high enough on the chain of evolution
To respect myself, and my brother and my sister
And perfect myself in my own peculiar way 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - December 13th Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) at www.wgrn.net.

Tom Waits – Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis
Robert Earle Keen – Merry Christmas From The Family
Bruce Springsteen – Easy Money
Bruce Springsteen – Shackled And Drawn
WhiteTrash WhipLash – My Buick Goes 180
Dwight Yoakam – Dim Lights, Thick Smoke
Dr. John – Big Shot
Imelda May – Walking After Midnight
Nathaniel Mayer – Village Of Love
John Lee Hooker – Blues for Christmas
Aerosmith – Back In The Saddle
Chuck Berry – Crazy Arms
Mike Ness – No Man’s Friend
Albert King – Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’
Jerry Lee Lewis – You Win Again
Two Gospel Keys – You Got to Move (When the Lord Gets Ready)
Bob Dylan – Long and Wasted Years
Willie Nelson – Devil In A Sleepin’ Bag
Gene Vincent – I’m A Lonesome Fugitive
The Sonics – Santa Claus
Muddy Waters – She’s All Right
William S. Burroughs – A Junky’s Christmas
Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah
Joe Tex – King of the Road
Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers – Do You Love Me
R.L. Burnside – Shake ‘Em on Down
Jon Langford – The Death of Country Music
Lemmy Kilmister, Dave Grohl & Billy F. Gibbons – Run Rudolph Run
Steve Earle – Breed
The Rolling Stones – Doom and Gloom
Pearl Jam – Nothingman



"Here's to the crazy ones.  The misfits.  The rebels.  The trouble makers.  The round heads in the square holes.  The ones who see things differently.  They're not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo.  You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.  The only thing you can't do is ignore them.  Because they change things.  They push the human race forward and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.  Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."  - Jack Kerouac

"Be a deviant...or die of boredom."  - William S. Burroughs

"Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion."  - Jack Kerouac

"After one look at this planet, any visitor from outer space would say, 'I want to see the manager'."  - William S. Burroughs

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, that ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes, 'Awww!'"  - Jack Kerouac

Thursday, December 6, 2012

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - December 6th Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) at www.wgrn.net.

Little Richard – Tutti Frutti
Little Richard – Get Rhythm
Little Richard – Rip It Up
Little Richard – I Don’t Know What You’ve Got (But It’s Got Me)
Social Distortion – Death or Glory
The Clash – Death or Glory
Motorhead – Ace of Spades (acoustic)
Townes Van Zandt – Lungs
Grandpa Boy – I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson – Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)
The Head Cat – Crying, Waiting, Hoping
The Head Cat – Fool’s Paradise
Roy Orbison – Lana
Boo Boo Davis – Mike In Jail
The Buchanan Brothers – When You See (Those Flying Saucers)
Roy Acuff – Sixteen Chickens and a Tambourine
Roy Orbison – Only the Lonely
The Squires – I Wonder
Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Walk Like a Giant
Nick Waterhouse – Time’s All Gone, Pt. 2
The Louvin Brothers – The Great Atomic Power
Uncle Tupelo – Atomic Power
Uncle Tupelo – Satan, Your Kingdom Must  Come Down
Bob Log III – Settin’ the Woods on Fire
Roy Acuff – Whoa Mule
Tom Waits – Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis
Dick Dale – Miserlou
Dick Dale – Third Stone from the Sun
Mavis Staples – You Are Not Alone
The Buchanan Brothers – Atomic Power
Tom Waits w/Keith Richards – Last Leaf
The Blind Boys of Alabama w/Tom Waits – Go Tell It on the Mountain
Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros – From Willesden to Cricklewood



"Little Richard is my idol."  - James Brown

"Little Richard is the beginning of rock 'n' roll."  - Smokey Robinson

"Little Richard is king."  - Mick Jagger

"The most exciting moment of my life was appearing on the same stage as Little Richard."  - Keith Richards

"If it hadn't been for Little Richard, I would not be here."  - Otis Redding

"I want to do with my guitar what Little Richard does with his voice."  - Jimi Hendrix