It was The Exterminator by William Burroughs and Hot Water Music by Charles Bukowski. I found Burroughs through a recording of The ‘Priest’ They Called Him that he did with Kurt Cobain and Hank through the band, Hot Water Music. Since then, music and literature have been inseparable.
When you find art at the right age it opens unpredictable doors. Before you know what you are looking for, you begin discovering.
That kind of revelation carries its own marching orders. So I sold an irreplaceable Marshall stack and chased my Kerouacian vision of Woody Guthrie’s Hard Travelin’. I landed in Missoula with a Smith Corona, acoustic guitar and duffel bag. A part-time student at the University of Montana, I snagged my first writing job reviewing albums for the Missoulian Newspaper. Soon, I dropped out of college and picked up a fly fishing habit. A pile of broken lines and a few odd jobs later, I went back to the Midwest to wrap up my English degree at the University of Wisconsin.
New York City is a literary place. Following most of the writers and musicians that I admire, I headed to Gotham. Cathedrals are always smaller in person and Washington Square Park is no different. Poetry rips past the fountain and spills into the streets like a Bebop foot race. You can always pick out the ones who’ve spent time in the city. They improvise like adrenaline. When you’re slinging guitar, bumming around galleries, and learning how to be a freelancer in NYC, a half decade can feel like five months. Or fifty years. With a fistful of new bylines, an arm full of tattoos and a notebook of stories, my wife and I left the East Coast.
The Blues Highway runs North along the mighty Mississippi, but like so many of my favorite novels, I crossed the great river and headed west. The sixth state in half as many decades, I followed the promise of seasonless opportunity straight to California.
Fallow deserts, cloistered Sierras, the Golden State is as dramatic as the land that defines it. The California sun can bleach the past right out of your roots. It can also illuminate new fields of perception. I’ve certainly been accused of holding restlessness as a virtue, and maybe, but I‘ve always thought of it as chasing the story.
I like a story that has its own backbeat. One that carries water across dead sands and lifts celestial weights. One that doesn’t pander or speak in third person to feint authority. I like a story that works for its dinner and doesn’t wait around for dessert.
In the overly branded millennium we all need a strong title. Writer is the only moniker I’ve ever cared for.
Take It Easy. But Take It.
My new book, Saturday Night Sage is a collection of narrative poetry exploring mysticism and menial labor. Available April 13th 2019 from Blind Owl.