Songwriting in Nowhere

A birthday week of great newness

Write what you know in order to have success with writing. The number one rule they teach you in author school. But in my experience, and many of the writers I revere, it’s simply not true, and rarely pays back. However, popular nonsense writers like Stephen King win all the time. He pretends to know house pet afterlives and possessed automobiles, and the masses really go nuts for his supernatural stories of New England. Of course King never lived his stories. His words come crazy out of a hat, and keep coming because they pay back millions. The truth is, writing what you know will not guarantee a sustainable career. In fact, authors who write like they think they know what they know can’t afford pants, let alone a trip to the Maine woods to be ravaged by an alien. Most readers prefer magic and fantasy, as they well should in a gray existence. Reality is a tough sell in any dystopia. Moreover, it takes a certain rare type to read over a cosmically moral “honey do” list of a book. Those that can get through a read like that, usually put down books for good. Some might begin their own book, or take action to make the world a tolerable place, or just a change their way of thinking. Waiting for satori comes to mind. Even in a world fraught with insanity, there must be some quiet place to go sit with your thoughts and wait for it to end.

I think this rule applies to all forms of creative expression. Painting, sculpture, architecture, music, theater, cinema, etc. One has to “know” the subject in order to express successfully his or her connection to it. Just don’t count on getting paid. For example, Pierre or Paulette the cave painter experienced the bison, deer, and horses at Lauscaux literally to the bone. The reward, as any painter throughout history will attest, came from fulfilling a basic clan need. Without artists of the Upper Paleoithic, life would have drabbed down to unbearable, trudging throughout those shadowy cave rooms with no hopes to dream of. Painting horses was good therapy before not bothering to paint horses made modern freaks of nature like Sigmund Freud and Talk Space®

Songwriting is an art and a craft like any other. It has its own artists, hacks, and copycats. Traditional Irish music came to Ireland with the Celts nearly 2,000 years ago. But it it was crazy Patrick O’Cleary who wrote its first song. He had to live the land for some time before others could appreciate what he expressed about it. The needs of the clan made his tunes popular. Other clans shared the experiences and took up the tunes. Gleann Cholm Cille was a cold, forbidding place, a lot like a contemporary high rise Manhattan. Partly because of art and its interplay with culture, the people of that ancient land kept the light burning so there could become an Ireland we have today. New York (and its ilk) manufactures culture to a clan that has become so big and stupid as to be satisfied with the popular even if it doesn’t speak to their needs. People live entire lives without local culture, which I believe to be a curse on modern society. Ask yourself who in town paints for you—writes, dances, sculpts for you. Who sings your songs—not the Mick Jagger or Marvin Gaye songs, but your songs?

Today, masses of people who have experienced the 10,000 things by late middle (old) age, (like an ancient Patrick O’Cleary), will hit a brick wall attempting to write their own songs of expression. Like revisiting the actual electricity of a first kiss. It was probably sloppy as well as exhilarating, but you didn’t realize that until you were much older and sufficiently practiced enough to compare (and be very embarrassed). We just don’t practice our feelings out loud. So, lacking a spouse or close friends who will sing a soulful ballad to help us cope after a very hard day, we turn to the promoted “professionals”. Of course there is no such thing as a professional feeler. Yet we suspend our disbelief to the starmakers who generate stars to provide more ennui for the disconnected. Enter Sigmund Freud and Blue Oyster Cult. Without our own art practice and performance, or that of others who are close to us, we are easy prey to the world’s champions, made unnecessarily known by the most loathesome in society who must profit first before art can release its magic to the people.

...simply moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing press and radio and television and satellites and all that. A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but world's champions.... A moderately gifted person has to keep his or her gifts all bottled up until, in a manner of speaking, he or she gets drunk at a wedding and tap-dances on the coffee table like Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers. We have a name for him or her. We call him or her an “exhibitionist.” How do we reward such an exhibitionist? We say to him or her the next morning, “Wow! Were you ever drunk last night!”

—Kurt Vonnegut from Bluebeard

I am a practiced local painter and a prose writer. I play the guitar at a beginner level. Years ago I was a cook by trade, but a wannabe artist of anything. I wrote comical dittys for my girlfriend and muse. On any day I would leave a note asking her to listen to the new song on the computer. I wanted to keep this girl for the long haul, and I thought the only way a hack writer and line cook could achieve this was via over-elaboration. The songs were passable. I handmade a CD and played it to close friends who wouldn’t laugh in my face for the attempt. One is still circulating in the wild. Find it. It will be worth (for) something after I’m gone. Like a coaster or a trivet for cold casseroles.

Last Friday during a lake effect snow storm a couple friends stopped by our open garage for a nightcap. At some point we talked about songwriting, which gave me the inspiration for this week’s Friday Freeflow. I wrote, recorded, tweaked and published a CD commemorating my 54th revolution around the sun. I began writing Saturday morning and finished 13 songs by Wednesday. A task that began with so much trepidation and self doubt, was surprisingly cathartic. I enjoyed every second of this work, even while my fret hand cramped in pain. This was not at all like the non-sedated, self-administered organ donation I imagined the process would entail.

While you listen, I will figuratively roll the world’s biggest grain of salt into your living room and ask you to take it. This was a song writing exercise, not a performing one. So please be kind in your criticism. Some part of this must have value, even if anyone at all can spot its many, many defects.

What can I say? I songwrote what I know. Now you can sing along.

The lyrics below are in order of songs listed on the “LP”.

Thank you!


Studio 54 by “Amateur”

Houses, Houses

Em G Bm C G7sus4 G7 C

Houses, houses, we are married and friends
Houses, houses following trends
Houses, houses lots of laughter litte pain
House, houses have gutters in the rain

Houses, houses in old family photographs
Houses, houses with toys in the grass
Houses, houses line up straight on the street
Houses, houses our neighbors they compete

Houses, houses, I never bought you a disco dress
Houses, houses, you scrub your feet and the rest
Houses, houses, you don’t tell me what you want
Houses, houses, I wanna be someone I’m not

Houses, houses, remodel our tomb to survive
Houses, houses, you get home from work at 5
Houses, houses, from this small town that’s stale
Houses, houses, I’ll go out and check the mail

Houses, houses, next season we’ll play
Houses, houses, spring green and winter gray
Houses, houses, your birthday’s coming soon
Houses, houses, another sun another moon

Writing in the Time of COVID

G C G D C (3x) G

Nobody calls you on the phone
You got a smart one you got a land line
that you pulled out of the wall
You pulled it out of the wall
You pulled it out of the wall
Dummy took it out of the wall
Writing in the time of COVID

Whatcha gonna do it’s one o’clock
The sky is gray it’s always gray
You’re gonna make sourdough bread
Hear what I said, you’re making sourdough bread
You could be dead you’re making sourdough bread
Look at you head, you’re making sourdough bread
Writing in the time of COVID

Rosie’s got back but you’re too numb to see
an existential lobotomy
has damaged your frontal lobe
It’s damaged your frontal lobe
It’s unsexed your frontal lobe
You violated your frontal lobe
Writing in the time of COVID

Holy socks and boiled beets
Cat litter on my own two feet
I think I better go for a walk
Walk along the lakeside
look at birds at the lakeside
Blow your nose at the lakeside
Writing in the time of COVID

It’s late at night it’s eight o’clock
My mind is like a boiler plate
that got rusty in the rain
It got rusty in the rain
Before that it was just the same
A boiler plate waiting for lame
Writing in the time of COVID

Time has Not Passed With You

D D7 G/B D Dmaj7 Gmaj7

You know last night was really great
in the freezing cold with bourbon and beer
The indoor light shone outside
Our visions were crisp and clear

Mike told a story about Montana
William wondered what’s gone away
And you next to me in our old garage
with a mask on your face

Time has not passed with you (3x)

Look at the pictures on the wall
Climb upstairs in the afternoon
The children are grown and gone
And I still love you

Hold me still when the morning comes
in our new king sized bed
Put up a no trespassing sign
to keep me outta my head

Oh my face is getting older
My dreams so far head of me
I want to keep waiting for you
to tease me in eternity

Time has not passed with you (3x)

A Spring Without Mulch

Am C F Em Am

Jimbo the welder
and Chad were at the bank
Bethany rode her skateboard
Tony had her flank

The grass stopped growing on Sunday
The trees got black and cracked
Stars went bright then blew out fast
anyway it looked like that

Home computers crashed
and smart phones all fell down
Fine dining restaurants boarded up
Not a taco left in town

A Spring without mulch

No one dreamed a May would come
so brown and dull slate gray
Farm market wives wrote on a board
No more tulips today

Lazy Susan went crazy
Peter puffed his last cigar
A robin choked on a stiff worm
some kid left in a jar

Crowds of people walked in groups
Not knowing where they’d been
Social media shut its mouth
Chuck lost his only friend

A Spring without mulch

Then suddenly it stopped
whatever it was that came
The grass grew on Monday
but it wasn’t the same

Children held hands again
like they used to in a book
Mom and Dad went looking
for ingredients to cook

Not much is said about that time
Nobody remembers
Then comes the second mulching
in November and December

Cosmetic Treatment of My Feet and Toenails

E A E B7 A E A B

I’m wheezing on my pillow
The dust is in the pipes
My skin’s a-cracklin’ on my face
The window frosts with ice
Don’t feel so young and pure
Time for a pedicure

Don’t know what my feet looked like
last time you came around
Don’t care to look down there
They make a crinkling sound
All I really know for sure
Don’t think I’ll endure
without a pedicure

Please bring your lotions
your scrapers and your touch
Pull back my cuticles
No wait, not that much!
Stay down upon your knees
I need a pedicure please

I know you think I’m loaded
and I’ll tip for special care
You got the tweezers out
and another ingrown hair
I love this sweet torture
Saturday pedicure

Run your fingers between my toes
Yeah, just like that
Scrape my ankle dander away
prick my smooth foot fat
I know you got the cure
A final pedicure
Never again

Open Garage

Bm F#m Dm Am Em Gm

Sock monkey and Ian
Patron saints of our lot
One is on the ladder
The other got a blood clot
Ian lost his leg
in a shoot out with a cult
Sock monkey never forgave himself
said it was all his fault

The harvest moon was out that night
Boys were crying wolf in the yard
From across the universe Ian came
in strange boat with the avant-garde
He brought a book from Llasa Tibet
The cover reminds me of you
We took a slow train to Montgomery
and talked about Katmandu

Oh Rosie—
Sing your heart out for me
I found a Gibson in a garbage dump
I got a backround in forgery

Outlaws came from Presque Isle
and stood by a bottle of mean
Rosie Tee came onto the floor
with a harmonica and Evangeline
When she got to the line
about cursing a soul
Sock monkey looked the other way
felt like falling down a hole

Ian and Whiskey Mike
when around back to get a draft
They overheard the Hoolahan boys
practicing their stage craft
Mike grabbed a lawn chair and threw it down
Ian took a sucker punch
They swore no one would come after Rosie Tee
Not when push came to crunch

Oh Rosie—
Sing your heart out for me
I found a Gibson in a garbage dump
I got a backround in forgery

At the end of the set
Whiskey Mike put his fiddle down
Word got out about Rosie Tee
all over the forgotten town
Flowers came from Blind Willie
and then they withered and died
Carey tripped over his glass cane
all he hurt was his pride

Sock Monkey and Ian
sat back on their ladder perch
Rocky racoon dipped a quill in jar
and wrote the chords on paper birch
Rosie Tee tipped her hat
always was too shy
Then turned to me and whispered close
“Till the next time we say goodbye”

Oh Rosie—
Sing your heart out for me
I found a Gibson in a garbage dump
I got a backround in forgery

Descartes in the Northern Woods

C G7 C F G C

Moon rises over the mountain top
Old barred owl on a chilly rock
“Who cooks for me?” I won’t tell you man
All I know is what I am

Squirrel he’s runnin’ the other way
“Nuts to you!” I hear him say
“Who the hell are you, you’re not in my clan?”
All I know is I think I am

Bobcat sounds just like Uncle Grouch
Snoring on his parlor couch
Could be the whiskey. It’s got out of hand
All I know is my own plan

Porcupine needles under a tall pine tree
Screams like an alien baby
Freaks me out. It’s the bogeyman
All I know is I don’t think I can

The squeal that comes out of a balloon
Amorous skunk beneath a cold moon
She carries an odoriferous battling ram
I don’t feel like a son of man

Down by the river in a deadfall lodge
Don’t be fooled by the waddling podge
He’s been know to bite clean through a hand
All I know is I don’t give a damn

If you hear a haint it ain’t the gray wolf’s call
In fact it don’t sound like that at all
Hairs don’t stand, they leap off your back
All I think of is what I lack

Black Disco Dress

Intro: A Em D Asus2
D Am G Dsus2 A G D

I’ve been kissing you for a year
in the same room in the same spot
The moon moves up and down the window
and the sun don’t come out a lot
Everybody’s in the same regard
The birds haven’t left their mess
When October finally gets here
I’ll buy you a black disco dress

With sparkles, sparkles, sparkles

You want it for parties
That’s just one of your faults
We don’t even do disco
or the mamba samba waltz
All the dudes will come out and play
they’ll think that I am so blessed
Me in my white polka-dot pants
And you in your back disco dress

With sparkles, sparkles, sparkles

You sit in that room all day
and make the same kind of money
the same skunk’s in the backyard
looking for milk and honey
Everything is still the same
On TV there’s a girl playing chess
When summer’s gone and I’m all dried up
I’ll buy you a black disco dress

With sparkles, sparkles, sparkles

Fragmentals While Practicing Spanish for Your Birthdays

C Am F G Dm7 G7

Juanita, Juanita te amo, me amas
Juanita, Juanita te amo, me amas
Juegas en las hojas con tu papá
y caminamos en días azules

Elena, Elena, te amo, me amas
Elena, Elena, te amo, me amas
La verdadera brisa llega de la nada
y no tiene adónde ir

Maria, Maria, te amo, me amas
Maria, Maria, te amo, me amas
Tienes cuarenta y siete años
Eres mi temporal para siempre

Mis dos hijas y mi mujer
son mis milagros
Somos de ninguna parte
y tenemos no lugar a ir

Ron’s Gentle Curse On Mankind

Em Cmaj7 Dm Am C Em

May all your money turn to ducklings
Your possessions burn to stone
May your well full of water
dry up like dinosaur bone
May your dog and cat forsake you
All your food spoil and stink
May your wife run off with neighbor Joe
his rat pee in your sink
May all the hopes you had in life
fall like a Hippo on an egg
May you live a hundred lifetimes
but first you’ll have to beg

May you live a hundred lifetimes
but first you’ll have to beg

Armageddon Songs Shouldn’t Rhyme


It won’t be a microbe
It won’t be a corn
It won’t be plantar fasciitis
It won’t be unborn
It won’t be your Mom
It won’t be your Dad
It won’t be a mad cow
Mr. Hooper had
It won’t be a school
It won’t be a theory
It won’t be a Samsung
It won’t be Siri
It won’t be a satelitte
It won’t be swarming
It won’t be Al Roker
It won’t be global warming
It won’t be Wisonsin
It won’t be bad cheese
It won’t be Evangelical
singing “Give me rapture please”
It won’t be poison
It won’t be sweets
It won’t be racial
or riots in the streets
It won’t be Tibetan
It won’t be a Frodo
It won’t be a book of the dead
Or the Bardo Thodol
It won’t be economics
It won’t be a Hayek
It won’t be Janet Yellen
floating in a kayak
It won’t be a bullet
It won’t be a fascist
It won’t be reality TV
white supremacist
It won’t be a demagogue
It wont’t be uprising
It won’t be Tesla motors
It won’t be downsizing
It won’t be a martyr
It won’t be a haint
It won’t be a Confederate flag
down the throat of a saint
It won’t be ambition
It won’t be legal weed
It won’t be a UNICEF
It won’t be a live feed
It won’t be a Bible
It won’t be a printer
It won’t be seasonal gout
It will be nuclear bombs exploding all over the earth at the same time and killing everything

The Last of the Beautiful Faithful Women

A Dsus2/E G/B F#minor Am Dsus4/E D

If the end’s aloneness in the head
Let’s put it down and go to bed
The last of the beautiful faithful women

You walked across the frozen town
The lights were out and I was underground
The last of the beautiful faithful women

Cabbage soup and Hungarian wine
Then a full bath and all the time
The last of the beautiful faithful women

I know we’re rich beyond our tamer dreams
And only a fool knows what it means
The last of the beautiful faithful women

Oil Paints Made My Heart This Way

(Capo 3rd Fret) C Am G7 F Dm C

The last chick has flown the nest
Just in time for another test
Is there something more I should say?
Oil paints made my heart this way

You share the sun and I own the moon
Another Christmas will be here soon
Scope creep happens when things are wrong
Oil paints made me write this song

You wanna see a man where I found a boy
Every day it’s another toy
I meet you at the stairs for the millionth kiss
Oil paints made me think like this