Saturday, December 27, 2014


Self inflicted hiatus, learning, synthesizing, uncovering ways to describe that which was previously unexpressed––gaining fluency in forms that previously eluded, as words tumble in streams of newly mapped mind matter.

Morning or night, continue on this path, do not disappoint––yourself. Do not leave the path until you have reached some kind of ledge on the sheer mountain face. Then feel the calloused skin against rough veins, and map the contour, plan the next vertical.

Found a rock ledge, thanks to Josephine Gist and Kimberley Cameron. Now, next vertical.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Thursday March 27
Azabu 8:14 am

Pulling the straight razor across his cheek, Hayao thought back to his time with Kazuhiro, when they were both in training, sharing a dorm room together. Their personalities had been polar opposites––Hayao rash and impulsive, Kazuhiro quiet and methodical, and they had butted heads frequently those first few days. Yet over the weeks a deep-seated friendship had emerged. Kazuhiro had imparted some of his careful, reflective qualities on Hayao––lessons from which he still drew sustenance. When Hayao had wound up working in Tokyo and Kazuhiro in suburban Chiba, they had continued to collaborate on cases in which criminal activities overlapped. This occurred fairly frequently, as the distinction between Tokyo and its suburbs meant far less to criminals than to the officials who held competing jurisdictions. To his profound regret, Hayao had not been afforded a window into the case that had taken his friend’s life. The stakes had been high and Kazuhiro had apparently wanted to keep everything to himself until he was sure he had the evidence nailed down. 

It was understandable––there was something inherently slippery in the Japanese system, particularly when any combination of politicians, yakuza, or business leaders stood in the crosshairs. Tentacles of corruption easily pried lose all but the most carefully constructed cases long before they reached the prosecution stage. This had been one of those cases, Hayao found out too late, and all tangible evidence had disappeared by the time Kazuhiro’s body was discovered in the Tokyo Bay. Beyond the pain, Hayao remembered a strange sense of inevitability at the news of his friend’s death. He had noticed in Kazuhiro’s infrequent phone conversations those last few weeks a crackling, nervous energy, at odds with his usual cool self-possession. It was as if he knew he had stumbled onto something far more immense than imagined, was engaged in a high wire act requiring the greatest precision. Or maybe that was just how it played out in Hayao’s head after the fact, trying to puzzle out the significance of their last, truncated conversations.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Twin Dragons: Arisugawa Park + A Very Dark Game

Arisugawa Park, A Very Dark Game - the writer develops multiple personalities cycling between the two. Sits at a table at Starbucks, eavesdropping in on a woman who learned as a young girl that she could see auras. Listens to Sonny Rollins, Don Cherry live... drinks lukewarm coffee. Ponders wormholes. Can writing slow time and even make it seem to move backwards? Seems to be doing the trick. 

Receives a picture from Victoria Kabluyen, the beginning stages of a new card depicting the Macao high rollers' Brian Rast and "Hong Kong" Tom Hall. Sinister, dragons circling. Refined danger. Method, method. Madness. Work, make these projects come together, coalesce... twin dragons, the piercing power of the word. Colman and Busquet, taming the darkness of poker through method. Losing $100,000 in a single click. Madness. A Very Dark Game. See this through, endure. Think Ironman, 49 hours straight... what is this in comparison? Lightheaded, stay with it. Ride the dragon, bend time and tame it. Find the space to do this right. ‪#‎endurancewriter‬‪#‎averydarkgame‬

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

NY Times Article On "The Art of Not Trying" Spurs Thought Growth

I've been thinking about the concepts in the NY Times article A Meditation on the Art of Not Trying as a writer, particularly the sense that in crafting something as mind-boggling complex as a 400 page thriller with multiple perspectives, set convincingly in foreign locales, with correct stylistic/grammatical choices, and innovative plot--the best way to do this seems to be to free my mind, immerse myself in the moment and forget that I am doing "work" that took a lifetime of training to achieve. (Even during the revision stages, I wipe my mind clean a thousand times and look at the pages anew, with the eyes of the first-time reader)

"The advice is as maddening as it is inescapable. It’s the default prescription for any tense situation: a blind date, a speech, a job interview, the first dinner with the potential in-laws. Relax. Act natural. Just be yourself.

But when you’re nervous, how can you be yourself? How you can force yourself to relax? How can you try not to try?"

Interestingly, "wu wei" is a quality that some of the top live poker players that I have observed seem to have. Ivey, Danzer, Haxton , Jacobson. (Others like Smith, Kitai, Esfandiari, and Selbst seem to have a neurotic, compulsive strategy going, I'll have to think about this more). Negreanu is fairly unique, not sure how to characterize his style--annoy your opponent into revealing stuff?

I do know that in the 49 hour-continuous Ironman I was so tired I somehow "transcended" the tournament, started seeing things as they really were at the table, free of fear or self-consciousness. This was a particularly effective strategy in that particular tournament because it was so deep structured, the blinds never really came into play. In 99 percent of normal tournaments there is way more variance related to increasing blind levels, and one's mental strategy plays a correspondingly smaller role.

“Our culture is very good at pushing people to work hard or acquire particular technical skills,” Dr. Slingerland says. “But in many domains actual success requires the ability to transcend our training and relax completely into what we are doing, or simply forget ourselves as agents.”

Another aspect of this article that interests me is the part about wining and dining--that is of getting someone drunk, as an essential part of any business decision. This is super prevalent in Japan, where I taught English for five years, and very few major decisions are made without a long night at the izakaya. Corporate meetings can often be described as mere formality, or an in-depth sounding out (like the beginning stages of a deep stacked tournament) rather than as the venue for decisions to be finalized.

"Before signing a big deal, businesspeople often insist on getting to know potential partners at a boozy meal because alcohol makes it difficult to fake feelings. Neuroscientists have achieved the same effect in brain scanners by applying magnetic fields that suppress cognitive-control ability and in this way make it harder for people to tell convincing lies.

“Getting drunk is essentially an act of mental disarmament,” Dr. Slingerland writes. “In the same way that shaking right hands with someone assures them that you’re not holding a weapon, downing a few tequila shots is like checking your prefrontal cortex at the door. ‘See? No cognitive control. You can trust me.’ ”

This is also relates to something recently observed. A full month before I signed with my literary agent, I met with her (and an intern) for lunch and we polished off a bottle of wine and went through edits on the entire manuscript over four hours-- incidentally sounding each other out. I realize now that there is a definite method to this seeming madness. Although no money is exchanged until the agent sells the manuscript, the decision to take on a new client is not taken lightly. If something emerges in the preliminary interactions that indicates a poor fit, the offer will simply not be made and the contract never offered. You can argue that it should be the actual words on the page that sell themselves, but in today's personality driven age this is no longer the case.

So the conundrum comes down to the idea that success at the highest levels often involves forgetting your training, losing fear, immersing yourself in the totality of what is going on rather than preconceptions. Interviewing Brian Rast last month I asked him how he could steel his nerves in Big Game situations, with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line and his reply was something surprisingly similar. Reminds me, I'll have to go back and make a podcast of that.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Progress Report

As a writer, the progress is in your head. Nothing is bought until everything is complete. No money is exchanged and thus there is no risk of losing integrity. Accomplish work as stunning in its technical breadth as setting up a completely new infrastructure, with stylistic flair and imagination, and get paid in––what? Promises, whisps of encouragement. 

And yet you are the author, no one else. And somehow that is enough, fair payment for daring to question Bob Dylan's adage "you've gotta serve somebody." Serve somebody? Nah. Serve a dream, an ideal. A pathway that only you can take but which can, with luck, bring everyone one step closer home.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Life Becomes Conveyance

No time for life, the waking hours
populated by frames, skeletons of sketches,
dreams, ideas, revisited memories

No time for life on this killing floor
of artistic creation––a job and hence
lifeless, talent unwound and tied to commerce

Escape to the ideal planet where
thoughts, dreams astound
where reality mirrors vision vexed

not constricted, no chains of status, belonging––
commerce, pride, cages and cages
we make for ourselves to hoard trinkets.

Friday, December 12, 2014

A 1963 "Miles Davis Sextet - John Coltrane Quartet" Poster Glimpsed

A Love Supreme. (40th anniversary). Davis, Rivers/Coleman, Hancock, Carter, Williams units. (also Supreme).

I wonder if anyone knows, who would have been the personnel in this early '63 Miles Davis sextet? Seems to me that it would have been George Coleman, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, and Tony Williams. An amazing and under appreciated unit that would come out with one of the most tremendous performances ever in early 1964 (Philharmonic Hall, New York, February 12th). Unless Davis had a guest alto saxophone player. Or maybe this was right before he settled on Williams and Carter, was still trying players out.

Wonder which show I would have liked to have seen most.. both musicians were pretty exploratory around this time. Coltrane was discovering multi-octave freedom, fast. Davis was fine-tuning the backbone of his second great quartet, arguably one of the most innovative in jazz history.

Would have been nice to have seen Coltrane team up with Davis for a couple reunion gigs. The closest we have to that vibe is the Davis' '64 shows in Tokyo, with fellow musical explorer Sam Rivers. (That is really enough––I enjoy Rivers' improv as much as Coltrane's). What emerged with Shorter in two short years would be yet another tremendous departure, which I am still exploring as a listener.

I wonder (regarding a Davis Coltrane reunion) were there factions of jazz by this time (63-64) that prevented free interflow of musicians? Was it pure economics––two supreme jazz musicians could not inhabit the same city or club at a time. Can you imagine them mixing it up? Hancock with Coltrane, Tyner with Davis. Eleven Jones and Tony Williams double uniting it on the skins. I think a large part of it was that Davis was still in an outwardly trad musical space, as compared with the free flowing Coltrane. Not in terms of musicianship or fluidity, but in that he had not bought into the Dolphy/Ornette abstractions that were starting to ascend. Even Rivers, who was brought in at fellow-Bostonian Williams' suggestion was a little too far out for him, although the contrast works in the Tokyo concert, and is enlightening.

In any case, this kind of existential cross-pollination of jammers did not really occur until the late 1960s, with Hendrix, Miles, Traffic, McLaughlin et al. All I know is that, with musicians like Davis, Coltrane, and Ornette Colman in the mix, jazz had already reached the center.


A little further Facebook exchange on the topic, with my cousin Paul Rogers, a noted Raleigh-by-way-of-Philly trumpeter. 

Me: I wonder if anyone knows, who would have been the personnel in this early '63 Miles Davis sextet? 

Paul: it would have been Herbie, Tony, Rob, and likely Coleman. I'm not sure who the sixth man would've been, though.

Me:  yeah, its so odd because I simply don't see a MD sextet since late 1950s. Could have been that exact transition moment when there was a fluid number of band members. Cause I think he brought in Williams and Hancock in April. Coleman was constant, having replaced Mobley in 1962. As was Carter. Quite possibly, they prepared the poster a couple weeks in advance, when there was talk of a sextet that never materialized. Cause they were recording the second session for Seven Steps To Heaven in Los Angeles around that time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Nested Combustion

Eyes the color of beer, mind brimming with straightforward enigmas
as he autotunes instinct to all that is required in today's
sleek, undecided stratosphere––

Half afraid to walk off the deep end
and half intrigued by the sheer force of boredom
and wish to leave the machines behind
Nested in the cocoon of combustion, to fly.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

One with the dusty world

I wonder sometimes, was everything meant to be? ... I mean living, really living. Was it because the earth was moving toward something almost taoist in circumference?

Walk the desert, without a net. Cast aside doubts and aim for the horizon, where the thicket lays so shallow on the coast and the smoke streams up in trickles.

Days are empty
bottomless, the origin of all things;

They blunt my path, become One with the dusty world.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Time For Another

Las Vegas do or die
I am bust, beat out,
carpentered, made up of brittle holes
and still I wobble


Saturday, November 22, 2014

One year on... Earth Fabric project resurfaces as Bridge Across

An impromptu chat with April Jardine Limuran about our next project "Bridge Across," following the well-received Earth Fabric

Just realized that Earth Fabric is informing my conception of writing, with fabrics woven as written pieces, poems, into the cloud.

April April Fools: Lookn forward for d nxt project men!!

Yes, are you involved? what is our next project titled? People really like Earth Fabric a lot.

April April Fools:  Really? omg im so flattered..will m thinkn something special bout it..sumthing well gives people a boom!

Nice... how many pics you have at the moment? I have a few poems based on your early 2014 works, like the kitesurfing kites on Bulabog beach.

April April Fools: I have 18 all n all. heheh but some pieces needs u... well lets do it once u get back!! d cuttings make the pieces perfect always!

Yes, the collaborative collage! Bridge Across, is that the theme still? finding a sustainable pathway... or is there a theme you have thought of, through your life?

April April Fools: Omg hehehe yeah i have a tough year and some inspires, but bridge across is telling more bout something a pathway indeed of my life!! U got it men!!

art evolves

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Taking the Deuce

I stroll from the Las Vegas Hostel on the sketchy end of Fremont Avenue to Heart Attack Burger, fresh from a week researching UFOs and early 20th century silver mining towns. I hop on the Deuce, which wends its way with painful deliberation past neon graveyards and chapels of broken dreams, toward the Shiny Corporate Strip. The passengers are the usual mixture of well-scrubbed tourists and locals, in varying states of sunburnt decay. I get out at Caesars, walking to an intersection I know very well from my daily walks from the Rio past midnight, as an unsung blogger. The climax of the 2014 WSOP Main Event awaits.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Hey! Short Update and Links to Many of the Articles

I've been extremely busy throughout August and September, revising Ari Park as per agent request and working on the One Drop poker book.

I have an array of articles at Medium, which I encourage readers to check out. To be honest, I have not received a lot of feedback from my blogging attempts, although I'm sure that a few appreciate the content. I love the Medium interface but they seem to favor semi-profound articles designed to interest people inhabiting tech jobs (though not necessarily about tech). They also seem to curate and only promote articles by their own. I do not have great faith in Medium as a platform for longform content writers who want Internet exposure––yet I am willing to give them a chance.

I may pop into their office in SF one of these months and ask them, what gives? In any case, that is where many of my articles are currently archived. Please have a look. And more than that, connect. I  feel like we writers are constantly drifting away from our tethers, toward open sea.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Victoria Kabluyen Interview (1) — Of Dragon Fish and Black Swans

One of an ongoing series of interviews with my collaborator on a series of illustrations for the mystery-thrillerArisugawa Park, which is set in Japan.


I met Victoria Kabluyen by chance at a Kwan International poker event, while in Las Vegas covering the World Series of Poker. Ms. Kabluyen introduced herself as an entrepreneur developing the GPS-based convention tracker app, for keeping track of colleagues, leads, and contacts in a large-scale convention setting. I introduced myself as a poker enthusiast who had recently won the record-breaking 49 hour marathon APT- Resorts World Manila Ironman tournament, the deepest-structured tourney in NLHE history. As it turned out neither of these achievements was at the core of our creative identities.

I discovered through an online gallery that Ms. Kabluyen is an accomplished artist, with a number of pictures that strongly reminded me of my time in Japan. The wheels in my brain immediately started turning, as I have always been drawn to books with illustrations (I know these are frowned upon in certain literary circles). Like Ms. Kabluyen’s art, I like to think that my book, set in Japan, mixes the traditional with an edgy, contemporary patina. Timeless. Good words deserve good art.

I was particularly drawn to Ms. Kabluyen’s pastel illustration of a woman in black leotard, Irina. She has a similar air of deep, pensive, thought as my character Eve Petersons—an Eastern European hostess in Tokyo, who is framed for the the love hotel murder of a salaryman.

In particular, her attitude and expression seemed similar to a scene in which Eve changes her hair color from blonde to dark brown, in order to mask her identity and evade the police. It also reminded me of magazine illustrations from the 1940s—the stuff from which pulp-detective dynasties were born. (Just saw Pulp Fiction—finally understood its fractured narrative and black humor, almost.)

I was also drawn to the complex patterning of Pray, as it reminded me of the intricate dyed cloth patterns I encountered in Japan. It became apparent that the book would be a good match for Ms. Kabluyen’s talents. But was she interested? I could not offer any money, just an offer of exposure and shared royalties if we did an illustrated edition (e-book?) together.

The amazing thing is that Ms. Kabluyen, who claimed not to have read a book since high school, devoured AP and was quickly on board. The novel had apparently created a personal connection with her. (Note: I just write the damn books, I do not actually take the characters as seriously as readers do — I know just how often they have changed words and actions in the past 9 years.) In any case, I now had the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to collaborate on the illustrations for a book I had written. And not just any illustrations. Masterful ones. Bon Chance!


As a way of exploring the roots of her artistic vision, I asked Ms. Kabluyen if she would be interested in participating in an ongoing interview series, and she graciously agreed. Our first topic is how her approach to art has evolved over the years.

DS: How did you get into art?

VK: I have been very creatively driven since I can remember. My goal with my artwork has always been to provide viewers with something they will remember—something that lingers and stays with them.

DS: What was the first piece of art you remember making a big impression on others?

VK: Throughout high school, I enrolled in regular and advanced art classes. I entered a competition and submitted Dragon Fish—a massive 30"x 40” piece. This is when I started mixing images that are not meant to be together, but are yet somehow cohesive. A juxtaposition that makes the viewer question the art and really try to understand it… I came in second.

DS: What is the meaning of Dragon Fish and how exactly did viewers react?

VK: I was concentrating on the competition, I wanted something big that almost filled the display board, so everyone could see it. I wanted it to be colorful and festive, but instead of having dragon heads I chose dragon fish, rare creatures from the depths of the ocean. Dragon fish cannot survive the light so they stay hidden—they are aggressive, dominant beings that are hard to find. Similar to the mythical dragon. The viewers thought it was great but the judges were not similarly impressed.

DS: You originally come from the Philippines, did this influence you?

VK: In the Philippines there is a high concentration of artists. I always say that 1 out of 5 Filipinos are artists—not just in fine art but also in the performing arts. There are a lot of artisans and craftsmen working in mediums from wood to metal, on sea & land. People think I’m great here but my cousins are amazing back home—more skilled in free-hand than me. I just do my best.

Living in the Philippines with intense competition, I would never have stood out. There was an enormous lack of resources (sketchbooks), tools (paintbrushes), and techniques—which I only had access to attending high school and the Arts Institute here in the U.S.

DS: What was your next evolution after Dragon Fish?

VK: I attended the Art Institute for less than a year and they had a competition, which I did not enter. I was thinking of why the first place artwork won and my councilor suggested that one reason was that it showed a story, a transition point. Not a lot of artists can effectively convey this.

Looking back to Dragon Fish, I did not have a story behind it—I simply wanted to create a conceptually interesting piece. Going forward, I tried to create not just a story, but a pivotal moment that would impact the viewer on a deeper level. The first piece I completed with this in mind was a scene from the movie Black Swan.

This artwork shows the moment when Nina pulls a piece of barb from her back, realizing that her dream of being a swan is coming true and that she is growing feathers. She can’t believe it.

DS: A truly vivid, disturbing scene, as I remember. Black feathers.

VK: Yes, black feathers. My aesthetics just grew from there—realizing that I could capture emotion and move people with my art.

DS: I am no art critic but I personally like Dragon Fish best of the two. I find interest in the juxtaposition of traditional celebratory elements and unexpectedly combative heads. I see them as representing new, divergent views as one moves toward adulthood—a sudden blossoming of competitive spirit, perhaps. With Black Swan, I feel an intensity, perhaps an over-dramatization. Yet the colors are memorable and the piece is a step toward art that is more internalized and focused on capturing psychological states.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Bridge Across

They lie there at your feet, in distinct colors––
the links and chains, spanning geography and ages,
arranged as candy bright offerings
for passage across

You can traverse any one,
but cannot change course 
until you are across somehow––

That is the bargain made––not with the devil,
but with the very forces that created 
arbitrary delineations in matter,
time and quantity, and the imperative to deliver.

I have crafted this, 
it comes from the heart of my dream––
A headdress lifted and set upon your 
noble face, tilted upward

A way to see and view what is around you––
if you keep it on
and hear my refrain

There is no need to escape,
or run from the totality of your mission

Only see if you can cut through the static 
without knowledge of span or destination,
take that leap as far as you can.

Artwork: Jardine April Limuran

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Modern Food Life: Three Ways to Totally Offend a Gourmand

1. Offer the food-loving victim Donut Pie. That’s right, the kind of pie that starts with two dozen glazed donut holes and ends with an orgy of eggs, butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Topped with sprinkles and drizzled icing. Leaving aside the matter of 1,100 empty calories per slice, I’ll torpedo this concoction on the basis of “flavor crimes against humanity” alone. What ever happened to rhubarb, Key lime, pistachio, and the other unobtrusive flavor profiles? Clearly, old favorites don’t have the artery-clogging pizzazz our nation of health-dunces seems to crave.

2. Offer the gourmet eater an omelet à la Effron, concocted of earthworms and pigeon eggs. The host of Running Wild Bear Grylls has perfected manly attributes such as drinking one’s own urine. However, there must be a limit to even the gastronomic discomfiture a masochistic survivalist will endure. Save the stomach-churning recipe for those without the wiles to realize that those earthworms, once digested, will replicate and birth aliens. As any fourth-grade reader of the children’s classic How to Eat Fried Worms can tell you, night crawlers (not earthworms) are the way to go.

3. Order the Taco Bell Doritos Locos Taco Supreme. Gee Taco Bell, you outdid yourself. Not only did you denigrate the humble taco with your sour cream-whiz and over-seasoned mystery meat concoction, but you placed the ingredients in an oversized Dorito. You’ve drowned out whatever pseudo Mexican flavors inhabit a crunchy tortilla with a 10-year-shelf-life, and replaced it with obscene amounts of emulsifier, salt, red 40, yellow 5, blue 1, and disodium insinuate. The bottom line is that any taco which leaves a fluorescent residue on the fingers, and on which a squeeze of lime detracts from a bouquet of lab-formulated flavors, is corrosive to the palate and the soul. Toss it in the garbage heap immediately and allow it to break down and become inert over the course of a half-life of 2,444 years. 


Posted at Medium, a very similar article (experiments in cross linking). Please feel free to explore Medium, join, share, and recommend my posts––and I'll gladly do the same. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Arisugawa Park Illustrations Take Shape

Here are a couple initial illustrations by Victoria Kabluyen, created to accompany my upcoming mystery-thriller novel Arisugawa Park.  I am also blogging a bit on the background of this long-awaited novel.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Vegas is Crazy

Two months of writing in Vegas is crazy. 
not because I did anything, but because of what I didn’t do,
To practice virtuosity one must with restraint

Completely in the flow as a writer 
and I tell you Las Vegas is bedrock, functional. 

I am like a tamed beast,
watching with locals the tourists experiencing the flair
These places are like forgotten, forgotten relics of a mechanical past,
streets here on the Strip are eight-lane freeways––

I am lost a pedestrian out in the wilderness, 
timing my movements to shadows. 

The earth will swallow me up on my way to the Rio. 

The bum asks me for water and I give him my last half cup 
of mostly ice and trickles of life-saving water. 


It is so hot under the sun under the sycamores by the freeway, 
that his soul might perish before he found the shore.

Vegas, always Vegas. This city Vast. It is America, but it isn’t. 
It is the America that always welcomes. 
Vegas is a turning point, a flash point, a mob. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

In The Clearing

I'm posting this poem from Earth Fabric because it relates to an article "Nick Drake’s Road: An Appreciation of a 1971 Folk Classic" I published recently in Medium.

                               April Jardine Limuran

In the Clearing

There is no clearing, the jungle is overpowering
with elephant shriek and trumpet moan, 
the man, the dream, the cunning child
closed in, convoluted

The dreaming world, the beach
the screams through the thicket
nature, untrammeled
piercing horror and never ending 
sightless eyes

Cries that reverberate and remind us just how
insignificant is our colony, how 
transient and unnecessary––
we are not moving toward the harbor, 
we are not shifting with the sun

But if we allow the darkness to run inside us
and the labyrinthine shadows to form in our soul
then maybe we are in the clearing, home.

                                 April Jardine Limuran & Nils Sens (Photoshop)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Van Morrison's "Beside You"

Cry and refrain, and musical mimicry, creates works of art with cross-cultural pollination. Sympatique art where people actually converse and listen. Let’s call it jazz, let’s call it rock, lets call it street-sampled beats. Whatever works, douse it with hot sauce and cut it with vinegar. Throw it on the grill. Crack a little pepper, squeeze a little lime. “Spill the wine, take that pearl.” Eat it, chicken bones and all. Harmony, the Ancient Greeks called it––the bastard offspring of love and war.

My life is a little about living jazz, because my uncle Bob (a DJ and poet of sorts) pointed me in that direction. Naturally, jazz is not simply about jazz music. Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks is jazz because he is with his musicians. He played a few chords and refrains and then said stretch it man, you are buskers, are bluesmen and jongleurs. Are the shit. But realize that this is all part of the blues. And we all know the blues. 

To get at this concept, the rite of passage concept that is music, take Van Morisson’s “Beside You.” In the 1966 Bang session, Van is accompanied by his put-together band of New York studio musicians who have a kind of Dylan Hawks-era greased lightning thing going. The sound is boxcar Memphis South, infused with traces of Van’s gaelic roots. The R&B base and beat hard and steady, the sparse swirling Hammond B3 painting a picture of cobbled streets pattered with rain. The song gradually transcends narrow, European confines and becomes a roaming song, a leap of faith and wonder into a pasture in the fabled countryside where storied Bluesmen roam, and a mythical remembered love exists––

To wander past your window in the nighttime cross the floor
Crying as ecstasy surrounds you
Through the night air your proud time is open
Go well against the pointed idle breeze 

In the night you cry and you want spirits to tell you
Everything's alright
Go ahead and do it one more time baby
You're satisfied I guess, you're way up and the sky comes down


Open and just hold the lantern in the doorway,
For the freedom of it.
And you take the night air through your nostrils and you breathe
In out, in out
And you breathe just like that, just like that 

The 1968 Astral Weeks version of “Beside You” is altogether a different beast. It is about the jazz and “freedom of it” that have now fully seeped into Van’s work. Little plucks of acoustic guitar and ethereal vibes set the scene. Not a questing sound of anguish, with every sound annunciated to its tip-of-explosion adolescent peak. No more “in my room” teenage yearning and spurting glops of self-love. The music depicts a moment in which women become much more than versions of oneself, where they are the essence of earth and decision. The rite of passage has been completed, the joint passed, and man and a woman are part of the same entity, two incorporeal halves. Music that is part of the process of Aquarius learning, never quite completed but still aching like a heartstring. Jefferson Airplane’s “Coming Back to Me,” Jerry Garcia’s “To Lay Me Down,” The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset." Well worn Turkish patterned rug on a wooden slat floor of a Victorian house in San Francisco. The original Hippy realization that we are all distinct, all part of one orgasmus

It is the late 1960s, everything is coming into being in a vast wave of human potential before crime and high rents hit like a heart attack. Before Van Morrison puts his “Hard Nose To The Highway” and becomes a blues curmudgeon. Astral Weeks is a great album that I am still processing. One of my mom’s favorites (in her younger years) that was for many years alien to me. And one of the albums that apparently emanated out of VW caravans along the hippy trail in Kashmir, Goa. Our paths have now converged and passed, as they often do. And I am listening with something akin to wonder––