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Wednesday
Jan022008

i don’t wanna miss a thing…aerosmith live in nashville 9.19

When a man gets to be a certain age, you can count on certain things -- the knees, the hair, the hydraulic lift in the pants -- to go. It's not that God is cruel, it's that he believes in leveling the playing field -- and the (in theory) addition of wisdom has to be tempered with other lessenings. Not that you could prove it by Aerosmith's bucking, pawing assault on the senses at AmSouth. Though Steve Tyler, Joe Perry & Co. have snorted, sucked and spun through every excess known to Western (and many Eastern) civilizations over seriously extended periods of their 30 years as rock and roll heroes, there's been no diminishment of powers. Indeed, it's as if they've distilled the knowledge of excess and put it between their ears and legs, in their throats and fingers. Lessening? Not in that painfully taut Perry's 6-pack abs (replacing, no doubt the 24 bottle case previously consumed) which is flexed as he unravels stinging, sinewy guitar lines that entwine around the columns of pain and passion streaming from Toxic Twin Tyler's throat like hissing electricity needing a place to charge. Not the always androgynous Tyler in his shredded red and white striped t-shirt, his pants defying gravity as they clung to those swiveling hips in much the same way the Boston-based yowler's fingers wrap themselves around the mic as he leans into yet another seek-and-destroy vocal performance. For Aerosmith, whose Just Push Play marks a conscious decision to return to the grit and the street -- forsaking Diane Warren's turbo-hit-balladry for a band-driven, hard as diamonds take on no frills yard dog rock, the 2001 tour is about reclaiming the truth of their roots. Largely forsaking the Geffen Permanent Vacation-era hits, which heralded a return to the commercial fore for the AOR jurassics, this was a show keyed to where they sprung from and showcasing Play's leaner, meaner reality. A legitimacy grab can be a dangerous thing, especially when the act in question has drawn out a strong concentration of fans who weren't born when their first album was released. And no doubt, the superficial 'smithheads were lost for much of an evening filled with blues-based powercrunch. But for anyone who would surrender to the pummeling backbeat and take a lesson in dynamics, the sweep would carry them along until the gaps made sense. Resurrecting bawdy jewels such as "Big 10 Inch (Record of Rhythm & Blues)," which was given a randy burlesque patina -- jauntily going barrelhouse as the graphics reinforced the music being whirled out before the capacity crowd -- Aerosmith knew no shame, just torque and release, torque and release, and delicious, near-carnal-crazied laughter. Lick it off your fingers, make THAT sound, feel the moment and let the moment move one's tropic of cancer or capricorn. Defying the gender reality, is this a show that's double X? Or is it XY? Or is it about both inside us? And is it a literal read on the aforementioned? Or is it about a merger of the two chromosome combo-packs for the greater pleasure? If it's Aerosmith, it's both. There were moments, Tyler and Perry -- gaunt cheekbone to gaunt cheekbone at the mic, singer leaning into guitarist as one peeled off another acid-dripping solo --where one could only hold their breath, wondering if they were going to the wall or mattress in some hedonistic merger that would defy homoerotic splendor and dissolve everything we've ever been raised to believe about gender orientation. And that's the beauty of America's hardest working, hardest rocking rock'n'roll band: they blow our minds, our carbons out of our carburetors, our longheld biases with their full-frontal ability to dissolve longheld conceptions about what sex, what rock, what catharsis feels like. It is them and us and a long Freudian tumble without words down a narrow tunnel to a place where there's a cigarette and a wet spot -- and truly nothing more needs to be said. Not that this show was merely about the hurtling towards impromptu musical combustion. With the military precision of high tech, large production grand rock spectacles we as consumers have come to expect, Aerosmith hit their marks -- and used the resistance of "being there" to heighten the tension built. Even what should have been a stiff little moment -- moving the band en masse from the stage, through the crowd to a flyer stage in front of the lawn -- came off as a bit of solidarity with the peeps. Though being surrounded by a phalanx of beef (surely for their safety, but it did create a barrier in the see-me, touch-me, fuck-me, rip-us-to-shreds illusion they conjure), the maneuver didn't detract from the impact of giving it back to the cheap seats. Yes, the filmed vignettes were posturing and unnecessary. But as an entire lawn was lit by extended lighters, swaying gently back and forth during "Dream On," it was all forgivable. "Dream On," with its meandering melody and trippy lyrics started out all those years ago as irony cast as wisdom, but something to (hopefully) be grown into… Today it is a telling truth, a rock and roll survivors pledge and promise. Lost in the build, one can forget it's a song about wisdom, loss, desolation, aging and the price of rock & roll dreams. That there is clarity here may've been lost on the crowd, but the huddled masses yearning to be hurled against the continuum to break on through the other side got the pining and the want, that need to make more out of what's left of the ruins wreaked through excess and unknowing. "Even when light…like dusk to day" Tyler purr/whined, "Everybody's got the dues they like to pay-AY-ay" - as heads bobbed in recognition. It was a truth, one that may not have been recognized as such, but one that is tattooed on the back of the mind of every salient or even blotto concert goer. It is the bottomline -- time passes, we toil, it's all equal in the end. And, wisely and classily, the song was not sent out towards the Trade Center/Pentagon reality. Not that the tragedy was sidestepped in its entirety. Tyler congratulated the crowd for not letting anyone make them victims, for standing up and rocking. His bite-off and spat-out predecessor's taunt "Beyond Beautiful" was all acid and bile for the man whose been replaced - and that malicious napalm wince may've been just as effectively sent into bunkers where the terrorists hide. But this wasn't a show about world crisis or politics, beyond the politics of screaming guitars, stiff members, sticky nethers, kicking out the jams and finding the groove that will lift you up and leave you spent. With emphasis on "the old stuff," this show was a roiling valentine to why this is arguably the greatest rock band ever produced in America. Beyond living the lifestyle beyond the definition, Aerosmith pawed and spat and bucked and kicked their way through ferocious blues and looming heavy Zepplin-esque moments. "Sweet Emotion" is -- and was at AmSouth -- loaded with the threat of something major, something with danger, something dark and foreboding, while "Walk The Way" snapped and popped with the voltage of Sparky waiting his next prey. Even "Draw The Line" with its bass runs and charging guitar bursts found a new vitality. It reminds the faithful to bolt when necessary, but to stand and hold one's own with force and fire. This is a song of us against them -- and it was delivered in a way that broke down the sense of star and crowd. It was a violent thing in Tyler's shrieking, but it was also about empowering people to maintain the strain. Take it any way you can, but get your's while it's there for the getting. And while the street shoots through your veins, offering emotional and kinetic thrust, keep reaching for something more. If it's the trippy psychedelia that marks the brand new "Sunshine" or the circular musical form that is "Jaded," a cautionary tale of being too molded by forces that will shape, then abandon you, you can have more than given if you keep dreaming and stretching. Yes, they did the bloated "Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" -- sending it out to Faith Hill in what was either popcommentary or a reference to "breathe" in the first line -- and "Crying" got the full-on swing-it-around-a-pole vamp, but these moments weren't the soul that fired Aerosmith this night. Near the end of a long drawn out summer tour, the boys were about taking it back. Musically. Spiritually. Attitudinally. For them, it was communion of the street, a sacrament of the scrappy ne'er-do-wells who ever so occasionally as no less than the American poet Tom Petty promised "even the losers get lucky sometimes." For one night, rock and roll surged in the home of country music -- and it was good. Indeed, it was more than good: it was fire and rage and hormones and a man in a feather boa reminding everybody about that most primal tingle, whether the next morning was to bring school, a cubicle or a long day with a blue collar. For the cogs, to forget that and feel the pulse, that is the job of rock'n'roll salvation. For one night only, the reverends Tyler and Perry were putting it down -- and the sold-out masses were picking it up with the kind of fervor usually reserved for snake handling, tongue talking and full-immersion redemption. I'll give you an A-men, but it'll be wearing a short plaid skirt + a pair of four inch platforms beside. -- Holly Gleason

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Tuesday
Jan012008

“like a white winged dove”, Stevie Nicks

To be a bit of silk on a draft, a pair of wings beating against the air, the centrifugal force of a pirouette, Stevie Nicks in the moment. For it's that feather in the wind that is carried in spite of itself -- and feels the current as it's weightlessly conveyed to another place -- and is transformed in the moment that is what we aspire to when we embrace the leather and lace, sparkles and velvet. Towards the end of her set, Nicks vamped on the friends and lovers she has known -- "poets... priests of nothing... legends." It was a full-throated mantra, an incantation sung over and over, moaned as an answer and a truth of defining how the potency of those who marked her life emerged from the mist. And while for Nicks, those people were most likely bold-faced names, her plea and her definition was the lower case truth of anyone who ever impacted a life -- for everyone who writes their name across one's soul or psyche can most certainly defined as any of the above. And that has always been the beauty of Stephanie Louise Nicks, the Greyhound executive'd daughter and twirling diva with the sparkle in those too big eyes that take everything in. She transforms anyone, anything that crossed her vision into the most charmed and mythical. Stevie Nicks, still the Welsh Witch in black diaphonousness and whirling shawls, has made a life out of gypsy's truth and making magic for suburban dreamers who want something mystical with their muscular guitars and anthemic choruses. The balletomane has fashioned a reality that has nurtured her creative spirit and given quarter to three generations of romantics, and they'd all turned out for Nicks' stand at the Amsouth Pavillion. With the lightning flashing, "Dreams" washed over the crowd as much a cautionary truth about what we get our hearts into and what our hearts lead us towards. Desires and hungers are the things we crave, even as they have the potential to destroy us -- and that is the tightrope to be scaled: the wanting and the needing. Wants and needs have always defined Stevie Nicks' writing, a whirling, churning series of images that always add up to finding, connecting or losing something close to the heart. There may be that patina of enchantment that sparkles across the surface of what Nicks serves up, but there is always that insight into the human heart that connects her to the non-starry-eyed in a way that tells truth far more clearly than even the Patti Smiths or Elvis Costellos -- brilliantly direct writers both. Balancing Fleetwood Mac classics -- "Rhiannon," "Gold Dust Woman" --with early solo material -- "Edge of 17," "Stop Dragging My Heart Around" -- and a healthy sampling of songs from her brand new Trouble In Shangri-La, Nicks wove a spell that was as much about mood as it was music. Not a séance, not a channeling, not even a pajama party with all the lamps drapped in scarves, there was a spirituality conjured that took her fans to a more open place. Whether it was the redneck girl with the tattoo and the name on the back of her belt, the mothers and daughters, the college girlfriends, the yuppie men coming in homage to their once objet du lust, the gentle swaying and lifted lighters were as much a coming together as they were some spasm of catharsis. Nicks was a gentle spirit, one who asked her audience to "know that those lost in the terrible thing are always here with us, but please surrender to the music and let it take you." Knee deep in a funky, funky "Stand Back," Nicks threw down -- her ad hoc wails on the end of the Prince-penned undulator demonstrating that her husky, musky alto is as imbued with blood and sweat and jagged edge as ever. Bringing Sheryl Crow out onstage with her -- the younger star basking in the grace and glow of her hero -- it was like watching a master and favorite pupil pushing, rather than an old-timer leaning on the reflected glory of the now! wow! star for some kind of relevance. At times, gentle and even lulling, there was that hush of not wanting to break the spell. At other times, the frenzy of rock and roll took the pavilion and rolled onto the lawn, jolting the crowd to their feet and drawing out a bit of the kick inside. Nicks moves easily from the rooms of attitudes and emotions, rushing from a hurt to a thrill, a caress to a want, a bitter admonishment to a confession of desire. A rollercoaster of feelings, Nicks did what she did best: connect the dots of the various sentiments that comprise our lives and loves. It can be a fairly messy process, but Nicks wears it well -- and her fans revere her for the bravery and vulnerability that it takes. If the fans weren't so conversant in Shangri-La as a work, the songs were delivered with enough verve to make a case for concert-tour as sales instigator. "Fall From Grace" rocked with the insistence of her most compelling heavy-hitters, while "Too Far From Texas" pined without self-consciousness and the burning "Sorcerer" captured the conflicts of arriving in Shangri-La unsure and looking for the yellow brick road -- excitement, fear, the need to survive and the will to thrive. Crow, dressed in low slung leather pants and a cutaway on the sides top with red roses, delivered a bottomy "My Favorite Mistake" and an accelerated "Every Day Is A Winding Road" that were as loose and as freewheeling as anything done on her own tours. And the pairing of diva and demi-diva on an encore of Tom Petty's "I Need To Know" put the urgency of the female rock and roll existence into brilliant perspective. But it was when Nicks finally finished the evening with the somewhat obscure "Has Anyone Written Anything For You" that the crystaline beauty of what she brings to the table becomes clear. A song of unabashed want -- but the want to give to someone else, to celebrate what makes them special, to fill a need elsewhere -- "Has Anyone…" defines the brightest light in her heaven: for this is a song that demonstrates that it's in giving our grace and beauty away that we gain everything we could ever want. In that moment, in that catch-voiced tug of an offer, a query, a need to shine the light on someone else's magic, the black-draped one shows us where the real connections are. Nicks, who once confessed to "being taken by the wind," is more a sage who's been taken by the songs. Old enough to merely inhabit her place as muse with grace, she is still out there, taking it to the hilt each night. Her songs are her children -- and she forcefully witnesses their truths as much for herself as others. We should all age so passionately. -- Holly Gleason Nashville, Tennessee

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Friday
Oct042002

Dreaming On…Aerosmith, Andy Parker + the Ghost of Slow Dances Past  

"Every day, I look in the mirror/ All these lines in my face gettin' clearer/ The past is gone…" It is a benediction, an acceptance, a truth projected forward rather than backwards. It is the opening of Aerosmith's meandering "Dream On," a song that's most likely about regret and reconciling how it was with what it might have been -- and scratching up enough hope to continue. Because no matter what -- life goes on. As has America's greatest rock & roll band. As have their fans. As have the people who have no idea who they are or why they matter. Time rolls forward, sweeping us up -- or if we fight it, in spite of ourselves. But there is no choice, only knowledge accepted or denied. And still it rolls. "Dream On" with its filigreed melody, its melting rhythm, its eroticism that is something far beyond carnal. It was a beacon of things unknown, things murky, things necessary -- even as they terrified the uninitiated. For all the promised mystery, though, it was mostly an as-yet-unlived siren's song for a youth lost to waste and beauty surrendered in the name of ephemerality. The young believed its promises, held their lighters aloft and screamed to join up, hurling their futures at the feet of the wanton rock gawds recklessly treading about upon their innocence like moth-chewed Persian rugs. Standing under the pavllion at what was -- and to me will always be -- Starwood Amphitheatre outside Nashville, Steven Tyler sent out this hymn to the wages paid into the night. Ardor. Ardent. Aching. For the man who defies gender and blurs sexual definition, it was a song about surviving the circus, but also an elegy for a former wife recently passed from cancer of the brain. Cyrinda Fox, a platinum blond child of New York's new wave, a punk princess paramour of New York Doll David Johansen, the inspiration for David Bowie's "Jean Jeanie," was gone. A flicker and out -- and Tyler was holding his voice aloft like so many disposable lighters on the hill of puke and sodden grass, a memory to burn itself into the eternal with no uncertain passion. "Sing women, just for today/ Never tomorrow/ Good lord might take you away…" If Tyler sang for a love that had passed, so many memories can fill each individual's gap. We all have those friends who've gone… the ones you've put your shoulder next to and howled the truth that was defiant and scary and challenged us to live broader, fuller lives. And for me, swept up in the jagged rasp, time cracked open and a too temperate cafeteria, humid from the cranked and pumping Midwestern steam heat, appeared. There was a mountain of down jackets in light and navy blue, emerald green, the occasional olive and khaki and a cherry on top dot of crimson littering a far corner. There were the wooden tables for the proper U. S. boys to have their lunch at each day -- now lining the walls beneath the windows, to maximize floor space, but also to offer a place to perch for those of us not yet dancing. The not yet dancing… in our Shetland sweaters and straight-legged cords, our topsiders and our squeaky clean stick straight hair glistening under the rainbow-gelled overhead lights. Watching the brave and the bold gyrating as white midwestern kids do -- herking and jerking in hunt-and-peck time to Bad Company and Foreigner, Mott the Hoople, AC/DC and T. Rex and being Cleveland, Ohio the Michael Stanley Band's nearly threatening "Let's Get The Show On The Road." The boys, of course, were across this vast expanse of polished wood and churning bodies. They were watching us watching them -- as not quite sure what to do as we were not quite sure what to expect. The joys of single sex education -- you know you're either the quarry or the hunter, but you're still not quite sure what to do when you're in proximity of the other. So you narrow your eyes, run your fingers through that wash of ebony or butter silk, shift from side to side, crack your gum, turn away. It all seems so ridiculous… so silly… so fraught. Until. Until that boy is suddenly standing before you. Unsure. Terrified to speak. Terrified not to. Responding isn't much easier, because… well, what does it mean? What are you supposed to say? And so it was that I'd crawled up on top of a table, feet firmly planted like baby oaks into the bench beneath me. Leaning forward, elbows on knees, chin on hands, guileless smile on face. Even in the 7th grade, I loved to watch, to see the waves of rhythm, feel the sweet energy of kids seeking some kind of solace and connection beyond anything they'd ever found. Lost in the moment, I almost didn't realize there was boy in front of me. Blonde headed, pale skin, middle height. In a pin-striped oxford cloth shirt, tender consternation embroidered on his face… lips knotted in confusion. "Would you, uhm, like to, ah… dance?" he finally pushed out. I tilted my head. Took him in. Realized it was a threshold to cross -- and knew it was a bridge that while I could never cross back over was one I'd been waiting for all night. Joe Perry's serpentine guitar part was twisting around the melody, Tyler'd not yet begin to yowl his paean to the price he'd pay. I lifted an eyebrow, savoring the moment, half smile upon my lips because this was the moment where it was all about to change. Into what, I didn't know… just that it was Andy Parker took my hand, well, my fingers really -- encircling them like fragile bits of china or baby bird bones that he might crush. Almost as if he wasn't sure what little girl digits would feel like, hoping they'd be soft, relieved that they were. Feet just the tiniest bit shuffley, heading to the middle of the semi-crowded clot of barely pubescents, shifting from side to side… "Even as dusk to dawn…" came the confession that wouldn't, couldn't resonate in real time for a bunch of children with shining eyes and faltering courage. Bridge of nose to shoulder, then the puff of cheekbone resting on graceful young boy collarbone, eyes closed as the the eyes of all the little girls not yet chosed singed into my back. The damp palms on the widest part of my shoulder blade, the part my wings would've sprouted from -- not that I wanted to fly away. No, I wanted to be right there, right then, feet barely moving in the smallest slowest circles, a young boy's breath fetid, suppressed, hardly escaping into my ear. It was so intimate, so close, wrapped up in a dancing school boy's arms. Him so tentative, so polite, so not wanting to ruin the moment, not sure what he wanted really. Me, feeling the proximity, the penetrating heat of another -- that sense that whatever was happening wasn't too risque, wasn't too fast, wasn't something to fear. Just relax and feel the jagged edges of Tyler ranting. "Sing women, sing for the years, sing for the light, sing for the tears…" And when the song ended, there was that extended moment of not knowing what to do -- not wanting to let go, not being able to stay engaged. An innocence defined and a want to that's neither seedy nor overwhelming. The end of that first slow dance is a lot like life… heady, yes, but uncertain. You can want. You can maybe even have. But what does it mean? There in the darkness of the University School lower campus dining room, it was about what was to unfold, to happen, to catch you on up and take you away on a current of blood-boiling desire. But it started sweetly, with a boy who was as startled by the pooling of something curious in the tummy, as not aware of the way it would all turn out as I was. Just as suddenly, the heat broke and a bit of sweat rolled down my front. It was sticky under the pavillion, as the tropical storm that was named Lili had rolled through Nashville just that afternoon -- and Music City was more humidor than commodores. Up on the grass, Steven Tyler was giving witness to what dreams can mean, the danger and the delight of the price paid, the reckless pleasure and the white knuckled prayers of the survivors. Somewhere up in heaven, Cyrinda Fox -- long divorced, but still an indelible part of his soul -- smiles with eyes like pinwheels and lips like thick, slick glass. Somewhere Andy Parker has no clue. May not even remember the girl in the yellow monogrammed sweater and pink buttondown shirt. But in that moment, I looked at my friend the gossip columnist, smiled brightly and winked. We didn't know each other until much later in life; but during "Dream On," we recognized the deepest secrets the other held and laughed. The promise of what could be stretched before us somewhere in another long past night. That's the beauty of great rock and roll: there's a transparency that let's us see ourselves. For Aerosmith, hands down America's greatest rock band, it was the mirror calling the evening black. --Holly Gleason 6 October 2002

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Thursday
Nov012001

life is a cabaret…life in a moment, eternity in a song

When you put Paul Williams and Jimmy Webb in a room, you basically have the collective soundtrack of the late '60s and '70s in pop music. What they didn't write -- as writers creating for others, as opposed to the work of writer/artists -- isn't worth having. And generations of Americans, indeed citizens from farflung points of the world, have their lives and defining moments tied up in songs like "We've Only Just Begun" and "MacArthur Park" and "Evergreen" and "Wichita Lineman." How does one argue with a line like, "I need you more than want you/ And I want you for all time"? And the two catalogues are filled with these sorts of revelatory moments, sparkling like diamonds piled on deep green velvet. So it is that Jimmy Webb and Paul Williams came together to trade songs and quips and repartee for New York's well-heeled café society. These are people who don't want to go to deep, but would like to remember and be entertained, jogged into moments and reminded of who they were when -- perhaps-- they were younger and freer and bolder. It is an incredibly specific audience one plays for in a place like Feinsteins, with its dark wood paneling, fine table cloths and $10 orders of green beans. And they do insist on being entertained, a job the quite glib Paul Williams was custom molded for. Self-deprecating, insightful in way that has enough training wheels attached so everyone gets the inside jokes or dirt and ingratiating in that backstage pass for the sponsor, so they can tell their friends how hip they are -- friends who have no idea what hip is, so take it on faith that their rock and roll friends are about more than diamonds and Royces! For a lover of songs as small pillows of life, though, it creates a certain frustration. The songs are there. They are played and they are sung. They are recognized and they are responded to. But rarely do they get excavated, examined for the depths of truth they reveal. And in a strange twist of fate, there's no blame to place. These artists know their room -- and they deliver what is expected. Transcendence would be lost on this crowd in their furs and their jewels and their bespoke suits, so why venture the terrain and embarrass the paying customers with too much truth, rambunctious emotions, lost moments and memories that are fading or maybe far too vivid? But that's not to say these two couldn't get there from here. For even in the jivest supperclub set, there's always room for that moment. Maybe it's for the artist, maybe the song demands it, perhaps it's an accident. But when the connection happens, it jolts through you like a bolt of electric current and heads straight to the floor. After much jocularity, and Williams' gracious citing of the Grammy earned by said composition, Webb was left to his own devices to play -- in that gorgeous cascading way of his, both hands spiraling notes around the other, washing us out on waves of melody -- "The Highwayman." The song stood as the title track for country music's Mount Rushmore -- Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash --'s summit meeting on vinyl. "The Highwayman" was a fitting elegy for each of their larger-than-life personas, a celebration of the legend living at its fullest potential -- with just enough swashbuckling to lend an aura of mystery and danger and musk and lace cuffs and a place beyond the rules. It was also a song of the spirit, a song that promised that the rake and rambler's essence never dies -- only the mortal coil is finite -- and it will be reborn into the heart of some other thrillseeker who will also know no sense of boundaries. Johnny Cash as the voice of God. Kris Kristofferson as the William Blake Buddha. Willie Nelson as the mystic sage. Waylon Jennings as a pirate who would rape your daughter and steal your jewels and tattoo his name across her heart evermore. Each brought volumes to verses that were already beyond fraught with meaning. In a few lines, Jimmy Webb painted pictures, delivered glorious novels, cast nets and brought home lives lived to capacity, moments savored, moments conquered, glories had and exploded. For what made "The Highwayman" more than just one more rah-rah outlaw anthem was the fact that it embraced the whole truth -- that there is a cost to these lives, a back end which eventually arrives. And it is in the destruction of the gallant maverick that the soul moves to its next plateau, its next Himalayan plateau where the air is rare and the view is staggering and the wind whips through one's hair with a briskness that is stirring. For it's tremendous risk and full-blown adventure where dreams are created, realized, broken and remembered. It is the intersection of desire and delivery -- and it is the pasture where the highwayman, the space traveler, the pirate, the damn builder, the explorer and yes, perhaps even the rock songwriter can graze and frolic and race the wind to wherever. Death. Rebirth. Reincarnation. If the devil's hand is aces and eights, then the highwayman's numerology is eight on its side. Inifinity and infinte. It's all the promise the soul chasing the dawn needs. For when this ride is over, all that's required -- beyond memories that matter -- is a fresh horse that's high spirited and ready to run. Like all of Webb's songs, the agility with which he captures whole lives is breathtaking. But "The Highwayman" celebrates a promise seldom articulated: if one's spirit isn't broken, it will come back with gusto and panache. In the four kings, it is a song delivered as a solid contract, a recognition of something intrinsic, taken on faith and recited for the lesser beings. It is compelling in that pater noster way. In Webb's mouth and at his fingertips -- gentle, caressing, articulate digits that cloak the words with mood and magic -- "The Highwayman" is reincarnated yet again. It is not as an absolute irrevocable, but more the tender witness of someone who's done the miles and knows empirically, so there is no need to scowl or growl or even settle one's shadow across the moment. From the moment he made his first declaration, this was an old soul, telling its story. Or rather stories. There was no braggadocio involved, no finger-waggling about the lives that've been led. It's more a dignified witness to adventures that've been had, dangers shrugged off and walked through a life of, well, broken lightbulbs and spires of fire. Jimmy Webb knows no fear, only faith there will be more. It is all glorious. It is all the same. It is all experience that elevates the adrenals, brings the drama and celebrates the mettle. For him, "The Highwayman" is almost a truth beyond conscious consideration -- and his exhaled delivery, attenuating a word here, quickening the pace there, is human and engaging. Done deliberately? Hard to say. But in his humanity, he becomes a mirror. We could be these things, too. We could have adventures. Fly. Sail. Climb. Go fast. Leap into the brink. Dance over the abyss. We can do what we wish -- try to catch the wind in our outstretched hand. When that is over, we can rest easy, softly, peacefully in the notion that there will be another ride. And another. And another. And… For inside even the meekest librarian, there is a marauder waiting to plunder the moors or a desperado under the eaves, waiting for the fingernail moon to rise and send a silver sliver of light to guide him on. We dream boldly -- we live cautiously. When Jimmy Webb wraps "The Highwayman" in his flesh and blood and life and voice, he's giving us the promise it can be our's too. Somewhere between, there is a place we can let down our hair, toss back our heads, dig in our heels and know that no matter what happens, there will be another dance. All we have to do is believe and stay connected, not let go. For that's what a highwayman does: he hangs on to his soul, even as the gallows beckon. The adventurer is not afraid of the consequences, so much as he is of what he might miss. The average is a Hell here on earth -- and it's something to remember, something to guide us on when the safety of the known, the comfort of the obvious beckons. Ride. Squeal. Savor. Whether a drop of rain, a swashbuckler or a dam builder, there is continuity and connection. Life in a moment, eternity in a song, Jimmy Webb at the piano -- and then…

"The Highwayman" I am a highwayman Along the coach roads I did ride With a sword and pistol by my side Many a young maid lost her baubles to my trade Many a solider left his life blood on my blade The bastards hung me in the spring of '25 But I am still alive I was a sailor, I was born upon the tide And with the sea I did abide I sailed a schooner around the horn to Mexico I went aloft and unfurled the main sail in the blow And when the yards broke off, they say that I got killed But I am living still Perhaps I always will I was a dam builder Across the river deep and wide Where steel and water did collide A place called Boulder on the wild Colorado I slipped and fell into wet concrete below They buried me in that gray tomb that knows no sound But I am still around Seems like it all goes round and round and round Around and around Knowing here we go… I'll fly a starship Across the universe divide And when I reach the other side I'll find a place to rest my spirit if I can Perhaps I may become a highwayman again Or 'll simply be a single drop of rain For some things will remain And I'll be back again, I'll be back again Yes, I will Though knowing here we go But we'll all be back again -- Jimmy Webb

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Tuesday
Sep182001

driving + crying… two lanes running through my heart 9/11

hard to believe i'd ever not just jump on a plane and maybe out of respect for those who NEED to get places quickly i opted to drive up to cleveland for a couple items of business this weekend 8, almost nine hours in a car...and yet in light of what's befallen our country, it was the best thing i could have ever done we live these go-go fast paced lives, racing and jumping and twisting to fit it all in, hit the mark, make our number and the pressure builds and the pressure drains us of the basics like how beautiful our country truly is rolling out of nashville on the three lanes of I-65 north it was green and rolling, as the nation fell beneath my tires relinquishing the ground that is all of our's to cherish, to savor, to embrace the hills were reaching up toward the horizon, but they were also beckoning me to come forward and really consider this land… kentucky was those stone faces, blown apart to make way for concrete ribbons all the jagged edges, the piles of slate extending different lengths like shelving built to last forever, holding the tales of all who'd ever traveled through there and the lushness of it all the pine needles scraping out against the blue the thick, forest and emerald green of oaks and maples and every other tree rich with sap, bobbling on the breeze, tranquil, yet strong at rest because it's the posture that best suits sun dappled fridays those trees lining the hillside, rising and falling with the topography but always reaching to the heavens with a faith that defies gravity even as there is nothing more firmly rooted in the rich kentucky soil and there was louisville in all its preserved glory exactly as it was, even as it grows more modern every day reminding me that the past is the key to the future and forgetting what we were and are negates the fertile lives we've led that brought us here... for the birthright and the experience accrued is a gift kentucky, with it's white fences and its horsey allusions (even their highway signs) offered that sense of the land as emerging power... as the ground moving and swelling... as something that is a force of its own ohio offered its fecundity as a broad gift once cincinnati with its skyline and its stadium and its merging lanes fell away and the two lane each way (no superhighway for my home state) pulled away from the bottom bookend of the buckeye state, ohio's vast expanses spread themselves endlessly before like the sun dying -- spilling melted crimson lipstick beyond the eye's view -- on the ocean in key west... behind barbed wire or split rail fences, the fields are ready for the harvest the corn probably taller than i am... brown with its tassles swinging in the wind green fields with yellow flowers on the tips, some crop i probably should know hayfields half-mowed, with the big rolls of winter-food for livestock left in the midst of the newly shorn green fields where they promise both a future filled with more waving grasses to be brought in and the knowledge that winter will not starve the cattle or the sheep or the horses or whatever else they'll feed it to there were the paint peeling barns in reds and whites with tar black roofs the aging witnessing the time already committed to a way of life that keeps our country strong -- and reminds us, too, that farm aid's message (keep family farmers on the farm) is as much about protecting a way of life that was the backbone of this country you could see flags on the mailboxes, where the access roads abutted 71 and those mailboxes all sported those tiny flags in tangible demonstration of their commitment to the greater way of life... and the houses and the fields and the equipment and the crops are all part of this amazing multi-layered truth that is this country... that is the unseen things that are the fiber of our being sure, the roads were scarred and patched. the ride was bumpy and hot and i think i got sunburned on my face while driving but it was also breath-taking, to come over a hill and see an amazing valley to look down from a bridge and see the water flowing forward, not concerned about who did it or what does it mean just moving forward in tranquility, the power coiled in the current + the faith lodged in something higher yet more basic i drove because i was afraid to fly i arrived a rich woman, reacquainted with the majesty that is this land to see trees creating a canopy for travel to watch tobacco leaves bend and wave and sigh to know that there is richness in the soil that will feed us forever if cared for what more could be want from our nation? it is a gorgeous, beautiful, inspiring place in its raw forms it is worth seeing to remember where it all starts from if you're feeling weak or small or scared or impotent get in your car get out of town drive 'til you come to a much less cultivated or urban place and just feast on what you see... it will take you to a place where you heart soars, your eyes tear and your soul is fed in ways that it desparately needs right now i promise because i could feel much of my terror and sadness falling away... a tranquility and a joy replacing it just when i needed it most and was sure it was to temporal to even try to chase sure i wept a few tears, but they were tears of recognition with jimmy webb's "wish you were here" and "just like always" playing as the miles fell away with the sun-dappled afternoon and those tears set me free for whatever it's worth it's not giving blood, but if what you can do is remind yourself how vast and beautiful it is what better gift for yourself and your fellow travellers? indeed and may st christopher go with you! xoxox holly g cleveland, ohio by way of nashville, tennessee 18 sept 2001

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