Sunday, January 17, 2016


David Bowie went back to his home planet almost a week ago and there have been many people come forward with beautiful things to say about this great man who towered over rock and roll. A giant among giants who's influence will never be erased.
I've spent the week listening to three albums; 1972's Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars and 1977's Low and "Heroes". Bowie was one of those artists like, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, or Johnny Cash that was just always in my life either through the radio or television and I don't remember becoming a "fan" of any of them they were just a natural part of my life. In a way, I took Bowie for granted for years. I was always happy to hear him on the radio, regardless of era, but he wasn't an artist I obsessively sought out, like Black Flag or Townes Van Zandt, until I heard "Heroes".
I was twenty two and living in Boston. I'd gotten a job at Waterstones Book store, on Exeter St. working in the receiving department. Whoever occupied my table before me had left behind a small stack of CDs which included Marvin Gaye, Roy Orbinson, a Motown compilation, and Bowie's "Heroes". Bowie really surprised me. "Heroes" had such a vital sound-artistically rich, but with a pop sheen. I knew I needed to start taking Bowie as seriously I took Lou Reed.
My next purchase was the Rykodisc double cassette Best Of, which accompanied me on many train rides to and from work. What I learned about Bowie was that he brought a sheer joy and exuberance to playing rock and roll which other artists lacked. Not to take away from anyone's songwriting abilities or their albums' production values, but Bowie wasn't to cool to smile through the music. That was refreshing and was always a good palette cleanser after a lot of the hardcore, blues, and doom metal I usually listened to.
It took me awhile to finally land on one of his albums that I'd call my favorite, but Low was it. Recorded the same year as "Heroes", Low is part of the Berlin trilogy that also includes Lodger. 1977 was a pretty crazy year for Bowie and long time friend Iggy Pop as they worked on each other's albums and recorded Pop's The Idiot and Lust For Life the same year as "Heroes" and Low. We're talking about four of the best albums made by either artist crafted in less than a year!
One of the things that set Low apart was the synth/electronic b-side that was mostly instrumental. The a-side featured some very good songs that are like little sci-fi character dramas (the sci-fi aspect being provided by the Kraut rock influence of synthesizer music). Be My Wife was released as a single and was the most classic Bowie sounding rock song on the album. The rest of the album is much more avant garde than anything Bowie had attempted up to that point, and despite what some critics thought, it was a great success. Partly because the album had a secret weapon in Brian Eno of Roxy Music providing much of the synth sounds. I can't say I've ever been a huge Eno fan, but I certainly have a great appreciation of him on Low.
When the news of Bowie passing hit, Low became my go to album. The last one, Blackstar, is amazing, and I enjoyed listening to it last Saturday morning while I was writing, but I think I'll take a little more time before I return to it. Low has a hopefulness to it that has been a great comfort, even in the more down beat instrumentals and lines like "Sometimes it gets so lonely...". In my head Low creates a whole world in it's seven tracks, as complete as a JG Ballard novel. There's not a hell of a lot of other rockers that have accomplished as much as Bowie and stayed good and vital for as long as he did. His shoes are just too damn big to ever be filled by the Fall Out Boys and Kanyes of this world.    
(full album here)

Monday, January 11, 2016


"Did anyone prophesize these people?
Only Travis"
-Red Angel Dragnet by The Clash

Martin Scorsese's masterpiece, Taxi Driver, debuted on Febuary 8th 1976, the same year David Berkowitz aka the Son of Sam started his killing spree in New York City. There were also a total of 1,600 murders in the city that year (in 1980 there would be 1,814 and in 1990 2,245!!) The city was still suffering from the 1975 fiscal crisis which would eventually lead to the 25 hour black out in 1977 which lead to looting, arson and murder. Then there was the heroin and crack and a massive decrease in police presence which made an already violent city more terrifying.
Taxi Driver was about one man in that city. A man who claimed he would not take it anymore. A man that would stand up to the scum, the filth. But Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro), he was no hero. Travis Bickle was a sick man. A man suffering from post traumatic stress disorder from his time in Vietnam, but there's no sense in Taxi Driver that Bickle wasn't already touched with a bit of darkness before he shipped out from boot camp. Not to say Bickle lacked a moral center, on the contrary, he knew the difference between right and wrong and firmly believed in his rightness. He was no junky, dealer, pimp, fairy, creep, whatever. He was a man who could not take it anymore. A man who dreamt of the day a real rain would come and wash all the filth off the street.
There are two distinct stories intertwining in Taxi Driver. One, is the story of Travis the fed up taxi driver, who after a chance encounter with a 13 year old prostitute, Iris (Jody Foster), decides it's his duty to rescue her from this scumbag pimp named Sport (Harvey Keitel). Travis purchases guns from a black market dealer to become a hero vigilante. The second, is the story of Travis the lonely Taxi driver who meets the angelic Betsy (Cybill Shepard). He falls for her hard, but after a disastrous first date she never wants to see him again. He's so tore up by her flat rejection of him that he purchases guns from a black market dealer, intending to assassinate presidential candidate Charles Palantine, for whom Betsy works for and admires.
The two stories twist around each other like snakes, but Travis also seems outside of his own stories at times. Left alone to narrate his own descent into hell. He floats in and out of the roles of savior and destroyer and doesn't seem to understand that they're not different, they're the same man with the same story. He's "God's lonely man." He's sick, weak and he knows it (like Fyodor Dostoevsky's antagonist in Notes From The Underground) and he has to get better and get stronger, healthier, all the while self-sabotaging all his own efforts.
 Even if you haven't seen Taxi Driver you probably know the "You talkin' to me?" bit or have seen the images of a mohawked DeNiro. It was a favorite of The Clash and they quoted a chunk of dialogue in the song that opened this essay. It's a touchstone of cinema and pop culture.
Writer Paul Schrader drew inspiration for the film from the loneliness and depression he felt driving around all night after his divorce. He was also influenced by the aforementioned Notes From the Underground. Notes and Taxi Driver are both related to the audience by the a first person narrative, men who are not well with the world. Bitter outcasts who fantasize revenge. Schrader saw the taxi
driver as good metaphor for loneliness and knocked out the screenplay in less than a month. Scorsese landed the directing job after his stellar work on Mean Streets, which also starred DeNiro and Keitel. Neither Schrader or Scorsese set out to make a horror film, and some will argue Taxi Driver's ties to the genre, but the end result is a work of urban horror that's closer to Henry; Portrait of a Serial Killer than Goodfellas. Taxi Driver is certainly a film, regardless of how you'd categorize it, that many horror fans can latch on to, like Apocalypse Now, The Warriors, or Class of 1984, that take cues, consciously or not, from the horror genre. And in turn Taxi Driver's influence crosses genre boundaries. I've seen horror films that wish their violence was as effective as the last several minutes of Taxi Driver. Also, something else that ties it to the horror genre is Bernard Herrmann's amazing score. You may know Herrmann also scored Hitchcock's Psycho. 
Taxi Driver is as close to perfect a a film can get. It's meticulous in its world building and portrayal of the darker aspects of the human soul. All the stars really go above and beyond in their roles, even supporting characters played by Albert Brooks, Peter Boyle and Scorsese himself are essential pieces to this amazing puzzle.

Saturday, January 2, 2016


Hey, fiends! Here's an excerpt from from latest book, City Long Suffering. If you like what you read you can get the e-book HERE for $3.99 and the physical book HERE for$11.99. 
The afternoon was wearing down when Robert pulled into a large gas station. As he unscrewed the cap he scanned the parking lot and street and saw the Camaro from earlier in the day driving by slowly from the direction they’d just come. It pulled into the parking lot of a grocery store across the street. The driver parked by the entrance, but the engine was still running. By the time the gas tank was full the occupants had still not gotten out. Robert replaced the cap and slid back behind the wheel, watching the rear view mirror.
“What? You see something, Robert?”
“That Camaro that passed us earlier. Somehow they got
 behind us again and just parked across the street.”
“How many were in the car?”
“Ok. Just take off like nothing’s wrong. It might just be
 a coincidence.”
Bad Penny had dozed off, but opened her eyes as the engine restarted.
“Mmmm-where are we?”
“South Carolina.”
“Yikes. How much farther should we go?”
“I was going to stop here, but I think we’ve got a tail.”
“Oh shit, for real? Robert what the fuck are you going to do?”
“He’s going to drive and we’re all going to stay calm. If there’s trouble, I’m a good shot.”
Robert put the car in drive and pulled out onto the street, passing the Camaro. About half a block
 past and the Camaro pulled out too.
Robert put the pedal to the floor, whipping into the oncoming lane past a pick up truck and then
 a hard right up a small hill. The street lead into a neighborhood and Robert started taking rights
 and lefts, but he never lost the Camaro that were just behind them at every turn.
Robert bounced the Charger out onto a four-lane highway keeping it floored, but the Camaro was
 driving right up his ass.
“We need to find a crowded shopping center or something…”
“Not if there’s going to be shooting. Look, pull into that church. I’m gonna stop this shit right now.”
Ann had the gun in her hand and turned the safety off. Robert took a hard left, skidding a bit and
nearly hitting the brick sign. The Camaro had to swerve, bouncing into the shallow ditch and into 
the parking lot. By the time they were able to stop Ann was already out of the car leveling the gun 
at them.
The passenger jumped out first with a sawed off shotgun. Ann pumped a single slug through his throat. 
As that was happening, the driver was getting out, but the sight of his partner’s blood splashing across 
the windshield gave him pause-time enough for Ann to shoot out the front left tire.
Robert had gotten out and was moving low behind her.
“Stay back, Robert. You! Get out of the car or I’ll put a bullet between your eyes!”
The driver got out, hands raised.
“Whoa, whoa! I don’t know what’s goin’ on, lady! I was just told to follow you!”
“Yea, and I guess you didn’t know your buddy had a shotgun? Put your hands on the hood and spread 
your legs. Robert, check him. And get ready to get messy, because if he moves, I’m blowing his 
brains out.”
Robert patted him down and took a .38 from his waistband and his wallet. Robert looked in the 
back and saw more guns, a machete, a chainsaw, baseball bats, rope, and chains.
Robert turned to Ann, “They’re boy scouts.”
“They’ve got enough hardware back here, they’ve prepared for everything.”
Ann stood behind the driver, reaching around to hold the pistol under his chin.
“You kill those people yourself? Huh? Or are there more of you?”
“I didn’t kill anyone.”
“Then who told you to follow us?”
“You ain’t gonna live long enough to find out, bitch.”
“Oh, did you find your balls?”
Robert was going through the car, “I found his cell phone! …Damn, there’re only initials by the 
“Don’t worry, Porter will figure it out.”
“Nooooo heeee woooooon’t.”
“Shit, I bet he’s already dead.”
Ann took a step back and put a bullet through the back of his left knee. He dropped to the ground 
screaming profanity. Bad Penny was slack jawed and got a chill when Ann turned her head to the 
side admiring her own handy work.
“I lost my son two years ago. I also lost my ability to give a shit about, well, almost anyone. Except 
my husband. He’s not dead. In fact,”
She shot his other knee.
“He’s going to kill whoever sent you after us and anyone else connected to you all. Robert, get his 
keys and then help me dump him in his car.”
Robert pulled the keys out of the ignition and pocketed them. Then he pulled the driver up by the 
armpits, while Ann grabbed him by the belt keeping the gun pointing at his face. They stuffed him 
behind the wheel and closed the door. Ann turned toward the Charger stumbling a bit, shaking so 
bad she almost dropped the gun.
“Are you ok, Ann?”
She grabbed Robert’s shoulder.
“That was crazy, huh?!”
He chuckled, “Uh, yea.”
Ann got out her cell phone and hit Porter’s number. She smiled at Bad Penny mouthing ‘holy shit!’ 
to Robert.
Porter’s phone rang almost until the voice mail would have picked up.
“Hi, cunt. Where you at?”
Robert caught Ann as her legs gave out. She stared at the phone in disbelief. Robert took it from 
her and hit speaker. There was a gravelly voice calling out to her.
“Are you there, you dried up bitch?”
“Who is this?!”
“Would you believe the Terrible Head? Now who are you, homie?”
Ann screamed into the phone, “Where’s Porter?!”
“He’s right here, mama! Relax. Tell me where you are and we’ll come get you and you can see him. 
Where’s my boys? I know they were on you just a little bit ago.”
“Bleeding, mother fucker! One’s already dead!”
“Awwww! That’s so unfriendly.”
Ann tore away from Robert with the phone and ran to the Camaro. She jerked the door open and put 
a bullet into the driver’s crotch.
“Who’s on this phone, asshole?! Who has my husband?!”
He just screamed and shook his head.
She shot him in the belly next.
“WHO, god dammit?!”
On the phone the Terrible Head was whooping and hollering. “Kill’em, bitch! Go on! You ain’t 
seeing yer old man in one piece ever again any way!”
Ann shot the driver in the face and started walking toward the Charger. She said into the phone, 
“I’ll see you soon,” and hung up.
“We’re going home. Pop the trunk.”
Robert hit the button on the key fob and he and Bad Penny followed Ann to the rear of the car.
Bad Penny slapped Robert in the chest, “Holy shit, dude!”
The trunk was full of shotguns, semi-automatic assault rifles, and handguns. Ann started popping 
rounds into the chambers and handing them to Robert.
“Put them up front.”
“Are expecting the zombie apocalypse, Mrs. Gray?”
She glanced back at Bad Penny.
“We expect everything.”
“Ann, what about Porter? Should we call Ray or Sam?”
She thought about it for a second.
“I don’t know who we can really trust at the department. I can’t think of anything Ray could do. 
Daily. I’ll call Sergeant Daily with the highway patrol. Porter liked…likes him.”
They all got back into the car. Ann looked back at Bad Penny.
“What to do with you?”
“What do you mean?”
“This is going to get ugly. We need to drop you off somewhere safe.”
“I would really feel safest with you!”
“Ann, someone else could be following us. If we drop her off they might take her.”
“Yea…you ever shoot a gun before?”
“Then take the shotgun. You don’t need to be a good shot with it.”
Robert found the fastest way back to Maupins with the GPS and headed for the interstate.

Ann went through her contacts and found Sergeant Daily’s name and hit ‘call’.