taxing tales & oneiric compositions Two thru Five
Between albums Meadow (2006) & Our Blood (2011), I focused much of the time on instrumental sketches & a few commissions that prompted incidental styles of approaching composition. Some ideas were used during that time while others, in part or whole, morphed later into discrete songs. For the EXTRACTIONS archive, I’ll call them oneiric compositions. They’re a collection of rough drafts put to bed in 2007. Some are variations of themselves & others are contrasting fragments of airs arranged for a particular purpose. There are four such-of-these embedded in the following tale:
There have been a total of six accountants in my overall work history. The first two were parents, during the first quarter of my employment record, beginning at ten, tossing newspapers from a pedal-brake cruiser.
One of the parents was usually an hourly bookkeeper &, for a while, worked at a neighborhood market called Beehive that serviced the cannery workers who to-&-fro’d from the plant across the street at shift change. After that, there was a regular salary job at a junior college administrative office. If the unpaid overtime spilled into the weekend, I went along as if on a junior artist sabbatical: There was an off-hours stable of IBM Selectrics where I electro-typed pre-pubescent rants. A closet of office supplies furnished a multi-medium of felt pens to vividly detail a potpourri of blank, graph or cardstock paper in a wealth of dimensions to customize with sundry Swingline machinery — a floppy, thin-plastic binder could be held up as a preying raptor flapping in on a fanged desktop-mesa plateau creature that was also a staple remover. There were a few glue varieties. The one with the brush had a more compelling scent. . . A full pastel rainbow of liquid paper allowed textural paintings of abstract swaths that could then be outlined with a fine-tip. Sometimes, the strokes conjured a mountain range landscape & I’d use a ruler to design multi-leveled underground fortress cities, exposed as a slice like an ant farm cutaway toy. To my eye, the template illustrated a completely feasible way to live. The mind is a boundless microcosm. Entire histories could be made-up & lived-through in a lost leisure-day of wars, various industry, residential bunkers & escape hatches. There were usually two civilizations — conflict was inevitable. Everything was created on the brink of events that would propel the backstory to build upon itself while drawing the plot deeper into the earth. The imagined world is still safely held within more sustainable layers of contextual actuality. Further within, a silent presence hovered throughout: the imperishable shadow of the weapon of choice, always suggestively prepared to engage. On & off the page: a funhouse mirror of inflamed domesticity reflected shadows to come.
At eleven years, once a week for about a month, I was dropped off at night school disco lessons in the junior college gym — an all-ages summer program. I was the youngest of everyone else between teen & senior. That fall, there was an evening dance at my elementary school a few blocks from home. I had a cotton three-piece white suit like Tony Manero from Saturday Night Fever, but was closer in character to his lackey, Bobby C. I got the suit at the Peach Tree Mall. It framed an open-colored light blue polyester shirt tucked into twill slacks overtly flaring over tight dress shoes. My shoes were always tight, then. Some of the toes are now frozen in a slight grasp as if perpetually digging in against the growing oscillation of decline. I left that dance midway, walked home & changed out the dress shoes for a worn-in pair of faux-suede construction boots I favored, then hurried back. Yes, shoes — punctuation marks at the end of a statement. They can both inflect with subtle authority or simply stand for a passive lilt. There were shoe stores in my own town that I liked enough, but, on one occasion, I was driven an hour away to the state capitol: a kingdom I placed as the metropolitan seat of fashion with department stores spread out in compounds like a centralized mid-high-end theme park topped off with an Orange Julius concoction. To my letdown disbelief, though, we stopped at a bland storefront in a business park outside of the city. They sold two styles of brogues—plain or with a design of punctures. Nothing else. The salesperson placidly pitched an additionally stark range of either black or brown. We drove back without new shoes. I saved extra chore money & bought my own. My investment was a pair of chestnut Bass—layaway in weekly payments. The total was $23. I forewent my usual action figure or Hot Wheels payday splurges for a few months. The Bass were killer. A friend at school had some first. They came from money. Just a few years ago, a shoe salesperson told me sizes continue to change over a lifespan, saying “. . . ya know, feet just spreeeeaaaad as you grow older . . . “
The other tax-parent was a tire buster by trade, promoted to the sales floor, then enrolled in management training programs with a few companies over the years. One of the intermittent job titles came with a brief mustache & a company-logoed pocketknife with mini foldout scissors which I found mechanically mesmerizing until there was blood. An opportune divorce offered the buster latitude to leave town & buy out a buddy’s cylinder-blocked retread business in Humboldt County. A semi tire ended the venture on a gas-powered wheel popper that detonated the rim like a rocket, ricocheting off a defensively bent leg & a recoiling arm before cracking a tooth & glancing the nose a few degrees from taking off the entire noggin. The projectile broke a crossbeam in the ceiling before crash-landing across the shop under a swinging air wrench hose. Temperaments eventually meet their match. Part of a pelvis bone was repurposed to fuse a shattered wrist into place. A screw held an elbow in a reflex angle. The cracked tooth stayed in place & merely yellowed. A kneecap was removed altogether. A forearm crutch buttressed the new gait. The broken nose was set as if it mattered. The accident rendered physical labor impossible. Drawn to the usual odds, the couple reunited. The last two fingers of a hand healed in the permanent form of beer can grip, like a craven half-claw. These were the beginning years of general-education computer science. Disability & VA benefits allowed a chance to attend a state college. A few units short of an accounting degree, a business was started with a para-credential. Together, under a single paternal moniker, they opened a bookkeeping office near the base of a butte range which fenced-in a decommissioned missile silo. They rented a two-room strip mall office & set up desks constructed of house doors with the hinges & knobs removed under plates of window glass that balanced between sets of two-drawer file cabinets. Their clients were farmers, small downtown brick-&-mortars & golden years fainéants who showed up with garbage bags of receipts to sort through &, a few tax seasons, paid with blocks of government welfare cheese. The office closed after a decade-&-change when one of the parents had a weekend heart attack in the course of frying patties of Jimmy Dean while smoking a Salem. They bickered as they drove to the hospital, so intensely that they even pulled over once to make closing arguments, both red-faced & gasping. The couple had a snuff agreement that they’d smirk to each other in nostalgically romantic moments which, of course, wasn’t honored when the time came. The one who didn’t have the heart attack that day went on years later to die of one of their own. The one who survived both is now missing, last seen sitting at a desktop PC clicking video solitaire & mousing for age-old vices.
Wrapping up, my newspaper route at ten included a mortuary & a motel. The funeral parlor was visited once while off-the-job: a service for a great gran whose burial MC mispronounced her name every time. They paid by check when I collected the subscription bill. The motel paid in cash. Twenty years later, I’d stay there with an ex on a rebounder getaway. By then, I was retaining a blade-carrying CPA in SF who also ran a death metal label in Mexico. More about that armed book-cook in an upcoming post.
This last composition was turned into a song called Witness for the album Our Blood. There are a few variations of this number. The one featured below has an early signature melody that was abandoned because it reminded me of The Stylistics’ You Make Me Feel Brand New. That same band’s Betcha By Golly, Wow still returns me to a hypnotic state of magical longing, a Candyland of naive spirit with a lifetime of dues ahead to write off as unavoidable decomposition. I’ve also included more album art outtakes like I did from Our Blood — a criminal record (EXTRACTIONS post 9/16/22)
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
EXTRACTIONSto keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.