Road Prose Takes Center Stage

Writing new works on a daily basis: Red Chairs, Black Pancake and Blue Turtle are doing well, I will have a new volume in September 2020… but no working title yet!

Dear Reader!

Ok, let’s dig into a little writing today… There are 3 finished collections of prose from yours truly now in circulation, and I just keep scribbling and and editing and I don’t seem to be  slowing down.

I have been quietly turning out songs, prose, commentary and essays for years, and this new collection isn’t more of the same – it is if we’re talking works on paper in English – but the new group is different in terms of perspective – trying to slip into my own style and less the jingle jangle Kerouac/Ginsberg stream-of-consciousness approach I have been using for a long time – specifically ever since my cousins Bob and Jeff and I hitchhiked from Duluth, Minnesota to Boston on summer in the distant past.

Red Chairs

Here’s a piece called Red Chairs from the collection by the same name… I like the vignette approach of John Dos Passos and Celeste Ng and a few other creatures of literary cabal who are mixing it up with stylistic inversions and good, fundamental storytelling.

Red Chairs:

red chairs all in a row

waffle house
jang-a-lang
red chairs all in a row
asphalt camaraderie
and the gas pump dip n’ go
seamless coronations
at the chicken give n’ go
it’s a
waffle house jang-a-lang
red chairs all in a row

the interior reflected
in the big size window glass
a floor to ceiling fishbowl
made to catch a drivers’ pass
the setting sun
the electronic billboards
a jungle up at 60 feet
an endless stream of
screaming signs all
struggling
pushing
yelping
to compete
the grill is down so
it’s waffles as we go
blue cars wait in line
as the traffic ebbs and flows
convenience on the aprons
headlights dim and go
lost in america
red chairs all in a row

Red Chairs was a way of cataloging everything I’d seen and been touched by while touring almost non-stop for 4 years – it included pieces I’d written early on in Boston, and it included work from the year on winter highways in Duluth, Minnesota, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Milwaukee and South State Street, Chicago.

Black Pancake

I was playing through the Hudson Valley a lot a few years back, and happened upon a few odd rooms that I fell in love with in the Newburgh NY area on the Hudson River 30-40 miles up the Hudson from Manhattan. So I played the show, and the next day I went to the laundromat and put some jeans in the wash (literally so stiff they could walk by themselves) and suddenly the entire area went dark – almost pitch black – not quite, but close – and I went out and looked up and there, directly above me, was a huge black cloud just sittin’ thereand it was soooo big and so black it literally covered the sky from horizon to horizon… A Black Pancake.

And then the sky opened up, and the rain came down in buckets!

black pancake

a beautiful laundromat
in newburg new york
laundronaise tumblenaise
surrounded on all sides by
abandoned buildings that mirror
the vacant, empty stares
and downward glares of chicano shadows

there is no peace on Rt. 9w
in newburg, New york
between south miller street
and keaton avenue
with rain and storm clouds approaching
the stiffling hot, muggy air
has settled on the other side
of the laundry’s glass doors
waiting for me, waiting,
waiting for me to sweat buckets
taking my small laundry load fifteen feet to my car

the endless television culture
of the laundromat seems
jarred at my presence
an outsider with no ties to the laundry machines
and no ties to the
kleen klub kulture
of newburg and south miller

now the skies darken
and the storm inching up the hudson
is almost upon me
and the black roiling pancake
that sits above the laundry
is almost pitch black
highlighted by the bright blue sky
that is clearly visible at the far frayed
edges of this storm cake
as the sky gets ever, ever blacker
the painful glare of the
interior neon illumination devices
increases and casts its uncomfortable pall
its uncomfortable whiteness into every corner
of the empty laundromat
leaving only the few dryer machines
to provide the contrapuntal white noise
in the empty, high-ceilinged store front

and the rain arrives
sweeps everything before it
the winds create vertical sheet water that
walks back and forth
across the six lane highway
and buckets, trash cans, cups, empty dorrito’s bags
and a lone collapsed umbrella
are all swept wildly away down the street,
a street cleaning strategy
of cosmic organization

the water in the gutter has turned
into a racing spillway 12 inches deep
and half up on the sidewalk
and on the street side the water is spread out
and flattened out to the back wheels of
the cars angle-parked into the curb and
down the side streets on south miller
the gushing rooftop rainwater spouts
have all been torn away
about half down from their roofs
and the gushing gravity-powered water
from the steep roofs
of so many abandoned houses
shoots straight out into the air
at a right angle from the house
and in a perfect parallel to the street below
arcs into the air, gently follows gravity
and creates a full-motion water sculpture
that rivals the best of Versailles

a hall of water spouts
25 on each side
gushing water into the air
creating a tunnel of spouts
5 blocks long
coming from empty, abandoned
homes and buildings

and a few daring black kids
on small but so-quick bikes thread
the waterspouts down the side streets
and get lost in the fifty jets of water
between the parked cars
and the ocassional traffic

and then, ever so gently,
life simply vanishes from the outside
and gives up to the new landscape of
rushing water, sheets of rain, an ocassional car
and an engulfing black pancake that sits
completely oblivious to its surroundings
squarely on top of the Tidal Wave laundromat
in Newburg, new york
across from the pentacostal church
next to the t-mobile store
and next to the miller street grocery
now completely empty of shoppers

So, as described above, I had an opportunity to step off and dig into the local scene in Newburg, NY and about 3 years later I ended up playing consistently at The Towne Crier, Phil Creiger’s beautiful listening room in the Beacon, NY in the heart of the Hudson Valley.

Blue Turtle

After a number of excursions into the northeast, the far north and the midwest, I shifted my focus towards Texas and the Far West Texas area. It was a wonderful change of environment and provided a brand new lens thru which to focus a fresh eye into the desert, the high desert and the Rio Grande area in Far West Texas…

What an amazing part of the world and some of the most real and uncomplicated humans I’d ever met; and uncomplicated in a beautiful way – the desert life, in particular the high desert life, is at its core simple and fundamental, and there isn’t a lot of tolerance or support for the non-essential, for the unimportant. The folks who live there reflect that mindset, which wraps around them like a soft blanket, the folks who live there stay, because the longer you’re there the desert and the groove are overwhelmingly peaceful.

There’s a lot of contrast – no part of Texas is the same as another part of Texas and south of Houston, off towards the Gulf, is Galveston, Texas and the amazing Acoustic Quarter Cafe where so many great acts started. It is hot, bright, historical and magical, but there are two sides to this flat cactus.

Henrietta Smith

at Galveston and Claremont
the corner lot is worth zero.
can’t raise a dime. can’t even sell
the goddamn dirt.
and the house in the center of the dirt yard
is for shit.
built with public finance, the trail of thieves begins.

materials made out of cheap chinese panel wood
and milky white plasterboard,
probably containing the bones and flesh of
animals and missing chinese politicians
poorly built, highly billed to the state.

first the doorbell stopped working
then the plumbing gave out
then the heat and central air tanked, which
was never more than an old sears cooljet case
with no fan, belts or motor,
then the basement caved in – killed the cats
and then the mail stopped coming

the trash stopped being picked up
no more school bus
no more pizza delivery
just the bills stacked up in the hallway

henrietta smith watched it all
from the front porch
then the porch collapsed
killed her dead

After a few months in Far West Texas, spirit is renewed, along with a new appreciation for the concept of air conditioning!  Thank you, Dear Reader, if you’re still with me. More coming down the highway! In the meantime, keep your Eyes on the Road !

Share:

Leave a Reply

©2020 Eric Sommer Music. All Rights Reserved.