Shattered Wig #28

Shattered Wig #28
Coming In November!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Review of The Tinklers' The Elements in Latest Baltimore Magazine

"Read It" by John Lewis

The Tinklers
The Elements (Shattered Wig Press)

For three decades, The Tinklers (Charles Brohawn and Chris Mason) have been sharing their wide-eyed wisdom through paintings, music, books, and performances. The local duo has been featured on NPR (the network once followed a segment on Saddam Hussein with a snippet of their song “Tough Guys Are Probably Sad Inside”), been the subject of an excellent documentary (2007’s Everybody Loves The Tinklers), and appeared at venues such as the BMA. This slim, but poignant, book is the latest manifestation of their homespun worldview, and its hefty subtitle—An Account of the Wanderings of Steven & Mary and What They Learned in the Land of the Elements Hydrogen to Argon—pretty much sums up the story. Overall, it reads like a romantic novella written by adolescent geologists, and it’s to The Tinklers’s great credit that such a book could be so charmingly pithy.

Sam Shepard
Day out of Days (Knopf)
This book of stories seems timely and timeless, as it depicts people grappling with discontent, worry, and a creeping sense of unease. It reflects a national malaise that’s as prevalent on the streets of Baltimore as it is out West, where Shepard’s characters have been picking at the carcass of American mythology since the 1960s. In these pieces—which are loosely, but profoundly, connected by mood, image, and the arc of history—there’s little left for them to scavenge. The frontier mindset has turned ugly and senselessly violent, violence has become mundane, and “people just keep living their lives because they don’t know what else to do.” Cultural heroes such as Hank Williams, Howlin’ Wolf, and Casey Jones provide some measure of inspiration, but they’re all dead. As it turns out, the road doesn’t go on forever. And even if you manage to keep out of the ditch, it sometimes leads to nothing more than a Cracker Barrel.

To read more of arts and culture editor John Lewis’s musings on Baltimore’s arts scene, check out his blog, All the Pieces Matter, at

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Braving The Loafers & Docksiders to Taste the Effervescence of Toll's Genius & I Am Genius of the Day!

Transported to out of body experience last Saturday walking the cobblestone streets of downtown Annapolis at night. Driving Commander Chris Toll for his featured reading for Cliff Lynn's "The Corner of Poetry and Main".

O the memories of being pickled on wine in Annapolis in the mid-70s. I was a wee teen with an advanced thirst and a blonde Madeira Guild acoustic that my brother gave me. If you would pull up a stool I will sing you a gentle song of adolescent angst and perhaps a half-baked Dylan cover. There was a great old cabaret style club/coffeehouse/bar there then called "La Pauvre Papillon". (((Ouch))). I had a very sad blind date there once.

But I gathered up my courage and what was left of my muscle structure after moving into my new house for four days running to be Chris Toll's wingman for his venture deep into the dark heart of Loafer and Docksiderville. It was not only a Saturday night, but the night of a Ravens playoff game. You could feel the testosterone levels pressing against you like a subway car packed with snowmen made of goatcheese. How the scrubbed clean middies and Nappietowners mocked our ragged clothing and flyaway wigs!

The reading took place at a Starbucks. I know what you are thinking. But it wasn't too bad. The sad part is that the beautiful stone building it's in used to be the King of France Tavern with rich musical and historical heritage. The good part is the Starbucks hasn't dismantled all the charm. But once again it begs the question of modern humanity: "Is this the best we can do?"

The series is hosted by amiable, talented and able Cliff Lynne. The night afforded a great opportunity to sit with him afterward in a decent Irish pub and hear his back story as the Ravens slowly dissolved into the Colts belly. Cliff was actually blindsided by poetry by none other than Shelley Puhak (a name you do not forget once it rings inside your waxy ears!). He was looking to fill some time with a night course at a community college while he waited on his daughter to attend her classes. Signing up for what he thought was a fiction writing course, he was confronted with the demented pink tutu of Poetry jiggling with hyena meat and curdled cream. He was going to run screaming, but Shelley talked him into staying and he was soon hooked and hosting two different poetry series!

It was a small crowd for the reading, partially because of the Ravens game I'm sure, but Toll gave one of his best, most impassioned readings I've heard from him. And I have been enlightened and entertained by him more times than your Aunt Dolores has flipped pancakes while wearing jodhpurs. Whenever I hear him or read his poetry there are always lines that I want to memorize or even put on my tombstone or engrave in the forehead of a charge card executive. Sadly, my memory brain is weak like an energizer bunny that's been swimming in Curtis Bay on a cold, sleeting night. One line that I do remember, though, is "Poetry doesn't explain the Mystery, Poetry expands the Mystery". I might be paraphrasing, but unless you're a charge card executive, you get the picture.

Day four of living in my new house with my crazed ELO loving Southern Foxbelle and all is groovy. The world and earth and time itself may be dissolving, but I am squeezing each day like I squeeze my holy dog Max.

And today I am the guest "Genius" on Adam Robinson's fine blogsite "Everyday Genius". I was chosen from a full casting room of chorines by guest editor Lauren "Tron Me" Bender. Check it out:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Home Is Where the Lurking's Done

The nightmare has ended. Four months of paperwork repetition and basking in Kinko's flickering fluorescents by the fax machines and begging my accountant to not lose faith. Signing things I was not quite sure about except that they definitely didn't seem to be calling for the deaths of any agricultural workers in Latin America or the selling of human beings in the Sudan.

Many many nights of lying up late at night with that nagging feeling just around the corner of your mind that there is that one last task you should have attended to that day to keep the ball rolling. But finally, today at about dusk in Federal Hill the shiny silver key became mine after one last bitter drama.

Funny to think back on that first day of looking for a house that fit into the small pocket of affordability and how my friend the real estate man took us to the blue light district where we swung open a door of a still occupied domicile to be met with a wall of human fece smell and a basement of roiling angry dogs.

The next place did not have a wall of merde, but it did have a choo-choo train of a stool draped over the rim of the bathtub. There was also what appeared to be a recent basketball sized hole kicked in one wall and a huge poster of Jason from Friday the 13 facing out the top front window.
There was another place that was a vast maze of a failed plan. Blueprints for what the previous owner had wanted to happen tacked up on a wall, but one room filled to the ceiling with empty dog food bags, another room filled with buckets of keychains and much of the floor of the second floor was missing.

All of this made the house we fell in love with smite us all the harder. I have to admit the smell and the solid wood stairs were what hit me right off. There was actually a good smell. Nothing dead or stale, nothing of the living dead, no composting half-baked schemes.

Now here it is Thursday night, Jan. 14, and we just got back from taking an initial small load of art over there. The first climb of our front porch, the placing of the needlepoint yarn dog art over the radiator by the front door, the first desperate bolt for the upstairs bathroom. We unloaded our canvas bags of Scott Larson's George Jones art piece, our Daniel Higgs painting, , Amanda's portrait of me as Kim Jong Il attached in a Siamese way to Everly as Little Edie Beales, our early Dali print from Gavin the Gelding, Rio's portraits of Max and Peanut. The deeply melancholic Virgin Mary bust was still there on the floor in the middle room as was the most tortured Jesus bust, with blood drops coming from its eyes.

Now that my heart has found a home (figuratively captured by the great book/diorama pictured above that Everly made me for Christmas), there is a physical structure where we will nurture our neuroses, dreams, lusts and submerged goblins. She will stare resentfully at the white hair tufts in my ears. I will wonder if she put that record back in the sleeve. Occasionally on overcast days, just an unanticpated whiff of her scent on a towel will make me weep.

Will there be joyful moments of inviting neighbors in for boiled weenies and Miller lites, giddy late afternoons of vinyl spinning and pain free spanking, croquet games in the backyard as Donovan sings to us from a tree fort in an oak tree, or will there be encroaching alienation, lurkers at the threshold, pizza delivery boys with too much testosterone, roofies and wild hepped up rave music, long haunted gazing from across a half lit living room from the pumpkin colored plaid couch over to the black pleather recliner, the tv showing American Idol barely audible over the rushing traffic and real life gunfire outside?

Who, who is that at the door? Do they realize what's at stake? To stand up from the place where I am now and to break through existing particles of light and to reach out into the unknown and open a door, a door which really couldn't keep out anything that truly wanted to make its way in.
How will I know if their business card is legitimate or whether their moustache is meant to be ironic? Why is there no attic although there is an attic window? What do the neighbors think?

By spring there will be a screened in back porch and the world will look mighty fine from there.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Speak Your Piece Featured Poet Reading Wednesday, April 28th

The poet formerly known as Bean, Mark Sanders, has started up a lively once a week poetry series downtown. Every Wednesday with one featured poet preceded by an open mic. I get my shot on April 28th and am looking forward to getting expansive in a dining lounge setting.

I should finally be moved into my new house by then and perhaps have put the new Shattered Wig Review #28 to bed so I will be ready to party and try on my new Mexican wrestler persona of El Cascarrabias!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Head On a Freakin' Map

Neither on a stick nor on a windshield. Not on a Pez or on a post, but my head on a freaking map!

Imagine my surprise when the magazine distributor for Normal's walked in one day with more of a leer than usual and showed me the recent Charles Village newsletter. There in black and white was a reduction of a cartoon map of The Village drawn by esteemed local artist Tom Chalkley. And there floating top mid-center of The People's Republic of Broke-Ass Waverly was my head! And even though I hadn't seen Tom in years he had captured my hairline's losing battle right at its present moment. And in black and white I looked almost human. In full color I look a bit more like the missing Pep Boy who didn't know squat about changing oil, which is not necessarily a bad thing, just not something that will nurture my persona of El Cascarrabias! The Absurd Surrealo-Miserablist.

Poe's lovely head has graced many a map, but he always manages to pull off such a sexy look of languor and deep suffering. I have suffered! I have lain awake many a night weeping over lost love, woken before dawn and reached for succor in a bottle of Pernod or left over beer. Trembled with anxiety over getting slugged by some street psycho while manning my retail post. But there, there is my head, on a map, looking like a Pep Boy!

Where are my parents now that I am engaged and my head has been turned into a caricature on a map floating in the histiorosphere?

When I was in my wildcat 20s and 30s drinking my way through an ocean of Milwaukee's just-passed-inspection-barely my folks saw me merely as a strange quiet lad who had turned his back on an opportunity to pass a lifetime behind a desk at the NSA and who had somehow ended up in a dangerous city drinking every night with a wig that resembled a burnt sofa lying overturned in a ghetto alley. They thought nothing of my writing or music. In fact, my mother cried when I showed her my first book and they weren't tears of Hallmark. As long as I wasn't floating in cash from my creative efforts it was a juvenile waste of time best left behind once I walked out the high school doors.

Eventually they came not to hate me and to respect me somewhat, mainly due to a City Paper article written one Thanksgiving by Eileen Murphy naming me as one of the "People We Are Thankful For". They grudgingly called off the Hezbollah hit and stopped referring to me as Johnny the Pumpkin With Special Needs. In fact, in a moment that truly broke my heart, one of the last things my father was able to communicate to me the night before he died was asking if I had been able to wrap up the most recent issue of Shattered Wig that I'd been working on.

How I truly wish they could have hung on to meet Everly and have had Max the dog catch every last crumb that fell from their dinner table. And then, one quiet afternoon as we went through a photo album from back in the day, I could have taken them both by the hands and said "Remember how in Church Father Kharms said that one day when the last hours of time had run down, we would know life itself was done when The Great Hated One achieves love through trickery and his head will be found floating cartoon-like on a map? Well. Mom and Dad. I am that hated one. And my head is floating on a map." I would then unroll the glossy paper and the thundercracks would cause a lasting deafness while waves grew taller than Empires.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Spirit of Christmeastermass Wins Out Over Two Feet of Snow (Give or Take a Porn Star's Willie)

This year's Christmeastermass was only for the hardcore true believers of The Religion of No Religion. The day before, Baltimore was met with gusty winds and 12 or 14 hours of straight snow. Grown men and women wept while children sledded over their prone forms. Sunday, the day of the show/gathering, the sun was out bright and strong at 8:30. Ask not how I know!!! My very own eyes pried open at such hour. It was then I discovered that cats and dogs indeed spoke human words while we are not conscious. But what they say is not fit for conversation among even the most syph-ridden pirates!

All our honored performers boldly made it through the challenging weather except for the normally god-like John Dierker who is getting on in years and was not able to resist the thought of an afternoon spent snowed inside sipping hot toddies and spinning old Bing Crosby 78s. We are sure he eventually put on some form of unforgettable performance, it was just not for our eyes.

As usual, this day of the year is the best time to catch flinty spirit master Higgs. He is always very relaxed, loving what his fellow performers are putting down and contemplating what this magic forest called The Bible means by "baby" and by "Jesus".

My nephew Sir Softserve of the gilded lizard fingers, kept me on edge until the last minute and I had thought he was no longer of the Faith. Somehow he appeared during the opening Higgs set and towering near him was a giantess with long tangled vanilla roots. She weighed but one stone and when turned sideways you could see clear through to the back wall of Normal's where the giant painting of Liberace done by Bob Hieronymous still shimmers as if the oils had just been daubed that morning.

A question heard often that day was "Are these eggrolls vegetarian?" I still do not know the answer.

Daniel and his musical guests were all attuned to a vibration of goodwill and equal quest, but I have to say that perhaps Dr. Susan Alcorn blasted the largest hole through the public consciousness that snowy Sunday afternoon. She started out on her splendid pedal steel machine in an almost Hawaiian mode, very soft, almost tentative, and then little tufts of booster rockets kept almost imperceptibly taking her to higher and higher lofts of abstraction until she somehow mysteriously and heart breakingly came around/into a version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". I don't think it was just me that heard the deep yearning, joy, nostalgia, pain, loss and redemption dripping from that song dealing with the ambiguous idea of "holiday".

Throughout Herr Asa's set I kept noticing the monstrous Metal of Early Man effects pedal, kind of GI Joe from the '60s kelly green that he was using. It turns out to be an actual Soviet Union guitar effects pedal for that extra alien crunch. I also couldn't help but notice his winking and enchantment with the glowing sprite Amanda in the front row, one of the two humans known as "Baltimore's Goodwill Ambassadors".

What a day! Followed by feverish packing and heading off for The Deep South to meet the Woman Who Birthed The Love of My Life (and to also hit some record stores and Waffle Houses). I will miss Professor Higgs as he wanders across the globe in his hippy van enchanting youngsters with his Indian influenced gnostic trickster songs. Many's the day he drove out the lurking gloom of a grifter or psychic vampire from the hallowed halls of Normal's.