“Houston” and Some Summer Painting from Rock

Well there’s no dust on the Bible around here. Early July I found the following words to paint by in a pamphlet pressed between tear and face powder spattered pages and I’ve let it be my ever-loving guide all summer:
“The value of natural beauty to the human soul was what inspired the masterful landscape painter Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School of painting. With his paintings, he wanted to put people back in touch with the Creator. He hoped his paintings would give a city-dwelling admirer a yearning for the outdoors where he too could discover what he had – that “in gazing on the pure creations of the Almighty he feels a calm religious tone steal through his mind, and when he has turned to mingle (again) with his fellow men, the chords which have been struck in that sweet communion cease not to vibrate”

“Maybe that’s why I admire Cole’s paintings and not Picasso’s” this idiot goes on “If we saw something like a Picasso in nature, we’d know at once it did not come from God’s Hands! Beauty may be nature’s most profound apologist for God.”
This from the rbc research writer and naturalist Dean Ohlman. Really. “Celebrating the Wonder of the Wilderness”, a booklet from RBC ministries. Further “Discovery Series” booklets are available from http://www.discoveryseiries.org/catalog. So I just beavered away and tried to act natural.

I put a few sessions into paintings I’ve been working at off and on for a year and I started some new things this summer. Oil on wood. You can click on the images below to see larger versions. Couple little photographs there two.

alex, mardi gras

Been a quiet summer. I haven’t been online much. I was just sitting out looking at the moon tonight and listening to the river, the crickets, the occasional engine. Been a rainy couple months. I just painted. Last couple days it got hot enough the cicadas cried all afternoon and the paint dried in its trays so I started paying attention to email and tidying files. Gathered some notes I’d taken. Little show coming up in the fall I guess and by the end of August I’ll have twenty little pictures ready. I’ve been working more on things I’ve let lean for a year or so, working small and hunched, tiny brushes on wooden panels.

Went out dancing one night this summer, had some new shoes. Watched a lad dance like he’d never seen mtv and that was a treat. Molly tended bar so we arrived early, just at dusk. I wandered about with my camera for the lonesome quality of the main street. By the time I’d done my circuit the music had begun at the bar, one dj playing to a largely empty room, a couple of back packers, and a happily fat and pleasant middle aged couple of locals with fifties hairstyles,hers much dyed and lacquered into a beehive and his a modified jerry lewis black pompadour. She drank slings, he drank rye and coke. I stood at the bar. By the time the second dj had struck up her set the place had filled as much as it would for the night with friends. It was good, watching people dance, when they did, mostly just on their own as they leaned up from the pool table maybe or when a favorite kicked in. Place is right on the highway so you can stand out on the front balcony and watch the cars go by close below, the road stereos fading at fifty miles an hour down around that dead man’s curve on the way south out of town. The music in the bar was a welcome relief from the dull normal radio fare and gospel or thrash to which I’m subjected in my wanderings. I didn’t venture forth to the dance floor, for fear of breaking a hip. Best times are always out in the parking lot behind the hotel, smoky wariness and nervous laughter.

Here are links to a couple of pdf collections of photos. Just click on the pictures to download them.

portraits and still lives
portraits and still lives
places and things

places and things

Cleveland plays soccer on Thursdays in town here so he and Trish visit after they finish at the laundromat and the grocery store when the game’s done. I jog around the track with the dog most nights, panting while the moon comes up. Molly and I hit the road, take the scenery in. I consent to go for a drive with her once a week like some old man being taken out for an airing to rural haunts of his happy sensual youth. Bucking in the underbrush. That’s all right if you look like Paul Newman.
Maybe a little too quiet but I get a lot done.

I ran across this file today… thought I’d posted it long ago but I guess not. It’s a music file, mp3. I got tinkering with Garageband. I have a friend in New Orleans, name of Alex, and the night Katrina hit I tapped him a goodnight and then I never heard a word until he surfaced about a month later in Baton Rouge. He never was one to talk about his troubles, not like me but you could picture it from the news anyway and he said he was running a chainsaw and clearing roads there, had finally got a machine online in a trailer, said he’d even put on a little weight. Last i heard from him he was back in New Orleans and the government had given them tarps to cover their open roofs for Christmas. He was gonna get a deck built on his house so he could get outside without having to stand in chemicals. I did a couple portraits of him I was supposed to send him but to tell you the truth the last year or so I couldn’t afford the cost of shipping, been that tight and that pricey, but it’ll happen. We had a good little Christmas morning or two I must say.

When I was a kid I used to sing at Saint Patrick’s day concerts and in church but I was stage shy enough I kept my guitars to myself pretty much and sang for myself mostly, to keep my hands loose and the cat frightened.

Anyway, I ran across a song that stuck in my mind so I started to tinker with it myself, Mary Chapin Carpenter’s song about the exodus to Houston after Katrina. My voice is pretty much shot to hell but she generally writes in my range so in the course of learning the software I set myself to task. Chisel to the hardest stone and all that.

I used vocal samples from one of my mother’s Vince Gil hymns and from Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Dead Man Walking” and some hiphoppy rhythm tracks whose origins I can’t trace. The dance vocal “Oh What a Beautiful City” is sampled from old Ralph Stanley’s “Twelve Gates to the City”. I did vocals, keyboards and guitars except for the really pretty acoustic strings. They’re the song-writer’s I think.

Lyrics go like this

Mama’s got her babies
Sleeping in a grocery cart
Daddy’s eyes are hazy
Wondering where they are
Waiting for the buses
Waiting on some Providence
Once we get to Houston
Maybe it will all make sense

Praying to the Father
And calling for the cavalry
Look at all this water
And somehow not a drop to drink
Now did you ever hear of nightmares
Coming in the light of day
Once we get to Houston
Maybe they’ll just wash away
Roll on Mississippi, goodbye Crescent City
Les Bon Temps New Orleans
Never coming back to stay

Never been to Texas
Hope this bus is on a tear
Never seen the President
Maybe he will meet us there
Never knew a promise
That didn’t break right in two
Once we get to Houston
Maybe one will come true
Roll on Mississippi, goodbye Crescent City
Les Bon Temps New Orleans
Never coming back to you

Last night I dreamed of rain
But golden light was all I saw
I heard my old dog barking
I went to see the Mardi Gras
I stood up on the banks
And looked out over Pontchartrain
I woke up here in Houston
Didn’t even know my name
Roll on Mississippi, goodbye Crescent City
Les Bon Temps New Orleans
Never coming back again
Roll on Mississippi, goodbye Crescent City

other lyrics traditional, American.

Sounds better in an ipod with earphones, really. I’ve had a little trouble getting the record player to work here but I think it’s going now. I enjoyed a bit in a novel, click: “Lullabies for Criminals” about how the narrator, a child junkie, she preferred vinyl recordings because at the end of every record there was the sound of children roller skating. First novel set in Canada I’ve read in a long time that wasn’t so self consciously full of quaint local colour and regional flavor aimed at getting a grant from the heritage committee I could heave. My niece and I have been plowing through Oprah’s book of the time of the month club collection, see. Needed a break.


Click: “Houston” by Mary Chapin Carpenter, arrangement redneckarts

or try this stupid little devil may care gadget:

which has been bloody-minded. Thanks for your patience. Not to everybody’s taste but then neither Alex or I ever minded that. Later.


~ by Rocky Green on August 27, 2008.

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