Saturday, August 18, 2012


I've been writing a song about Harry Connick Jr. for almost a year. That's longer than it took Bruce Springsteen to write and record the entire "Born To Run" album. It's a simple song that states my wish to be like Harry Connick Jr., or more accurately, to actually be Harry Connick Jr.

And his wife is literally a lingerie model.
He's smart and handsome and can lead a band. He sings and acts and dances and is humble and charitable. What the fuck? Life would have to improve if I could be Harry. So I tried to write a song and I'm still stuck in the first verse. Actually I think I only have part of the chorus written and no verse. It's frustrating to have no natural talent in this arena that is so important to me. Jackson Browne rhymes effortless poetry and doesn't reveal too much or too little of his perspective but I end up writing, "He can sing and he can act, you can bet he don't smoke crack..." like it's a novelty Country song with no business being written or recorded. Songwriting isn't my element because I've listened to so much music that I don't trust my own ability to speak the truth. As soon as it veers into singsong foolishness I've lost the battle. I want to be Harry Connick Jr.
You can bet he never lived in a van or had his camera battery die during a recording.

The other day I was eating my yoghurt breakfast in the 24 hr H.E.B grocery and a guy came in with a guitar. I misread the label and said, "Nice Guitar. Solid top?"
I thought it was a Tacoma. My eyesight must be going because it was a Takamine and I could tell from three feet that it was a laminate top. Total crap.
The man, Huey, had recently gotten out of prison and was learning to play guitar and write songs. He wore glasses and had more wrinkles than a Goodwill tracksuit. I tried to get away from him but he needed a guitar pick and I had one in my van.
"Let me sing you a song," he said.
"Can I record it?"
"I'm not ready for that." and he wasn't lying.
The palsy in his fingers and inexperience and general alcoholic shakiness made his guitar playing rough. But the real problem was that he seemed to have never heard of song form and his love song sort of meandered around a verse and a pre-chorus. It was tough and I tried to play some lead but he never established a chord progression that made sense. Then I nodded and tried to get to my job fixing gingerbread houses.
"Play me a song," he said.
"I gotta go."
"Come on. They won't fire you on your first day."
Horrible career advice from a convicted felon. And it wasn't my first day. I looked at my watch. I'd be late if I left right then.
"I gotta go."
"Naw, play me a song."
"All right."
And I was really distracted that I would get fired to perform to this felon who was smoking cigarettes in my van next to the No Smoking sign and thumbing his crappy laminate guitar. But I rushed into my "Paco Said To Caesar, he said fix this Van...Bread and Circus" song and the look on his face was worth almost getting fired for being late.
"Down here we swim in Barbacoa..."
I finished up.
"How long you been playing?"
"Years and years. And I still suck."
"Hey, me and this old man are trying to record songs in my hotel room."
"Good luck with that."
"Take my number and maybe you can camp outside."

I traded numbers and drove away. Some people accidentally run into a young Willie Nelson. They become partners and become the next big thing. I run into the exact opposite, luckless fuck ups who think I'll be their savior and I'm sick of it. They want to read me their poetry or play me their songs.
"Read this and tell me what you think."
"It sucks. I can tell without reading it."
I'm cursed to a life playing Lionel Richie songs for senile WWII veterans with transparent skin and diaper rash. Face it. Some people ride a rocketship to fame and I live in my van and get cramps from bad shrimp. I walk down the street and get attacked by a dog. I fix broken toilets and my van has to be shifted manually.

1 comment:

e300 said...

...and that brother was a Brown Stink Bug (Euschistus servus) ...introduced from China 14 years ago.....Resilientt against pestisides, love corn & fruit, and has no known predator in the U.S....

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.