Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Art as Therapy/Shameless Plug

I’ve been surprised lately by learning about things that happened in my hometown of Cleveland (Ohio) when I was a kid. The biggest surprise came in the form of a movie called “Kill the Irishman” which I saw online through Netflix. I’d never heard of Danny Greene that I can remember until I saw this movie the other day. Now I want to read the book by Rick Porello to learn more about what happened to the mafia after Danny Greene was killed.

Another thing I’m remembering lately is something I knew of as it was happening, although I didn’t think at the time it was such a big deal. Cleveland’s WMMS radio was named by Rolling Stone magazine the nation’s best each year from 1979 to 1987. I had no idea. If you’re from Cleveland, you know a thing or two about rock ‘n roll unless you just don’t pay attention to popular culture. I graduated from high school in 1985, and I remember when petitions were circulated to gather support for the construction of the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. One of the DJs at WMMS, Kid Leo, actively promoted the cause of bringing this Hall of Fame to Cleveland, but I only know of this through the nice entry Wikipedia has for “The Home of the Buzzard” as I remember it. Nowadays, WMMS is promoted as “Cleveland’s Rock Station”. The graphic logo of the Buzzard has been replaced with a pair of orange wings and what looks like a sign for U.S. Route 100.7WMMS between them. What I remember clearly are the station promos done by Sting (“This is Sting of The Police, and when I’m in Cleveland I listen to WMMS ooo-ooo-ooo”) and Pete Townshend (“This is Pete Townshend, and I’d like to remind you that rock ‘n roll will always, always, always, always, always, overcome … eventually”) and the station itself (“The Rock Capital of the World”) (“Buzzard Radio”) etc.

This remembering started about three weeks ago when I remembered a recipe for fish soup that I haven’t made for years. Don’t know what made me think of it, but I’m glad I did. I made the soup again shortly after I thought of it again, and again I was glad I did. Then I got into a conversation with a friend, and I mentioned an out-of-body experience I had when I was a teenager. I had heard a song on the radio, a rock song, which told a sort of detective story about the man in the jar (who had no face). This man, “he wanna get out/he’s smashing the glass.” It’s a song by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. If you’re from the United States, but not from Cleveland, then apparently (according to the nice article about WMMS at Wikipedia) there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. Anyway, when I was a kid, this tune hit me like a mallet over the head. I didn’t think of it at the time, but it seems to me now that Alex Harvey, by composing and performing this tune, was metaphorically smashing whatever glass he had in mind. After all, he concludes in the song, “I must be the man in the jar.” Shortly after I heard this song, I drew a picture of a man in a jar; then, while I was asleep, I dreamed I got up out of bed and walked across my room to sit down at my desk. The picture I had drawn while I was awake was plain to see in my dream. Soon, in my dream, I walked back over to my bed and sat down. I swung my legs up to get into bed, and as I did so I saw in my peripheral vision that my legs were already under the covers. I was putting my legs into my legs. Then I laid back, and as I did so, I felt in my dream like I was falling. The next thing I knew, I felt my heart thump strongly (I had happened to fall asleep with my hand on my chest). Then I woke up and my heart beat rapidly. I was a little startled, but it wasn’t scary. I felt a bit relieved by the whole experience. At the time, I had been feeling sort of trapped. I wouldn’t have known though what to say to anyone about that feeling. I believe my experience of the art of the song and my drawing to go with it were therapeutic for me. Maybe, for Alex Harvey, composing and performing that particular tune were therapeutic for him.

Last, but not least, the shameless plug. Here is a poem from my chapbook Philip & the Poet (available from Mayapple Press). Writing it was a therapeutic experience for me. I was able to gain a perspective on certain past events of my life and certain attitudes and patterns of thought that I can see now are better left behind rather than played over and over like, well, a broken record.

 Driving Home

Today I got a haircut. God cut it.
“How many hairs have I got?” I asked.
“Everybody’s gotta be a wiseguy,”
says God. I laughed. Really I was joyful.
“How come I’m not joyful more often?”
“Trust in my Word,” God says. I give him
a dollar tip. “Thanks, now I can get my
mother that operation.” “You’re killing
me,” I say. “That’s just your cross,” says God.
“All part of the mystery, you understand.”
I leave to visit my relatives in Cleveland.
 On the turnpike, as I stop to pay the toll,
it’s God taking my change. “You’re on
 the right road,” says God. “Keep going.”
God reminds me, “Trust in my Word.
My Word goes out and does not return
until it is fulfilled,” says God.
“Is life like that too? I go out and don’t
return until I am fulfilled?” I ask.
God smiles at me and winks. “Next,” says God.
Haven’t I seen that smile somewhere before?
When I get to my father’s condo, I see
my father looks just like the barber.
Then he looks like the toll-booth attendant.
Then he looks like my father again.
Before I can say anything, he says,
“I’m glad you’re here. How was the drive?”
I begin to cry. “I’m sorry,” I say.
“The drive was fine.” Suddenly I turn
into a cross and lean on my father’s shoulder.
He smiles as though nothing has happened.

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