A couple times a year, when I’m brushing my teeth, I reflect on my missing upper molar on the right (only one not there), and how much it reflects foolish immaturity and cruel fate.
As a kid, I did not have a single cavity. Yes, not one. A good dentist filled in crevasses in my molars to prevent cavities (which I have since learned is indeed an accepted practice, not a way to get some money from Mr. Perfect Ivories). But, in line with the louche personal habits of hippie/punk youts, I idiotically stopped taking care of my teeth in my 20s, assuming for some mystical reason that I was immune from decay. This was insanely childish. I had a good dentist in Missoula and on my last visit before the move to Boston, which I assumed would be the routine “yuck your teeth are dirty but no problems, ” I was informed I had a cavity in that molar.
Now I had trouble. No dentist in MA. No health insurance, either. So I let it fester until I got the one and only toothache of my life and took every nickle I had for a month and visited a dentist recommended by fellow workers. Nice guy. Kindly told me what I had done was foolish and unnecessary. Painlessly put in a huge filling. Later it became a crown. Decade or so after that, cracked down on an evil olive pit in a loaf and that was the end of the tooth.
All I had to do was not be an oral slob 45 years ago. So I’m smart as an oldster. The advice to smooth-faces? Dress like a bum and clean like a queen.
I agree with the nay-sayers about Cuckoo’s Nest in that Nicholson is terrible in the top-hero role (unfortunately, James Dean was dead) and agree with the plus-note people that Louise Fletcher redeems the foul, dated sexism of the concept of Nurse Rached. (Kidz, it was this: stuffy, norm-obsessed, perfectly domesticated women were holding freed spirits and wild men back. Like they had that power.)
Since David moved back to Boston, I most regularly encountered him at the Farmers’ Market (a classy one) that happened about a block from his place. We ran into each other once, maybe twice, a season ( he was able to come earlier than I was). But it would always be a highlight of all my visits because David would aesthetically evaluate the displays, the offerings, the sellers, the crowd, and whatever art he had seen recently, with an emphasis on plugs for what was out there. David was by far the finest part of the harvest those days, never to happen again.
One of David’s superb characteristics is that he made sure if you hung out with him you would learn art information that was exciting and important to you. During that same St. Louis visit, he ensured we went to what he called the most essential exhibit in the city for me. Turned out to be a small gallery featuring a bunch of early drawings by Jim Nutt (one of the most perfect artist names, ever) including most of the items on this page.
I was captivated and transported. I knew nothing of Nutt (love the phrases that happen spontaneously) barely more about The Hairy Who than they had a super-cool name. Now we’ve got three books about Nutt and the Hairys and a lot more savvy about a major part of early Pop Surrealism. Thanks to David.
When I regularly wrote poems, their beginnings were effortless, pure pleasure. The lines would start blooming in my head and I would write them down soon as possible. Sometimes took two or three sessions to complete a work. I would reread many times and do refinements and revisions, but those first flashes were all fun.
Only got a half-dozen (not-great) poems in the last 40 years. But occasionally a small piece of writing like a caption or a blurb or a short preview will suddenly start flowing out of the tap in my brain. Happened today when I was driving. Had to keep repeating the thing to myself until I could get to a keyboard. But I didn’t mind a whit.
This is (ahem) a mixdisc assembled by me. When I was giving a guest lecture at an Arts Criticism class a couple weeks ago, I was caught more off-guard than I expected by the question “What is your taste?” And I gave a lamer-than-optimal answer. Something on the order of: I’m very eclectic (do everything but childrens’ and straight classical). Have a few styles like trad Celtic and Flamenco vocals that I cannot bear, but that’s me not a judgement on the musics. Lyrics matter to me all the time — dippy words can drag down even excellent playing — but the most outstanding international songs work even if you don’t know the language. I’m more interested in what’s emerging than mulling over or even celebrating the past.
Then, a couple days ago, I ran across this disc, which I’m going to present as a compact incarnation of my taste. With some caveats, of course. In this same year-end sequence I had discs devoted to international and hip-hop, but those are represented here and if I could do a dream radio sequence it would be like this — all the transitions work, whether standouts from fine albums, best tracks on flawed releases, or long shots that nail the bullseye. Only one complaint (“Air Is Still” recommendations get to have one flaw): the last track ends too abruptly.
The final note is that around 2010 is when I felt I was hearing close to all the releases that I needed to hear. That I could stitch together a program like this with confidence. These days, the pens have to be a lot tighter — and I know there’s more things running around outside them.
Poly Styrene, “I Luv Ur Sneakers”
Paul Simon, “The Afterlife”
Bombino. “Tar Hani” (My Love)
Shabazz Palaces, “An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum”
Serengeti, “Long Ears”
Kiran Ahluwalia, “Mustt Mustt”
Steve Cropper/Buddy Miller, “The Slummer the Slum”