Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dark and Wet and Cold . . . but Smiling . . .

It is so hard to write about moods. About feelings. About hoping things are going to be alright, when we are constantly assaulted by stories of violence and purveyors of fear. I want to go back to some safer place, a safer time. And yet I fear it may not exist. But I keep searching for that dream house, keep driving those dream cars through the night, the cold, dark, wet night. (just click on Dream House or Dream Car in the labels list in the side bar if you're curious about what I'm going on about here . . .)
But every once in a while one stumbles on a piece of art which just happens to perfectly capture a mood or a train of thought. Had one of those moments the other day. I finally started using an iPod which I'd brought back from the USA well over a year ago, finally figured out a way to make it play in the car. And shortly after putting it on the "shuffle songs" setting to let it play things at random, I stumbled on a piece of music I'd never heard before, and in fact, am not exactly sure how it got there. . . but such is life, and magic. And this is it. Let me know if you've heard this one before ? I have no idea if Greg Brown is widely known or not ? A hidden treasure if not . . . a diamond in the rough if ever there was one . . .

. . . Cold & Dark & Wet
. . . . . . (by Greg Brown)
I fell in love like a drunk in a pond.
That twisted gal of whom I was fond,
She found a new man on the internet.
Wham I'm spam and it's cold and dark and wet.
Tell me what is a fella supposed to do
When a car costs what a house used to
And a house is a pile of chipboard, paint, and debt.
I'm at the city limits and it's cold and dark and wet
Big rig rolling over me in a blizzard -
I'm living on beans and chicken gizzards.
One day I was young, the next day I was old.
Late November, it's wet and dark and cold.
Jobs, I guess they're like wild geese -
They all went flying overseas.
I'm standing in the rain smoking my last cigarette.
Morning in America is cold and dark and wet.
Christmas lights are going up,
I could use a little joy juice in my cup.
Life is not a walk across the park,
Not when it's wet and cold and dark.
And this may be the twisted gal of whom he was fond, she ran off to join a travelling circus in France . . . where I spotted her the other day on the back of a truck. This may be what is known in some places as a painted lady . . .

"I could use a little joy juice in my cup" . . . what a line ! Traces of old posters make me feel like that every time . . . sort of like saying, ok, the party is over . . .

"Life is not a walk across the park, not when it's wet and cold and dark" . . .

At several times over the years I've had a recurring dream of being in a vast space where there were staircases going in various directions, not always making logical sense in a cartesian manner, more like something from one of Escher's etchings . . . These stairs by a cliff . . . where are they going ? Where are they coming from ? Do they have a beginning ? An ending ? Could we climb these stairs forever, as though trying to reach a Floating Bridge of Dreams ?

If you've been in the Gare d'Orsay Museum in Paris you may recal seeing a rather large painting by Gustave Courbet titled "Burial et Ornans", or l'Enterrement à Ornans". In that painting the backdrop are white cliffs in the distance. The scene intrigued me enough to want to make the trip to Ornans, in eastern France, south of Besançon . . . and this is what it looks like on a cold, foggy morning . . .



CiCi said...

You are really more into art than I have realized since finding your blog. I have been in the museum in Paris and in fact, breathing in the art and history in and around Paris was a learning experience for me. I am grateful for that invaluable experience. Thank you for finding the white cliffs in Ornans. It is a wonderful photo. I like the way you weave art, music,history, and your personality into your blog. The gal you found on the back of a truck is color coordinated, even her nail polish matches her attire.

Steve said...

Love the lady in green. I can't help but wonder just how she's going to pinch off the bottle cap on that bottle of coke... there doesn't seem to be a bottle opener around anywhere... hmm...!

Anonymous said...

Owen, I am a bit worried about your tristesse at this time of year.

But the discussion about art and the photos was wonderful.

Love the song!

Bonnie Zieman, M.Ed. said...

A very interesting post. Loved how your images went so well with the lyrics of the song. I especially like your photo (I assume it is yours) of the stairs.

The Pliers said...

Holy shit, Batman!

The next time someone asks me why I pulled the plug on what might have appeared to be a perfectly serviceable life in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, I'll be sure to point them to that song.

Very, very nice.


"Homeland Refugee"

With a backpack full of yesterdays
On a freeway full of smoke and haze
Where the power lines and fault lines double cross
I left our yellow porch light on
No one will notice no one’s home
And no one else will notice what was lost

I lost my home when the deal went bust
To the so-called security and trust
I planned my life the way they said I should
I sent my wife and kids ahead
I’m right behind you, so I said
I’ll be there when I get there if that’s good

Now I’m leaving California for the dust bowl
They took it all, there’s nowhere else to go
The pastures of plenty are burning by the sea
And I’m just a homeland refugee

There’s a plastic sack by a barbwire fence
A burned out beer truck full of dents
A dried up stock pond by an old canal
Between the towns the desert sands
Filling up with empty cans
Container trains, casinos and canals

Now I’m leaving California for the dust bowl
They took it all, there’s nowhere else to go
The pastures of plenty are burning by the sea
And I’m just a homeland refugee

My Grandpa used to tell about
The way the bankers drove them out
In the wind and the dust in the crash of ‘29
They crossed the desert headed west
They swore that it was for the best
They reassured the ones they left behind

There’s some refugees from Mexico
Behind an abandoned Texaco
We nod and smile, it’s clear we’re all the same
For everything this world is worth
We’re all just migrants on this earth
Returning to the dust from where we came

Now I’m leaving California for the dust bowl
They took it all, there’s nowhere else to go
The pastures of plenty are burning by the sea
And I’m just a homeland refugee

Jo said...

I think everyone seems to get the "mean reds" at this time of the year. Expectations are too high. It's as if a great collective is telling us what we are supposed to feet, what we are supposed to think.

The photograph of the tattered poster is one of my favorites of all your photos. It reminds me a teeny bit of a Jackson Pollock painting. I love your edgy photographs.


Jo said...

I meant "feel" not "feet". Typo, typo...

Nevine Sultan said...

Hmmm, let's see... lots to say here, Owen. But let me begin by apologizing for deleting the second comment I had written for your previous post. I came back and took a peek and saw that they were both there, the second one such a lame attempt to mimic the first, I found my blood running cold under my skin, and I found my fingers tremblingly fumbling with my mouse so I could delete it. And CLICK! it was gone. And then, I read in your response that you had liked both comments. But, you see, I'm one of those obsessive-compulsive people who want everything to be perfectly perfect in an imperfect world, and because I had written the first comment straight from my heart to my fingertips, it came out sounding exactly the way I wanted it to sound. So when I tried to squeeze my brain and extract what I had said so I could say it again and that failed, I was down in the dumps, and my second attempt came out sounding quite trite, at least to my heart. So, there you have it. I do apologize for stealing the comment that was intended for you. I shan't do it again! :-)

And now for the real stuff. My favorite photo of all is the one of the stairs. And you might have already guessed, but I have the same recurring dream, of being in an open space with stairs going everywhere... and nowhere. In fact, I wrote a poem about it called "dreaming devotion", which you can find in my October archive if you would like to take a look... if... that is... you know. It's a haunting dream, and Escher is the very right name, Owen. Of course all of your other photos are delightful, especially the one of the "painted lady" with her green shoes; any woman that can wear green sandals and look so drop-dead fabulous has my admiration and my highest esteem. But I have to be true to my heart when I see the one photo that sings to me. And your stairs did! And very simply, Owen, I never do have a difficult time finding something I can relate to on your site. Never ever!


Roxana said...

you make me silent with wonder and gratitude!

and yes, those endless, surreal stairs, i am their prisoner.

Lynne with an e said...

Trying to get back to that place of wonder and innocence, perhaps. We still wonder, but not in the sense of being delightfully amazed at the magic of life. More like wondering how things in our lives and in the world at large got to this point. Now awed wonder. Not delighted wonder. Wondering how to get by, to survive, to keep a smile on one's face, at least for those around us. Stairs going nowhere, life going nowhere, running running...trying to be somewhere better...somewhere magical again.

These boxes are too small to release within them all the thoughts that clamour to find outward expression. And I am too rushed and lazy and reticent to engage or expose much. Unlike the lady in green.

The sights, sounds, words, music that you post, Owen, express deep coal seams of underlying meaning. Whether we glimpse the dark beneath, or smile at the inanities of human folly that you expose, it is always intriguing, engaging, entertaining, stimulating to pay a visit to the Magic Lantern Show.

Now I've said a lot more than I normally take the time to, and I will not be saying much for awhile to come because I've got to race around on those stairways for a spell. But you know where to find me.

@eloh said...

Your words and pictures just transported me to a place where the cold wind blows. Surrounded by beauty while you freeze to death.

Those last three black and whites should be in frames...with big dollar signs.

The lady on the back of the truck..reminded me of Okinawa, where the big dump trucks were only allowed to run at night, elaboratly painted and decked out with strings of festive lights. Somewhere I have a picture of two, one day I'll find them and post.

Anonymous said...

Music - where language ends, it begins.

Please have a Sunday filled with much harmony sounds.

English Rider said...

You say it's hard to write about feelings. it is also interesting because then, at a later date we can look back and see how much better we feel. Feelings are not irrevocable, there is room for change.
I see stairs down a cliff face, leading to a beach.

French Fancy... said...

I wish my shape was as luscious as the lady in green

Cheer up, Owen - you sound a bit low (isn't it aggravating when people tell you to cheer up)

Stickup Artist said...

Dear Owen,

My favorite is the horse photo in the park on a rainy day. And of course, the lady in green painted on the side of a truck!

I'm reading Lost Illusions by Balzac and these emotions, echoed by the Pliers posted song lyrics and your song lyrics, need expression and always have.

Otherwise we lose our humanity.

Deborah said...

The Rockies have disappeared behind a veil of snow and we're in for a cold, grey day. Melancholia was already hovering in the background but after reading you, it has settled right into my bones.
I sometimes feel like I'm communing with you when you write about fear and loss, and almost a kind of despair about the inevitability of the future. It's like being wrapped up in a warm, black coat.

Deborah said...

PS But I wouldn't want to give the impression that it's unpleasant!! Just re-read my comment and realized it might have come across as very negative - not the case at all. I do enjoy your evocations of places and mood and think you write about them very well indeed.

jeff said...

Owen, tu me donnes froid d'un coup ! Je sais pas si c'est la photo du bas qui m'évoque ça ou ces escaliers qui montent... on ne sait où ?... Mais je crois que je vais t'attendre près de la rouquinette à la buvette ! Ceci dit Owen, ça fait une demi-heure que je lui cause et pas moyen de lui tirer un mot ! J'ai du mal à lui parler droit dans les yeux vu qu'elle a quelques trucs qui dépassent et qui me déclarent un strabisme avéré ! ! ! Mais elle a pas une crampe à force de rester le bras levé comme ça ! Mais ! je viens juste de m'en apercevoir ! C'est du coca qu'elle a dans sa main ! ! ! Et une bonne bière, non ?... Ceci dit... une femme ! mais pourquoi je dis ça moi ?... Si je sais ! Je ne crois pas que tu écoutes ce genre de musique, mais si tu as l'occasion d'écouter la radio, tu vas tomber, tôt ou tard sur une chanson qui s'appelle "TiK ToK" et qui... mais tu vas voir ! Tiens ! je t'en colles les paroles... et en anglais siouplé !

Wake up in the Morning feeling Like P. Diddy
( Hey, what up Girl ? )
Put My Glasses on, im out the door - Im gonna hit this city (Let's Go )
Before I leave, brush my teeth with ta bottle of Jack
Cause when I leave for the night ' I aint coming back
Im talking - pedicure on our toes , toes
Trying on all our clothes , clothes
Boys blowing up our phones , phones
Drop-Toping , playing our favorite cds
Pulling up to the parties
Trying to get a little bit Tipsy

Dont stop , Make it Pop
DJ , blow my speakers up
Tonight , Imma Fight
Till we see the sunlight
TiK ToK, on the Clock
but the Party dont stop, no !
Whoa-oh oh oh
Whoa-oh oh oh


Aint got a care in the world, but got plenty of beer
Aint got no money in my pocket , but Im already here
Now, the dudes are lining up cause they hear we got swagger
But we kick em to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger
Im Talking about - everybody getting crunk , crunk
Boys trying to touch my Junk , Junk
Gonna smack him if he geeting too drunck , drunck
Now, Now - we goin til they kick us out , out
Or the police shut us down , down
Police shut us down, down
po-po shut us


DJ, you build me up
You break me down
My, Heart , it pounds
Yeah, you got me
with me hands up
You got me now
You gotta that sound
Yeah, you got me
DJ, you build me up
you break me down
My heart, it pounds
Yeah, you got me
With my hands up
Put your hands up
Put your hands up
No, the party dont start 'til I walk in


Owen... après ça.. c'est la fin !... mais du monde Owen ! Ceci dit, la chanteuse qui chante ces paroles sur un air non chalant et comme "bourré" et vraiment à craquer... mais ça, c'est autre chose !

Bon ! Mais avec tout ça, je ne me souviens plus qu'est-ce que j'étais venu faire par ici ?... Bien juste te dire bonjour et que tu vois, je ne t'oublies pas... moi ! ! !...:)))

Ciao Owen ! Bonne semaine !
Demain, boulot ! Pffffffffffff !
Mais c'est quand que ça s'arrête ! ! !

La chanson c'est :

Jan said...

Enjoyed your photos accompanying your post about the Greg Brown song. Having been a fan of Greg Brown for many years, I'm always happy to find reference to his music, his poetry. There is a large body of music put out by this Iowan bard, I hope you make the effort to find more.

Amy said...

The location of the last photo looks positively medieval. Even the architecture almost fits.

Gorgeous black and whites.

Owen said...

Dear All,
(I hate e-mails that start like that... but...)
Sorry for my delayed responses and absence from all your excellent blogs these past few days, I've been buried by the avalanche of pre-Xmas work which was bigger than anyone expected this year, and I just changed my PC (finally, after years of slower and slower performance by the old one) and have been having problems getting back up to speed on the new one, especially the internet connection, which finally a nice guy at France Telecom helped be get back up and running today... hopefully to stay connected for more than ten minutes ! Anyway, I'll be back here and at your places just as soon as I'm able, I miss you all already... you're the greatest bunch of blogeurs and bloggeuses I could ever imagine... see you real soon, and wishing you all the greatest of holidays !!!

Jess said...

Hi Owen, I too love the photo of the stairs, so mysterious and so awe inspiring. The line which which made me sit up was "One day I was young, the next day I was old." I certainly feel like that at the moment. I've got a 'special' birthday next week and I'm not ready to be that age yet! I'm not!x

The Sagittarian said...

Have spent the whole post trying to work out who Greg Brown reminds me of...some ol' Blues singer that I should actually was a great clip anyway.
Loved all the photos, a fave would have to be the poster remains! "Parties over" indeedy.
Happy holidays to you, Bro. xx and I'll get back to youo with who this guy sounds like cos I'm sure you like the blues baby.

Owen said...

Hi TechnoB ! Ah, so you enjoyed her color coordination ? The Devil Wears Prada ? Sounds like you enjoyed the museums in Paris... there are so many, one hardly knows where to start. Not only the permanent collections but the frequent special exhibitions that go on here. One could do little else if one had the time...

I do appreciate fine art, for sure, even took a year of Art History classes at one point... I guess I can thank my parents for that, they dragged me around to quite a number of museums when I was little...


Steve, I'm sure there are any number of young gallant gentlemen about who would be happy to help her out in a pinch, bottlecap or otherwise... there always are...


Hi Dedene, not to worry, all is well, but I do appreciate your concern... posting about the blues is not necessarily the same as having them... and I've got all kinds of good reasons around here not to...

Owen said...

Hi Bonnie, thanks so much ! Yes, the photos in this blog, for the vast majority of them, are original work, if I ever post something from someone else, which is rare, the source is credited...
Happy holidays !


Dear Robin Pliers,
Holy cow, had never come across the Flatlanders before, but YouTube helped expand my horizons once again here... what excellent lyrics... wow ! I wonder how many folks like you or me are pulling, or have pulled the plug already on like you said, perfectly serviceable lives in that large country west of the Seine... ?

So many thanks for this song, am gonna have to listen to some other Flatlanders tunes...