Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Friday, July 30, 2004


Professional harpist Helen Radice and playwright George Hunka have gone beyond the simple “my fave albums/books/whatever of all time” catalogues and made lists of, in Helen’s words, “some things, musical or otherwise, the experience of which I feel has made me a better human being.” I admire the bluntness and ambition of the project, as well as George’s admission that “we NEED some improvement,” an admission I endorse as applying to me big time.

My list:

* Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” Exuberance is beauty, all religion is metaphor, life is holy.

* Whitman’s “Song of Myself” and other poems. He is the man, he suffered, he was there.

* The speeches of Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. -- they make me cry and cry.

* Jesus’ Last Supper and the Bible’s four Creation stories. All religion is metaphor, life is holy, what we eat is God, and whom we feed when we feed someone is God.

* Martin Buber’s “I and Thou.” The philosophy of lyricism. Life is holy. “Smell me!”

* “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Life is freaky and inexplicable and unpredictable and gorgeous and sexy and funny and scary; people can be noble and dishonest and forgivable all at once; life is UNCANNY.

* Paintings by Rembrandt.

* Music. (On record: Bach, Debussy, Ives, Coltrane, Armstrong, Lennon & McCartney, Ellington, Gershwin, Rosetta Tharpe; countless others. Live: Vancouver Folk Music Festival, Television, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Olatunji, Abdullah Ibrahim, musicians of Siwa, Al Green’s church, Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time”; countless others.) All religions are metaphors for the unnameable, incomprehensible, divine. Music is my metaphor.

* Playing in bands, writing songs, singing with my grandpa, singing with my mom, singing to my son.

* Sandlot softball.

* Making theater with my friends in college and after -- acting, writing plays, writing music for plays. (All a long time ago.) Political street theater.

* Chuang Tzu. The limits of reason and knowledge.

* My wedding and my marriage and my spouse.

* 1999 Seattle WTO protests.

* The poems of Basho and early writings of John Cage.

* “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

* “Apocalypse Now.”

* Working in homeless shelters. Humility and trauma.

* Dropping out of college for 10 years. Going back and finishing.

* Traveling in Egypt, Jordan, Israel & the West Bank for 6 weeks in 1999. Climbing Mt. Sinai to greet the rising son. Swimming in the Dead Sea. Sleeping under the stars on the Great Sand Sea. Hitching rides on crowded group cabs. Hearing the donkeys pray to their god.

* Duke Ellington's musical vision of intensely individualistic players coming together in common cause. “Groove as niche,” music as dwelling.

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