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So much of great songwriting is how well you imply. Songs make their point through far fewer words than prose, and often even fewer words than poetry; instrumentation, harmonies, and beats ideally add meaning that maybe the words can't fully convey. I do work at poetry, but I know I'm not a songwriter: I don't have the grasp of music to match my grasp of words, and just have to hope that my words do enough singing, as it were.

Implying the story can also make the song more universal. Paul McCartney knew how to take his very specific inspiration for "Yesterday" and turn it into, well, "Yesterday": a song that can apply to so, so many relationships gone wrong. Even when people joke about Taylor Swift, saying she is very specific in what inspires her lyrics, Swift's still good at knowing how to suggest without getting bogged down in details. Or in her own way, when Sheryl Crow was asked which of her relationships inspired "My Favorite Mistake" and she replied "All of them." We don't need to know what inspired it; we can just appreciate, and empathize with, the song.

I'm thinking of what's implied in "California Dreamin'" by The Mamas and the Papas.

All the leaves are brown
And the sky is gray
I've been for a walk
On a winter's day
I'd be safe and warm
If I was in L.A.
California dreamin'
On such a winter's day

Stopped into a church
I passed along the way
Well, I got down on my knees
And I pretend to pray
You know the preacher likes the cold
He knows I'm gonna stay
California dreamin'
On such a winter's day

All the leaves are brown
And the sky is gray
I've been for a walk
On a winter's day
If I didn't tell her
I could leave today
California dreamin'
On such a winter's day


Simple. The point-of-view's from someone somewhere cold, thinking of where it's warm, and he stays in the cold but does not necessarily where a certain someone expects him to be.

(I'll admit I misheard part of the song until I looked up the lyrics, checking in a couple of places to be sure they were right: I thought the line was "You know the preacher locked the door." That would still fit with "He knows I'm gonna stay." But I can be corrected. And when I was younger, I thought he'd said "began to pray," not "pretend.")

The song's main character is probably not a religious person, but puts on a show of it. What moves him to do that? Is it all for show, or initially for show but with the chance to grow into something else? People don't often stop at a church just to stop. But he doesn't seem driven there by disaster or tragedy; it wasn't an urgent thing, for him to go there. But it's a place where he can focus on...something. He'll think.

The preacher likely senses that the man isn't yet habitually or truly religious, but still welcomes him, as a preacher could and should. It's cold in the church, just not as cold as outside. Honestly, his saying "the preacher likes the cold" seems kind of presumptive; maybe he had to keep the heating bill down? Is the preacher that ascetic? Me not being the character in this song, I'd like to think I wouldn't be pretending to pray; but I'd try to be respectful. (I, a non-Catholic, was called out as a kid for not being respectful enough in a Catholic church; I've remembered that lesson*.)

He's also thinking of someone who's not right there, but who is near, also under heavy clouds and surrounded by brown leaves. No way to know her feelings about him, what he's doing (or if she even knows he's there; likely not), and the region they are at that time. And he's at least considered going away without telling her. Not necessarily to California, but to somewhere warmer than the here and now. But the song, to me, suggests that he knows he'd be a jerk if he did leave without saying anything. Maybe that's me reading too much into the moment. I don't know, and I can't know.

I have my own feelings about California in particular and warm places in general. I lived in Southern California from age 2 ½ to age 8; I didn't really experience or even quite understand cold until my early 80s' winters in Virginia, where most moisture seems to get sucked away, and the air gets a bone-dry kind of cold. Winter rarely clobbers Virginia the way it can clobber places farther north, but for me it was a shock. (Often literally, thanks to static.) As an adult, I wouldn't want to live in California again — Oregon is a good place for me — but once I was living on the East Coast, "California Dreamin'" started speaking to me. It's long been one of my favorite songs. I like to think I "get it": I can understand wanting to leave, to move, to be warm. My story will never, can never, be exactly the story of the man in that song; it doesn't have to be. But if it gets cold, or really deeply cold, I will still remember the warm times and places. That'll help.



* 1990, Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. My family was visiting on a day trip with a young man named Roscindo, a Rotary Club guest who was visiting the U.S. from Argentina. We visited the town's Roman Catholic church. Roscindo took a moment to himself; I was talking until Mom pointed out to me that I was interrupting that moment of Roscindo's, and that he (and anyone else who was Catholic and visiting the church) deserved for me to be quiet. I shut up.

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All the weather

If you count yesterday, the Portland area's had hail, downpours, lightning and thunder, bright sun, warmth, cold, and tornadoes. Yes, tornadoes, (relatively small ones) down near Canby and Aurora south of town.

I've been watching all this from, mostly, inside. Yesterday, when I was walking, I lucked out with my timing and was in a library, the Holgate branch, during one downpour; before I left for home, I stood in the small plaza in front of that library, reading in the sunlight (so much brighter off of the water) and waiting to see if another downpour was likely to hit. Nope, so I left. If this were a comedy, I'd've been caught in a drenching rain on the way, and I'd've stood still, looking put-upon. (Is there a GIF of Buster Keaton standing in the rain?)

Yeah, autumn's here.

A thought, to think. (Sort of a poem.)

If you didn't know me, would you like me?
If you didn't know me, would you help me?

If you didn't know her, would you like her?
If you didn't know her, would you help her?

If you didn't know him, would you like him?
If you didn't know him, would you help him?

...Who don't you know?

— Christopher Walsh, Friday, 10/13/2017

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A quick check-in

Not much to blog about lately.

Things are quiet. I feel not particularly interesting at the moment. It happens.

There will be more stuff to blog. Soon, I hope. Eventually, of course. Later, sometime.

Out-Of-Context Theater.

"Woo Hoo! Sometimes I'm almost right!"

Autumn weather: The Shift Hits

Now, for part of the day, it feels like fall.

Not midday or afternoon, not yet: that's still warm. But the house's heat has started to turn on at night.

I was mostly at the house today, but this afternoon once I knew it was warm, I headed to the neighborhood park (Mt. Scott Park, where the community center and indoor pool are) with a book and my poetry notebook. Some more writing — I'm being fairly methodical with this current poem — some reading, and some walking. While I wrote, tiny bugs crawled across my notebook and rhyming dictionary. They didn't give input.

Soon, it'll be bundle-up weather. I can handle that.
Crushes. I've have a few plenty. Oh, have I had many of them. Going back to sixth grade in the mid-80s. I can still name many of the women I felt that way towards: Nicka. Kathryn. Carmen. Lori. Lori was my first college crush, and a strong one. She also was someone I had no chance with, and I struggled with Not Becoming A Jerk About That. I was occasionally a jerk; I realized that quickly, and stopped.

(One day in spring 1993, during my first year in college, I finally had to tell myself that nothing could possibly happen between me and her. That was needed, but emotionally wrenching. Then I saw a film for a class, The Night of the Hunter, and that was a different kind of emotionally wrenching. And then I went that night to a gathering at the Honors College I attended, where we were encouraged to read poems and lyrics that Meant Something to us, and I dealt with the emotional extremes I'd been through that day by quoting Dire Straits' "Romeo and Juliet." "And all I do is miss you..." The song didn't parallel my emotional journey that time, but I could put a lot of weight behind those lines. Anyway. An emotionally hyped day.)

Crushes, as long as you don't use having a crush as an excuse to behave badly, can be nice. They can mean you're appreciating someone, and seeing why others would appreciate them. I had a strong crush, maybe my strongest ever, in 2008 and 2009. No, I won't name her. I reached the point where I felt the need to tell her, and that's usually a bad idea, so I did so very carefully via email after a lot of thought. What I told her, boiled down, was I'd be unfair to you if I ever acted on this; I won't; but you can remember when you're feeling low that I, and other people, think you're absolutely fantastic. And I hope you find someone you find fantastic, too. You deserve that. Again, without naming names, she did. I'm proud of her. And relieved I didn't become a jerk because I had a crush on someone.

I'm writing this because I realized recently: I haven't had a crush in a while. I certainly still find plenty of people attractive — I think I have a reasonably wide variety of "types," so I'm not the straight equivalent of The Simpsons's Waylon Smithers, whose type is "basically one person on Earth" and is thus kind of a tragic figure — but I know to nip this in the bud. Again, I want to avoid Being A Jerk. (I did recently admit to a friend that I think a co-worker of hers is really cute, but I added "I know she's too young for me, and I won't be the jerk who hits on the staff." And saying that helped to nip in the bud any of my inclinations toward doing that.)

I hope that, when I date again, I feel stronger towards whomever I date than a crush.

I got by.

I felt flat. Today was that sort of day.

I don't like feeling that way.

On the better side, I did get out and even successfully interact with people, though I did so quietly. Softer voice today than usual. And luckily, today had comfortable weather, worth getting out in. I walked through it. (In fact I walked home from the Hawthorne Fred Meyer, where I'd stopped this afternoon to do an errand. That was the longest part of today's long walk.)

Now I'm home, reading online stuff, with a good book (Cat Valente's fantasy for kids The Glass Town Game waiting for me to dive back in, and I'm digesting hot, sugared decaf tea. I want today to end well.

Las Vegas.

Killings in Las Vegas. A mass killing.

I checked to know, relievedly, that three friends of mine who are in Las Vegas are OK and safe. But I had to check.

Degrees of separation mean that tens of thousands of people know friends and loved ones who were on the Vegas Strip who are now dead or wounded or who came thisclose to being dead or wounded.

I felt the need to note this, as inarticulate as I now feel about what happened.

A Note: My earlier entry this morning, I wrote it last night before the shooting happened and set it as a scheduled entry — scheduled so that it posted after the killings. I didn't want that to be the only thing on my blog today.
After I discovered his surprising, affecting piece "17776" — a thoughtful, unexpected, and often funny deep dive into a future where people live forever and fill their time by playing a lot of different types of football — I started watching more work by SB Nation's Jon Bois. I wish I'd found his stuff earlier. He's low-key amused, detailed (with sometimes surprising details), and fond of finding weird stories. And not just sports stories, either: one time Bois analyzed how the TV show 24 handles death. He's deadpan, though he sometimes yells and swears, to make the "WTF" moments he recounts more, um, "WTF"-y and amusing. It's kind of like when Steven Wright slightly smiles or that one Ron Funches joke where he yells.

I have a lot of Bois's stuff to look back at, so I try one or two videos every couple of days or so. I also happened onto a different SB Nation program, "The Worst _____," done by people not Jon Bois. I watched "The Worst Super Bowl," recapping the Jan. 1999 Broncos-Falcons Super Bowl, and quickly stopped wanting to watch. It was, I thought, a lot of easy snark on late-90s pop culture. Especially on 1999's films. Nope. 1999 was a fantastic year for film. Great stuff came out, and a lot of good films were surprising hits: how often are two summer hits horror or horror-influenced (The Blair Witch Project, the former; The Sixth Sense, the latter)? Sure there was crap like Wild Wild West and Inspector Gadget, but come on, video producer, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me is not bad just because you thought it was a retread. (I think it's more uneven than the delightful first Austin Powers, a movie that makes me giggle, but Spy Who Shagged Me has jokes that I laughed myself sweaty at.) And you could have made a larger point about how often the Super Bowl musical acts are safe, but the video just goes "hurr hurr Kiss and Cher and ska revival LOL." In other words, the video makers were obvious and could have done better. (And not even a nod to that Super Bowl's World Wrestling Federation ad?!)

Bois, among his other strengths, does not get obvious. With him, I'm amused and I'm learning stuff. Looking forward to seeing more of what he does.

Anyway, here's an episode of Jon Bois's show "Pretty Good," detailing precisely how unlikely it was for Baron Davis of the NBA's Charlotte Hornets to sink a basket from 89 fricking feet.

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For Halloween the 1st

Crying tears of candy corn
When hating on that sweet treat's borne
By those who're sadly left forlorn
From errant tasting (sharp, like thorn?)
Of unexpected peppercorn
— No! NOT a flavor, I have sworn —
But some won't eat it once they're warned
As it's a texture, to them, that's worn
So if you scowl like Michael Dorn
At bowls and bowls of candy corn
You can, from L.A. to Cape Horn,
Stick one of them on the forehead of one of your many My Little Pony figures and pretend it's a dual-point unicorn.


...yeah, I like candy corn, and I also won't force candy corn on anyone who doesn't like it. After all, more for me...
In Portland and plenty of other places, and in a way that seems appropriate for this year, the summer is not leaving without a fight.

Supposedly this is the last stretch of heat before it starts to consistently feel like autumn here — we're forecast to get rain Sunday, which should help that — but it's definitely hot. I was out in it, on what turned out to be a longer-than-expected walk. I'll say later what I was out for: I feel saying so now would possibly jinx something. I'm being superstitious, I know.

I'm at PDX, Portland's airport, taking my time eating what I'd initially considered late lunch but which turned out to be early dinner (timing), and a benefit of taking my time is that I should have more shade and cooler temps as I head home.

It's true: I'm ready for fall.

Chris Dreams of Complicated Work Stuff

In my dream, I was at work. Doing something. For someone. I didn't fully understand what the company was doing, just that it Had To Be Done, and I did it. And for some reason, at one point I was helping customer Jennifer Grey. As in Dirty Dancing's Jennifer Grey.

Good thing I don't have to pay wages to anyone in my dreams.

Anyway, hi. I'm waking up.

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Between a Death and a Life
by Christopher Walsh, 9/17/2017-9/24/2017





I've lived longer than some.
Yes, I know: all of us have,
As death is staggered through existence.
It always eventually happens. We see it. We learn of it.
We don't hear of every death: too many, simply, happen,
Outside the sphere of What We Know.
It is a kindness, not to know of every death.
I'm thinking of the deaths I've known.
I could, perhaps, count them. I won't.
I don't want personal deaths to be a statistic, a percentage, a number,
Though of course a number exists.
Many numbers:
Family members, gone;
Friends, gone;
Colleagues, gone;
Acquaintances, gone;
Known-in-passing, gone.

I don't remember when I first learned of death.
(I missed John Lennon's.)
Death by disaster was an abstract:
Dozens, hundreds, in a plane that fell or in a land that quaked, and more.
Then, the shuttle Challenger: seven people lost.
This was not abstract.
I saw it live, at home, on a day off from school:
Death in front of me, on a screen.
Death will get near to you.
It then becomes a fact, and a possibility that insists on itself:
"This person, they didn't see what came next.
Not that person, either. Nor those others.
They missed the future. As will you."
Those we've lost:
What parts of the future would they wish they'd seen?
("All of it" is a cop-out. And false.
If you died in ’97, you never knew what "9/11" means.)
What have we done since that we wish they'd been here for,
That they'd experienced through their filters?
A guess is the best we can manage;
Their filters are no longer here.
So we weren't a figment of their imagination: or why'd we still be here?
(And we're no figment of your imagination, either,
Unless imagining has a power we don't know...)

John Lennon died 37 years ago.
Kate Middleton arrived 35 years ago.
No overlap to their lives.
She and he will never meet. He never heard of her.
Him not knowing doesn't mean she doesn't exist.
We know who
-------------what we're missing;
We don't know who
-----------—-------what we'll get.
Meanwhile,
We live, and we discover.
Others' lives overlap, giving them the chance to learn what's discovered;
And others born a year, a decade, a century after one of us passes
May learn what's learned.
Knowledge is bigger than death.
Knowledge reaches the future,
As do other, later lives.
Many will see what we miss
Between a death and a life.

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Almost hoodie weather.

Not quite, as Portland's warmed up slightly from this week's cool snap (almost a cold snap, at least compared to the fire-fueling heat we've had), but enough that for the first time since early this year, I broke out my Big-Ass Sandwiches hoodie and went out for the afternoon and evening. Stopped at the Belmont library to return the fun Coen Brothers film Hail, Caesar!; bused to a new-to-me Thai restaurant (Pad Thai Kitchen on Belmont) that my friend Mary-Suzanne had recommended to me, and I'm glad she did; bused back to the Belmont library to briefly check online; and bused to the Montavilla neighborhood to begin a long walk.

My reason for traveling like that: I wanted to get the most use out of a 2 1/2-hour bus ticket, and that 2 1/2 hours covered my trip to the restaurant, both trips to the library, and the trip to Montavilla. If you've heard of the Bipartisan Café, the Academy Theater, or the Country Cat brunch restaurant, they're in that neighborhood. I went there knowing it would then be a long, but manageable, walk back to my neighborhood. And walk I did, stopping at another library (the Holgate branch) then backtracking to Essex Park where I sat down and read.

My reading? Eclectic: I first read from Henry and June, which publishes the parts of Anaïs Nin's diaries that she didn't initially publish as they went into detail about her relationships with Henry Miller and June Miller, relationships that had she gone public with them earlier would have hurt Nin's husband Hugh Parker Guiler; I then read from The Essential X-Men Vol. 2. I'm always trying to vary my book diet.

It's been a comfortable day, warm-to-cool with air cleared out; the smoke is elsewhere, though the fires remain on my mind. Home, now.

It's been a long week.

And it's been a frustrating week.

A hard-to-get-motivated week.

I'm trying to get stuff done. (Screw you, Yoda, trying is a valid goal.)

Anyway, I'm still here. And still trying.


Edited To Add: And I got reminded that today is my 13th anniversary of starting this blog. Huh. And whoa.

An Audience Of One: "Brigsby Bear"

To give further thoughts I have on the film Brigsby Bear, I'll tell more about what happens in the film to give (I hope just enough) context.
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Unusually for me, I saw a film knowing almost nothing about it. I'd gotten this advice about a small movie called Brigsby Bear: 1) it's worth seeing and 2) you should see it with as little knowledge of what happens in it as possible. Curious, I did so: got over to the Laurelhurst last night, where it's been playing, and even tried not to look at the film's poster on the wall.

I liked the film and I'm glad I saw it. And I also wonder how differently I'd have experienced it if I'd seen it by myself, instead of with an audience. Or with this audience.

Sometimes you laugh because, otherwise, you're not sure how else to react. A couple of people, I felt. were laughing that way at Brigsby Bear. The film, though often funny — its star and co-writer is Kyle Mooney of Saturday Night Live, whose work I haven't seen before now — very matter-of-factly tells you at the start You are watching a situation that is, somehow, wrong, somehow "off," and is in fact really messed up. About 20 minutes in, you learn more about how messed up it is, and the rest of the often quiet, often gentle movie is a reaction to that.

I'm being careful not to say anything specific. Much as I did when I reviewed The Truman Show, I want to say very little about what happens in Brigsby Bear. Besides, in most stories the "how things happened" is much more interesting than "what things happened," and that's true here. At times, the film skirts close to creepy situations; I'd feel relieved when it then moved away from what was potentially creepy. It also mostly avoids the biggest possible laughs it could wring from its premise, because that could have harmed the reality of it. (I doubt that if the film's situation ever really happened, it would play out exactly like this, but it feels real — real enough — and that's what verisimilitude aims for.) The film doesn't have big stakes; the film is about getting healthier.

And these people in the audience still were laughing a lot. More than I felt was warranted. Their laughs felt like distancing laughs. Like, sometimes, laughing at it, not with it. That bothered me.

The film's reality, and the film's sincerity, might be too much for some people to take at face value. I wanted, was trying, to accept Brigsby Bear at face value, and I feel good that I did. The film is ingenuous. I love the word "ingenuous." It gets much less use than "disingenuous."

I wanted — maybe needed — to see something ingenuous.

And the "Brigsby Bear Theme" remains in my head.

Edited To Add: I did another entry, with more thoughts (and more spoilers) about the film.
Dream-Me, last night, tried to commit a crime.

That crime involved a diversionary set-up I and my team of crooks thought was incredibly clever: a bunch of old Walkmans each loaded with tapes full of random music and nonsense phrases. However, we knew the gig was up when we saw a police notice in a newspaper describing the very act we were about to do (against the neat Portland arcade Ground Kontrol; why would I want to anything bad to Ground Kontrol?!), so we fled. On a plane, which landed in some other town.

And Dream-Me realized events in the dream were about to get worse: I first noticed that the passenger jet we were on was landing not on a runway, but on a taxi way next to a runway (one of those two-level Airbuses was launching on the actual runway, the plane's right wing almost touching our plane's left one); then I noticed our plane was not slowing down.

I forced myself awake before this ended badly, but while still dreaming I imagined the plane we were on hitting a bunch of emergency vehicles.

Um, don't do crimes, people!

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