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

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The house was called HPM, for "House of Perpetual Motion," because people moved in and out of it so quickly. When I moved in, I was sharing it with two friends and a reclusive middle-aged alcoholic, the older sister of a previous bohemian tenant in our circle. People had left stacks of furniture and piles of unclaimed books and records everywhere. We set to work making the two large living rooms liveable. Nobody had sat in them for months. The rent was dirt cheap, and the kitchen floor was plywood over dirt.

Among the abandoned records, two of my now proudest possessions: an original "Two Virgins" by John & Yoko, and "Poetry Readings in the Cellar with the Cellar Jazz Quintet," Kenneth Rexroth on side one, Lawrence Ferlinghetti on side two. Rexroth reads, magnificently, "Thou Shalt Not Kill," his elegy to Dylan Thomas and many other poets of his acquaintance who died too young. Some people say the poem influenced Ginsberg's conception of "Howl." Rexroth's accent calls to mind a sober and very tough W. C. Fields. The band plays an unswinging style of free jazz. The poem blames the greed of capitalists for Dylan Thomas's fatal alcoholism; I'm not entirely persuaded but it makes for great jeremiad. When Rexroth shouts the closing lines, it's pretty great.

“You killed him! You killed him.
In your God damned Brooks Brothers suit,
You son of a bitch.”

I listened to Rexroth tonight because a bandmate came over and we were listening to mixes of our CD, and I showed him a monologue I wrote for him for a future song. He has a theater background, and we started incorporating monologues into our band; there's one on the upcoming record. He complimented a line in the new one and I said I stole it from Rexroth, which reminded me to pull out the record, and we listened. I've always wanted to sample those lines. Now more than ever.

(Note on "son of a bitch." It's not a phrase I use; when I want to insult someone I try to leave their mother out of it. The force of Rexroth's delivery, it's pure invective -- he's not talking about anybody's mother -- the people he's addressing are born-again dogs.)

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