MacArthur Park

MacArthur Park

By Jimmy Webb

Spring was never waiting for us, girl
It ran one step ahead
As we followed in the dance
Between the parted pages and were pressed
In love’s hot, fevered iron
Like a striped pair of pants

MacArthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
‘Cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again
Oh, no!

I recall the yellow cotton dress
Foaming like a wave
On the ground around your knees
The birds, like tender babies in your hands
And the old men playing checkers by the trees

MacArthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
‘Cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again
Oh, no!


There will be another song for me
For I will sing it
There will be another dream for me
Someone will bring it
I will drink the wine while it is warm
And never let you catch me looking at the sun
And after all the loves of my life
After all the loves of my life
You’ll still be the one

I will take my life into my hands and I will use it
I will win the worship in their eyes and I will lose it
I will have the things that I desire
And my passion flow like rivers through the sky
And after all the loves of my life
After all the loves of my life
I’ll be thinking of you
And wondering why


MacArthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
‘Cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again
Oh, no!
Oh, no
No, no
Oh no!!



MacArthur Park by Bill White

Beethoven was arrested while leaving the Hollywood offices of Elektra Records.

“You seem like a serious musician,” he had been told, “but this melodramatic stuff doesn’t fly in today’s market.  We learned that with David Ackles, and the last thing I need is another David Ackles.  My advice to you is to get a band together and trade your piano in on an organ. If you can find the right singer to put it across, the song might connect.  But I don’t have time to develop artists.  The Doors got their thing together after months of working in front of an audience before we even thought of touching them.  I advise you do the same.  Or better yet, get out of LA altogether.  Go to Vienna and try to get a job with the local orchestra.  From what I hear, Vienna is an open city for talents like yours.”

The only reason Harry Hartwick had responded to Beethoven’s demo tape was because the song bore similarities to a recent massacre at a wedding in MacArthur Park.  Someone had poisoned the wedding cake, and every member of the wedding party had died.   While Hartwick ran down the reasons he was not interested in signing Beethoven to the label, his secretary was on the line to the LAPD.

“He is here in the office now. “

“How long can you hold him?”

“As long as it takes you to get a patrol car here.”

“Keep him another fifteen minutes.  We’ll be waiting for him outside.”

When Hartwick saw the light go off on his secretary’s telephone line, he excused himself and brought her Beethoven’s demo, telling her to leave now and take it to the precinct so they could hear for themselves what appeared to be a confession of mass murder before the suspect arrived for interrogation.

The cops were watching a soap opera about cars when Beethoven was brought in to the precinct.   At this point he was simply a ‘person of interest,’ and was offered coffee and donuts while the interrogation room was swept out and made ready for his questioning.  As he had been neither cuffed nor arrested, nobody felt obligated to let him know that the presence of a lawyer might be to his advantage.  Instead, they invited him to enjoy the television and refreshments until his name was called.

The interrogating sergeant was studying the lyrics to “MacArthur Park” while Beethoven enjoyed his donuts and coffee. It was a strange lyric that could have meant whatever one wanted it to mean. All except the part about the cake.  Forensics had already established   that the cake had been poisoned with the pre-meditated purpose of killing the wedding guests.  The cake of the chorus being the weapon, the motive was to be found somewhere in the nonsensical verses.

“How the hell does a cotton dress foam like a wave?” he asked himself. Then, shaking his head, he buzzed the front desk to send Beethoven in.

“What is this all about, sergeant?” Beethoven asked after he had been seated.

“It’s about your song, and the possibility that it might contain a clue to the wedding massacre at MacArthur Park.”

“I don’t see how it could.  I wrote the song months before that tragedy took place.”

“Doesn’t matter when you wrote it.  What I want to understand is why you wrote it.  And what the hell the damn thing means.”

“It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? A guy goes to the wedding of an ex-girlfriend, and can’t get over the fact that the rain ruined the cake.”

“In LA?  I don’t buy it.  How many weddings get rained out in LA?”

“This one did.  And so, I guess, did the one that ended in a massacre.”

“Both of which took place in MacArthur Park.  It’s too co-incidental.”

“You think I have something to do with it?”

“Maybe.  Or maybe you’re one of those singing prophets who knows what’s going to happen before it happens because you are an antennae of the times or something.”

“I was tuned in, man.  Tuned in and turned on.  I had a vision and I turned it into a song.”

“Tell me this.  How does a dress foam like a wave?”

“It doesn’t.  It just seems to.  You see, when a wave breaks, it foams. So does a dress when the girl bends it at the knee. “

“Maybe it’s all the guts foaming out as she dies.”

“That’s another interpretation.”

“Who is the girl, Beethoven?  And why did you kill her?”

“The bride.”

“In a yellow dress?  It doesn’t add up.”

“You’re looking to deep. The truth is right on the surface.”

“Beethoven, were you invited to the wedding?”


“Did you crash it?”

“I was there, but I kept my distance.”

“You watched from afar, is that it?”

“There was a little shed over where the old men play checkers.  I watched the ceremony from there.”

“And what did you see?”

“I saw my girl getting married to another man.”

“And so you killed her…”

“No, I wrote a song about it.”

“You know what I think?  I think you saw it in your mind.  Then you went to the wedding and acted out. “

“Acted out?  What does that mean?”

“It means you couldn’t take it.  You heard your girl was going to marry another guy, so you wrote a song about it.  And in that song, there was a cake that took a long time to bake because it was laced with poison.  And in your mind, you saw all her friends who were once your friends as well but now they were only hers and they were celebrating her union with a new man.  You saw these people and you imagined them eating the poisoned cake and dropping like flies all over the goddam park.  Then, when the day of the wedding arrived, you felt compelled to go to the park and act out the song.  You switched cakes, then hid in the shed by the place where the old men played checkers and you watched as they toasted the bride and groom and you watched as they died, as the groom died, and as the bride died.  You watched through a pane of rainy glass.  Then you walked away.”

“You can’t prove that.”

“You made one small mistake, and that mistake is going to land you in the gas chamber.”

“Okay.  Tell me.  What was my mistake?”

The sergeant stood up, took a long look at Beethoven, then left the room.  When he returned he was carrying a large dessert box. He set it on the table, and opened it up.   Beethoven looked on in horror at the sight within, and the sergeant chortled.

“You left the cake out in the rain.”


Strange Days


Strange days have found us
Strange days have tracked us down
They’re going to destroy our casual joys
We shall go on playing or find a new town, yeah

Strange eyes fill strange rooms
Voices will signal their tired end
The hostess is grinning, her guests sleep from sinning
Hear me talk of sin and you know this is it, yeah

Strange days have found us
And through their strange hours we linger alone
Bodies confused, memories misused
As we run from the day to a strange night of stone

……by The Doors

Strange Days by Bill White

And in those strange days, when words were dense, thick stupid and meaningless, Jimbo projected his films at Eagles Auditorium, while Digger Dan entered the Hasty Tasty during his passage through Seattle on his way to an Alaskan compound.

Crammed quarters for night osmosis bog eyes and (uh) the milkshake spiders laugh at destitute coffee dimes and (uh) the grease and potatoes swell shrunken guts of starvation and (uh) the toilet is off limits unless you sign a waiting list and (uh) the ancient jukebox compels tongue to dance syncopate and (uh) the surgeon is disguised as a hamburger trout on this last stop til morning’s residue unlocks shops.

Digger Dan no longer wanted to work at the free store in the Haight, and Jimbo no longer wanted to sing.  He wanted to write poetry and make films.  They met before dawn in the Hasty Tasty, where Dan ate the night away and Jimbo thought on his fate.

“Peace Brother, I’m Digger Dan and I got six old ladies and seven kids and I treat my dog better than most cats treat their chicks.  Follow me and I promise food in your belly, a roof over your head, and a chick whenever you need one.”

“I don’t need any more chicks,” Jimbo replied. “Chicks make me into solid body and I want to be spirit vapor.”

As they continued to speak, the scholars drink tea and talk and not pay and (uh) outside the roadskin is mutilated by whining whitewalls and (uh) inside the glazed donuts crash the conversation and kick them into the gutter.

Dan looked up at the donut bullies and howled, “Peace Brother I’m Digger Dan and I’m gonna live to be 130 because I don’t eat any of that canned food bullshit that turns people into robots.”

Jimbo was the first to stand, and he helped Dan to his feet, who hobbled north with Jimbo’s help.

They flagged down a metro bus, and Jimbo paid both fares, while the tilted empress told the bus driver of grim observation (decline of carbolic paradise).  The bus curved onto Greenlake Way as goateed athletes jogged around Hoodlum Lake thinking of tin soldiers limping through corridors of hospital smackhouse while private nurses are tortured until they confess to anti-american activities.

Dan spotted a chick nodding off in the back of the bus and creaked down to her.

“Peace Sister I’m Digger Dan, and I just got in from San Francisco and I  need a place to crash before taking my men up to Alaska, but don’t  lick my arms because I’m no better than you except my head is straight and you are controlled by painted bricks.”

Faces chemically endowed with greasepaint cheeks twitch longingly for Dan before street cleaners arrive with hoses and badges to spark countless cigarettes choked through tracts of menopausal virgins who are arrested in the fountain for depravity as squiggly wiggly ladies are offended by Jimbo’s smile musted from moonshot to protect US citizens from the whores trying to get there first.

Monster bones found in ashcan are traded for paper of smack to be shot before washing marrow out of the junkie wishbone.  Chemical hysteria from ergot sets of change in deranged flower child running naked, begging change before tuning into God.

“Peace Brothers and Sisters, I’m Digger Dan and every time you spend money in America you buy bullets and are just as responsible as the man who uses them. That is why I never carry money.  It’s no good –can’t fuck it, can’t eat it – I learned how to kill in the marines but when they ordered me to fight I kicked the sergeant’s ass.  But if some 18 foot redneck jumps me because his nine year old daughter ran off to the Haight and caught the clap, I’ll rip out his eyeballs with my thumb and use them for ping pong balls.”

In the Monday dawn, Catholic schools clothed in glass (vegetables require sunlight for photosynthesis) are closed for the Easter holidays. Coffeehouse windows (flowers require sunlight for photosynthesis) are covered with shades during afternoon lightshowrockconcertdance, not knowing that all life without oxygen withers.

“I’m getting off the bus here,” Jimbo told Dan.  “Things are getting too strange.  I’m getting off the bus and going to Paris.  I want to lie down with the poets.”

“We should go back to the Hasty Tasty,” Dan answered. “The ledge on the other side of the window is too cold, but inside it’s warm with the juke, toilet, and coffee.  My teeth are chattering and once that starts, there is no stopping.”

“I’m stopping.” Jimbo said, and he disappeared.


Lush Life


I used to visit all the very gay places
those come what may places
where one relaxes on the axis of the wheel of life
to get the feel of life
from jazz and cocktails
the girls i knew had sad and sullen gray faces
with distant gay traces
that used to be there you could see where
they’d been washed away
by too many through the day
twelve o’clocktails

then you came along with your siren’s song
to tempt me to madness
i thought for a while that your pointed smile
was tinged with the sadness
of a great love for me
ah yes i was wrong
again i was wrong

life is lonely again
and only last year
everything seemed so assured
now life is awful again
and the thoughtful of heart
could only be a bore

a week in paris will ease the bite of it
all i care is to smile in spite of it
i’ll forget you i will
and yet you are still
burning inside my brain

romance is mush
stifling those who strive
i’ll live a lush
life in some small dive
and there i’ll be
while i rot with the rest
of those whose lives are lonely too

                                        ,,,,,,by Billy Strayhorn

Lush Life  by Bill White

A bar need not be dingy to be a rat hole. There is plenty of gray vulgarity to be had in street-level establishments, behind picture windows that let the sun into the room, if not the soul.  University areas specialize in such booze traps, where students start out with a quick one between classes and wind up on the slow horse after dark. 

That’s when the pigs come in.  After the Mastercard crowd finishes with their delicate suppers accompanied by two or three five-o-clock tails, the girls from the undergarment factory come waltzing through the doors, sizing up the guys who have already had too much to drink, even though it’s not yet 8 o’clock. Most of these delinquent students are happy to buy eight or nine beers for these sweet ladies, who will invite them home for a sloppy roll in a sweat-bag if they can hold up until closing time.

They are not the kind of girls Marshall would have chosen a mate from were he looking for romance in more savory places.  But at night, after several beers, the distant gay traces in their faces took precedence over the sad grayness of their lives, and the beer sweat mixed odiferously with the taste of cigarette stained fingers as he kissed Paulette’s hands with the ardor of a dog spotting a dead seagull in the polluted tide.

Marshall had come in with the usual crowd that included like-minded students who enjoyed table-jousting with half-baked ideas picked up from philosophy classes they rarely attended. They say a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but more often it is something hilarious, especially if you are eavesdropping in a bar on college students who think they wrote the book on subjects for which they cannot even manage a passing grade. They cannot even be excused with the explanation that it is the beer talking, because if beer could talk, it would be a lot smarter than the people who drink it.

Paulette was a sullen little bitch, who always came to the bar alone. She wasn’t pretty enough to risk competition, and found that she had pretty good luck with the boys when she had their complete attention so she could hypnotize them with her stink into thinking she was a hot number.  In truth, her only advantage was that she was a sure thing, something she always made clear to whoever was paying for her beers on any given night. 

Marshall was the lucky one tonight, Paulette having separated him from the herd after spotting the load in his wallet as he was buying a round of drinks for his table.  When the bar closed at two, he offered her a ride home, and she asked him in, and they had another beer together before stripping off their clothes and going to bed, but somehow it wasn’t all that great.  It fact, Marshall found the whole thing to be a little sickening.  Paulette, with her Edith Piaf attitude and her Mickey Mouse face, was not the girl with whom he wanted to be spending the night.  When he was sure she was sleeping, he quietly removed himself from her bed, put on his clothes, and got the hell out of there.

Marshall swore off the bar, and succeeded in staying away for nearly a week.  He came in alone after seeing a movie, looking for someone to talk to about it, but none of his friends were there.  He took a seat at the bar and was in the middle of his second beer when a college girl sat next to him.  Saying she had seen him at the film, she asked him what he thought of it.

“Tarantino’s best yet.  God that guy is a genius.  He is the only one who could have done justice to Django.  And he did it so well.”

“My God, this numbnut is an idiot,” Cynthia thought to herself, regretting that she had sat next to him and initiated a conversation.  “How am I going to get out of this one?” she wondered.

“Tarantino scooped up a bunch of under-employed African-American actors who treated him like a God for giving them work,  and he made them play act every fantasy he ever had about Black history, most of which came from Blaxploitation pictures and  fake Italian documentaries like Goodbye Uncle Tom and  Africa  Addio,”  she blurted, hoping to scare him off.

“Wow, he responded. “You don’t pull any punches, do you?”  He began to laugh, half enchanted by the way her voice lilted when she tried to make it punctuate, and half enamored by the green of her eye seeming to spin around like a washing machine in a head full of furious opinions. 

She looked him and the idiot she had initially sighted in that dull face began to recede into a the picture of someone whose intelligence had become dormant as a result of the barrage of academic stupidity that he had been contending with since graduating high school.  “He must have been a pretty smart kid when he was a teenager,” she thought.

And so Marshall and Cynthia had a few beers together, and soon were dating like a normal couple. She seemed to him to be the first decent girl he had met since falling into the bar scene, and he was the first guy she had met in college who hadn’t been scared away by her nonpartisan intelligence.  She didn’t love him, though. Her heart was in Paris, where she had spent the previous summer’s vacation and had gone wild over a snotty kid who liked to ridicule old school celebrities like Belmondo and Johnny Hallyday. She stuck with Marshall (who, incidentally, was madly in love with her and only her), though, through the school year, before returning to Paris to resume relations with the French kid.

Cynthia had told Marshall about Pierre-Louis, as he was called, but it wasn’t until she was back in Paris that the truth began to hurt.  When she didn’t return to school in the fall, Marshall realized that his assumption that Cynthia had a great love for him was wrong, and that the greater reserve of her love had been held in account for Pierre-Louis.  Hope gave way to loneliness, and loneliness led him back to the lush life from which he believed, only a year ago, love had delivered him.

“Romance is mush,” he mumbled bitterly to the pig who was sticking her fingers into the tear in his jeans that began right above his knee. “A stifling mush of things you’re gonna have to forget.’

“Aw, you don’t mean that,’ his paramour for the night replied. “We are all hopeless romantics in here.”

“Are we?” he barked, rising from his chair, turning on his heel, and making a beeline for the exit.  

He wandered the streets all night, sucking on the pint of brandy he had picked up in a package store after leaving the bar.    It gave him a warm feeling of invulnerability, a feeling that was completely absent when he woke in the early morning on a suburban lawn. 

“Go on doggie, get out of here,” the man gently yelled after opening his front door to pick up the morning paper.  “Go on now, get going.”  Marshall looked around but didn’t see any dog.  Then the man came off the porch and kicked him.


The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down



The Night they Drove Old Dixie  Down

Virgil Cane is the name

And I served on the Danville train
‘Till Stoneman’s cavalry came
And tore up the tracks again

In the winter of ’65
We were hungry, just barely alive
By May the 10th, Richmond had fell
It’s a time I remember, oh so well

The night they drove old Dixie down
And the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down
And the people were singing
They went, “Na, na, la, na, na, la”

Back with my wife in Tennessee
When one day she called to me
“Virgil, quick, come see,
There goes Robert E. Lee!”

Now, I don’t mind chopping wood
And I don’t care if the money’s no good
You take what you need and you leave the rest
But they should never have taken the very best

The night they drove old Dixie down
And the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down
And all the people were singing
They went, “Na, na, la, na, na, la”

Like my father before me
I will work the land
And like my brother above me
Who took a rebel stand

He was just 18, proud and brave
But a Yankee laid him in his grave
I swear by the mud below my feet
You can’t raise a Kane back up when he’s in defeat

The night they drove old Dixie down
And the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down
And all the people were singing
They went, “Na, na, la, na, na, la”

The night they drove old Dixie down
And all the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down
And the people were singing
They went, “Na, na, la, na, na, la”

                                                         …….Robbie Robertson

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down  By Bill White

“State your name.”

“Hezekiah Cane.”

“Do you swear to tell   the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”

“I do.”

“You are accused of flying the confederate flag on your front porch. How do you plead?”

“Not guilty.”

“In your deposition, you admit to raising the flag.”

“I admit to the act, but not the crime.”

“Are you aware that the flying of the confederate flag, even on private property, is a crime?”

“No. I am not aware of that.  I know that the flags have been prohibited in public places, but was not aware that my right to fly my flag on my property had been taken away from me.”

“Mr., Cane, what was your purpose in raising the confederate flag?”

“To remember, and to honor, my ancestors who died behind it.”

“It had nothing to do with a desire to resurrect the glory days of a slave-driven economy?”

“The Canes have never owned slaves.  My father and his father before him and his father before him worked the land by their own hands.”

“So your raising of the flag had nothing to do with nostalgia for an inhumane system of labor that has been outlawed for nearly 200 years.”

“Nothing whatsoever.”

“Are you familiar with the saying, “every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword?????”

“Yes sir.That line was spoken by Abraham Lincoln.”

“What do you think he meant by it?”

“It was his way of declaring war on every southerner for the wrongs that had been committed by just a few.  Now the Cane family was poor, but they weren’t ignorant .And they wrote letters and diaries so I know what they did and what they thought.  One of my ancestors, Virgil Cane, wrote about seeing an auction block one time.  And he described it as a few Yankees coming down and selling slaves to the rich plantation owners.  He said nothing about the regular farmers buying any of them.  They did their own work with their own hands and were proud of the work they did.  But the Yankees came down and slaughtered them and their families, burned their houses and farms, all to make up for what was done by the rich southern folk,   and they weren’t about to touch them, because they did their banking up North.”

“Do you honestly believe that?”

“Hey, history has always been written by the winners.  No matter what I say, there aren’t going to be many who believe me.  You all got it in your heads that us southerners area bunch of racist creeps.  But you know what?  It was the white Southerners who did the most to get the civil rights act of 1965 passed.  You sent down some dumb assed kids who didn’t know what they were doing and they got themselves killed so you had your Yankee martyrs, but the fight  for equality was our fight, and we won that fight, black and white southerners together, not a handful of white Yankees.  You are not the heroes of our history, so why should we raise your flag?”

“It is not mandatory to fly the American flag; but it is against the law to fly the confederate flag.  And that is the law you stand accused of breaking. So far, you have stated nothing in defense of that violation.  I am your attorney, and you are my witness, but sometimes I feel like you are my prosecutor, and I am the one defending someone else’s right to accuse you.”

“Well, that’s Yankee justice for you.”





He’s just an old rock ‘n’ roller playing music in a backstreet bar.
He sings a little flat and he never learned to play the guitar.
But he keeps on belting out them rhythm and blues,
“Long Tall Sally” and “Blue Suede Shoes”. 
He never faced the fact that he’s never gonna be a star.
He’s just an old rock ‘n’ roller playing music in a backstreet bar. 

He had a record in the sixties, it was big enough to go Top Ten. 
And though he tried and he tried he never could make it happen again. 
He’s been living twenty years on bourbon and pride. 
Jerry Lee went crazy and Elvis died. 
Then his third wife left him but he never really thought it would last. 
And now she ain’t nothing but another little blast from the past. 

But sometimes at night when the music and the crowd is having fun,
He steps up on the mike with a gleam in his eye and once again he’s twenty-one. 
And then it’s “Be-Bop-A-Lula” and “Heartbreak Hotel” and “That’ll Be The Day” 
Then the Sweet Bird of Youth just flies away. 

He’s an earthbound eagle that never did learn how to fly. 
He ain’t never gonna make it but he sure did give it a try. 

 So go dye your hair and turn the music up loud, 
And when it’s time to go at least you’ll go down proud. 
You ain’t never gonna be nothing but what you are 
Just an old rock ‘n’ roller playing music in a backstreet bar. 
Just an old rock ‘n’ roller playing music in a backstreet bar


                                     ,,,Charlie Daniels



Old Rock N Roller by Bill White


Do you know that song,”Old Rock N Roller,” by Charlie Daniels? You do?  Did you know it was written about a guy who grew up right around here? You don’t?  Well, it’s true. And that back street bar where he plays his music?  This is the place. And he still plays here, every Tuesday night.

When I met Johnny Lomax in 1957, he was carrying a guitar.  Seattle didn’t become a rock and roll town until 1958, so a kid carrying a guitar was a pretty rare sight in ’57. He was walking down Jackson Street, heading for a club where he was going to try to sit in with a rhythm and blues band.  He told me he went to this club a lot, but was rarely asked to play.  “Someday I’m going to get my own group together,” he said, more than one time,”and we’re going to own this street.”

Johnny and I were friends for two years before he succeeded in putting something together, and I played drums in that band until 1962, when we went into Boles recording studio to cut our first record,  and the engineer kicked me out and replaced me with one of his so-called ‘studio’ musicians,.  That record, I don’t even remember what it was called, didn’t go anywhere, but the second one, “Pink Moustache,” went national top ten. I wasn’t in the band anymore, and that’s why I work in the office here at the bar, and not on the bandstand.

One song is all it takes.  Work that hit single right, and you can ride it for the rest of your life. That one song is the difference between having a name and being a nobody.  And once you get a name, nobody can take it away Johnny never had another hit song, although lord knows he tried hard enough, but he was always able to draw a crowd.  He was the man who wrote and recorded “Pink Moustache” and that’s something he could always fall back on no matter how tough the times were.

There were never any hard feelings between me and Johnny. Things got a little rough right after I got kicked out of the band, but not for long.  By the time “Pink Moustache” came out, we were tight as we’d ever been.  It was fun having a friend as famous as him, and my buddies and I used to get a kick watching him on American Bandstand.  He was on the road most of the time, and when he got a break he would come to Seattle and hang out with me.  That in itself gave me a lot of status, and I got to meet some girls that otherwise would never have given me the time of day.

I guess it was in ’65 that I bought this joint and started booking bands.  If the music explosion of ’58 was something, the proliferation of bands that formed in the wake of The Beatles was something else.  I had the place packed seven nights a week with a different band every night.  It was one of the hottest joints on the hill.  Johnny’s career was slowing down because he had a hard time keeping up with the times. The scene was changing, and the stuff he played was starting to be called “oldies” music. But he had that hit, and people were curious to see him play it.  So I promised him that every Tuesday night, as long as I owned the bar, was going to be Johnny Lomax night.  The only condition was that he would play two sets, and “Pink Moustache” would be featured twice in each set.  For the rest of it, he could play whatever the hell he wanted.

For every Jimi Hendrix that has played in my club, there have been a couple dozen guitarists who were just as good.  In this world, however, there is room for only one Jimi Hendrix. There are plenty of slots for competent players, but only one genius slot.  Same goes for songwriters.  There is one Bob Dylan and three million other songwriters, most of who are writing songs that will never be heard.  Some of their stuff is just as good as Dylan’s.  Check out Reverb-A-Tron if you don’t believe me. 

If a girl is willing to forego songwriting in favor of throwing some random words on top of some lame ass beat box rhythms, she has a shot at a career in the music industry, especially if she is willing to bend over and lick the cold metal hot dog sticking out of a jack in the box clown.  But if she wants to be Joni Mitchell, or even Jewel, she had better  join a songwriting group and learn to enjoy a life on the open mike circuit, because that’s as far as she’s going to get.

I have heard music in Seattle that was better than anything I have heard elsewhere and very little of it made it out of the Northwest. Most of it, and one time or another, found its way into this little back street bar. The sixties and the seventies were the golden years. It was in the late 80’s when everything started to go south.  Junkie creeps from nowhere towns like Aberdeen hooked into the amateur music scenes of outlying college towns where they got their thing together before hitting the Seattle clubs with their harsh and pointless whining.   For a while those bands were the only ones people wanted to hear, and the scene got so depressing that I nearly closed my joint.  A friend of mine who wrote music reviews for the Times was sent to hear two of these groups at the Moore theatre and told his editor the next day that he would never again review a rock concert.  .

That was only the beginning. Once these groups crashed and burned, all these idiots who wanted to be next in line started infesting the city.  As an example of how bad it was, I hired a kid from Indiana to wash dishes and he asked me one night, in all sincerity, what he should do first – start a band or learn to play an instrument. Throughout this mess, I cherished the Tuesday nights with Johnny Lomax on the bandstand. He might have been pushing fifty, but played like he was still twenty-one…

His show started with the band playing Telstar.  He waited outside with his guitar and it was already plugged into the amp on the stage. That cord must have been 50 feet long.  When the band got to the last go round of Telstar, he doubled the melody on his guitar, playing it three notes higher, then crashed into the opening chords of “Pink Moustache” as he busted through the front doors, running like hell to the stage and when he hit it, and was right there with the first verse and just killed everyone with it. And after the applause died down, he settled into a string of his favorite songs from back in the day. Long Tall Sally, Blue Suede Shoes, Be-Bop-A-Lula, Heartbreak Hotel, and That’ll be the Day. Then he sat down, like Bobby Darin in Vegas when he bombed with that Tim Hardin song, and cover something by Kate Bush or the Smiths. Then he got back up and went into some endless funk by Prince, always as different one and usually something I hadn’t heard before, like “Supercalifragilistic Sexy” that would segue into some damn Led Zeppelin epic.  And he would wipe the sweat off his face and throw the hanky into the crowd like Elvis before reprising with another go at “Pink Moustache.” The guy was incredible.

The second set was always completely different, except of course for the hit that he had contracted to play twice. A lot of people left after the first set.  The tourists I mean, those that came to see him out of curiosity because you wouldn’t believe how many of them had never seen a hit song performed live except on television. The ones who stayed for the second set would usually show up once every couple of months to see him. He had a solid following, and that second set would usually include at least one guest star. Usually it would be a local legend, like Merilee Rush or Tiny Tony, but sometimes it’d be some huge star that was in town for a concert.  Eric Clapton came by one night, and Buddy Miles became a regular for several months.   You never knew what might happen in that second set.  It was crazy.  Pink Floyd came in once and did the whole “Dark Side of the Moon” Album with him. 

Charlie Daniels came in one night and Johnny was so drunk that he couldn’t sing or play.  He really sounded like shit.  Daniels liked him, but thought he was a crappier-than-thou musician, and wrote that song about him. Most of it was pretty accurate but some of the lines weren’t fair. I mean, they may have been true that night, but they weren’t really true, if you know what I mean.   “Never learned to play the guitar,” come off it.  John Olufs from the Pickets was taking lessons from him for chrissake.” 

Despite this number of really great musicians that have come up in this city, it is still a shitty music town.  It’s full of creeps and hustlers who sign bands up for nothing and, if they hit, sell them out to a major label at enormous profit to themselves.  Money that never goes back into the city to help build a legitimate business here for music.  Cities like Boston were built on the success of bands like J Geils and The Cars, but Seattle is a take it and run town.  There is no continuity, no respect what came before. Just a bunch of dumb punks who don’t know shit about anything, not even their instruments.

And if you ask them who inspired them to make music it is usually some band that is as bad as they are.  Some give lip service to The Sonics, but have they ever heard of Dave Lewis, The Fleetwoods, The Viceroys, The Dynamics, Floating Bridge, Easy Chair, Juggernaut, Magic Fern, The Daily Flash, Rose and the Dirt Boys, Papaya, The Skyboys, Lance Romance, Dynamic Logs, Slamhound Hunters, The Telepaths, The Lewd, The Dimes, The Vacations, Red Dress, Chinas Comidas, The Pudz, Student Nurse, Visible Targets, or The Whizz Kidzz?


These are some of the great ones.  Then there are the old guys that never made it. You have never seen such bitter sons of bitches.  I got one coming in tonight. He is always sneaking in here on someone else’s coat tails.  The guy is sixty years and has never built up a fan base, not even a cult following.  Everybody hates this guy.  He is so bad that he could clear a street fair if he ever managed to commander one of its stages. I would never book him, but he is such a tenacious old bastard that he gloms onto the headliners and they let him do an opening set just to get him out of their hair. He thinks he is going on first, but I’m putting him on last.  Otherwise, there would be no one left in the room to hear the headliners, and I wouldn’t sell any beer.

Ah, but the times I’ve had here in this crappy little bar. Back in ’75, after playing a three-hour show at the Paramount, which is right down the street from here, Bruce Springsteen came in and played until the sun came up. What happened to rock and roll?  Jerry Lee went crazy and Elvis died. Punk and disco rocked side by side. But Johnny and I will always be just exactly what we are.  A couple of old rock n rollers hangin’ tough in a back street bar.






Let us be lovers we’ll marry our fortunes together 
I’ve got some real estate here in my bag 
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner’s pies 
And we walked off to look for America 
Cathy I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh 
Michigan seems like a dream to me now 
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw 
I’ve gone to look for America 
Laughing on the bus playing games with the faces 
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy 
I said be careful his bowtie is really a camera 
Toss me a cigarette I think there’s one in the raincoat 
We smoked the last one an hour ago 
So I looked at the scenery she read her magazine 
And the moon rose over an open field 
Cathy I’m lost I said though I knew she was sleeping 
I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why 
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike 
They’ve all come to look for America 
All come to look for America



America by Bill White

 “Cathy I’m lost, “Paul said, though he knew she was sleeping.  “I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.”

Sleeping people make the best confessors. It’s easy to be honest when the person to whom you are confessing is not listening. And Paul had been lost long before the greyhound bus merged into traffic on the New Jersey turnpike.  Everyone on that bus was lost.

Paul and Cathy had hitched out of Saginaw, Michigan four days ago. Had they delayed their departure by even one day, they would be dead now.  Not that their chances for survival were that good in their present circumstance. They had caught the last bus out of Pittsburgh, hoping that the Port Authority in New York City would still be operational.  It wasn’t.  The bus went straight through Manhattan to New Haven, Connecticut, where the driver bailed out and made a run for it.

Even though the station was deserted, Paul didn’t want to take his chances in Connecticut.      “It’s funny,” he whispered to his fiancé, who was had just woken up, “that  when people crossing  an ocean finally see land, they think they have arrived somewhere, but when they cross land and arrive at the ocean, they feel that they have reached a dead end.” 

“You got a cigarette?” she replied.

“No. I smoked the last one an hour ago.”  Paul excused himself and walked to the front of the bus, got into the driver’s seat, and made an announcement over the PA.  “This is New Haven, Connecticut. Our driver has left the bus and he is not coming back. I know a little about driving these rigs, so I’m going to take over. Any objections?”

“Where are we going?” somebody asked.

“I don’t know.  I don’t know if there is any place left anymore where it would be safe to go.  But if you want out, get out now, because I’m not stopping until I have to.”

A man in a gabardine suit looked out the window, surveying the area.  It looked safe, but even if it was, it wouldn’t be safe for long. He, and the rest of the passengers, had decided to remain on the bus.  As Paul reached for the cross-handle to close the doors, Cathy moved to the front seats on the right to be near him.  “I think there are still a couple pies in my raincoat pocket,” he told her. “Why don’t you have something to eat?  We are going to be on the road for a while yet.”

Cathy opened a pie and let her mind drift back to those last days in Saginaw. It seemed like a dream to her now.  A very bad dream.  She had been  a nurse at Saint Mary’s of Michigan, where an antidote to the new strain of swine flu  was being tested on some recovering alcoholics  they had picked up at  the Restoration Community Outreach.  The antidote was effective, but had some complications.  Unlike most vaccinations that give the receiver a mild case of the disease in order to prevent a full blown infection, this one subjected the person to the entire course of the disease, but it all happened so fast that recovery was 100% and immediate.  It might seem barbaric, but the alternative was certain death. 

But there were complications, and not just the discomfort of those feverish minutes through which the vaccinated person suffered the course of the disease. The complications had more serious consequences than that.  The end of this cycle was death, and every person who got vaccinated died.  Then they recovered.

After the success of the vaccine on healthy people, they started using it on sick people, who recovered completely within half an hour of the injection, The vaccines were then distributed to hospitals throughout the country, and the swine flu epidemic that had threatened to  exterminate the population of North America was brought under control.  But what had come it its place was a thousand times worse.

Paul didn’t want to  risk driving through Hartford, let alone Boston, so he turned the bus around and backtracked to Milford, then drove West to Highway 15, which he followed until it intersected with 8, then headed North to what looked, on the highway map, like the closest thing to sanctuary,


“We should be able to reach the Osborndale State park in about an hour and a half,” Paul told the passengers over the PA.  “Does anybody here know the area well enough to have an opinion on how safe the park might be?”

The man in the gabardine suit stood up.       “You don’t want to go near there,” he warned.” Saint Michael’s cemetery is on those grounds.”

Cathy turned around in her seat and yelled back at him, “We don’t have anything to fear from cemeteries.  It is the dead who never made it to the grave that we have to be afraid of.”  

There was a great deal of chattering and mumbling among the passengers, who finally agreed that the Osborndale State park was as good a place as any to head for.  Not that anyone thought of it as a final destination.  Just that it might be safe for a while.  Every person on that bus had been told all their lives that America was the best and the safest place on Earth to be and that they were lucky as hell to have been born here.   Not too many, in their lives, had found the America that had been promised to them by their parents, in their schools, and on their televisions. Most of them, though, still believed it existed and were not about to stop looking for it, just because the damn place was now over-run with zombies. 

The sun was beginning to set as the Greyhound bus entered the state park, and the moon rose over an open field. 


Town Without Pity


When you’re young and so in love as we

And bewildered by the world we see

Why do people hurt us so
Only those in love would know
What a town without pity can do

If we stop to gaze upon a star
People talk about how bad we are
Ours is not an easy age
We’re like tigers in a cage
What a town without pity can do

The young have problems, many problems
We need an understanding heart
Why don’t they help us, try and help us
Before this clay and granite planet falls apart
Take these eager lips and hold me fast
I’m afraid this kind of joy can’t last

How can we keep love alive
How can anything survive
When these little minds tear you in two
What a town without pity can do

How can we keep love alive
How can anything survive
When these little minds tear you in two
What a town without pity can do

No, it isn’t very pretty what a town without pity can do


When we were in fifth grade, Clark got sent down to the principal’s office for trying to kiss a boy.  It didn’t surprise me.  In kindergarten, I had shared a double desk with Clark, and once when I dropped my pencil, he followed me under the table and tried to kiss me.  I pushed him away and, at the end of the day, asked the teacher if I could change desks.  When she asked for a reason, I told her I was allergic to Clark’s cashmere sweaters.

I wasn’t mad at Clark for trying to kiss me.  I just wasn’t interested in kissing.  That was something girls did with each other.  Shoot, we didn’t even want to kiss girls, let along each other. We liked playing baseball and going to the park and acting out cowboy movies.  But I guess there were some boys who did like to kiss each other.  Clark was proof of that.

I don’t know how many kids he had tried to kiss since kindergarten, but I’m pretty sure nobody told the teacher on him until last year, and the squealer was this gross kid that I am surprised Clark wanted to kiss. Vernon was known at a farter, not a kisser, because that’s what liked to do out on his front lawn every day after school.  He would pull his pants down and lay on his back. When a car drove by, he lifted his legs in the air and cut a fart at it. I don’t know how he got away with it for so long, but lots of kids at school swore they saw him on the lawn with his pants down whenever they walked past his house.  I don’t know.  I never did see him do it.

But I don’t care about Vernon. I was just wondering why Clark had tried to kiss him.  Maybe he loved kissing so much that he would try to do it with anyone.   For all I know, he might have been kissing girls all those years.  It would make sense, because girls are the ones who really like kissing.  Some of them might have thought it was extra fun to get a boy trapped in their playhouse to join in their kissing games.

In the fifth grade, there already were a couple of boys who kissed girls, but I wasn’t one of them. Having a big sister who is already in Junior High, I know that a boy can get in a lot more trouble kissing girls than Clark got into for trying to kiss a boy.  That’s because of what it can lead to.  My sister had a friend who used to kiss this guy who came over to her house every night after dinner to help with the dishes.  Then they went up to her room and laid on the bed to kiss and listen to records. I have heard some of the big kids say that if you take the label off a bottle of your dad’s Olympia Beer, and get a girl to sign it, she has to let you do whatever the rule of that label is.  If it has one dot, you get to kiss her, two dots you get to feel her on top of her clothes, three dots you get to feel her under her clothes, and four dots she has to get naked and you can do whatever you want with her.  Anyway, this guy got my sister’s friend to sign a four-dotter, and whatever they did got him sent to the reform school, and she got sent to live with her grandmother somewhere.  The only punishment Clark got for trying to kiss Vernon was a trip to the principal’s office.

Well, that’s not quite true.  Once the word got around that he had tried to kiss Vernon, kids started to pick on him and call him names. Once some girls made a circle around him and held hands while they danced and sang a mean song that started off by saying that Clarky is a sissy. And once when he got a hall pass to go to the bathroom during class, the hall monitor followed him into the bathroom and shot spitballs at him while he was sitting on the toilet. People were so mean to him that I thought he needed someone on his side, but when I bet him that I could get to the bottom of the hill before him, he started crying and ran the other way. 

After a while, the kids got tired of torturing Clark.  Since I wasn’t seeing him sulking around the halls with tears and snot all over his face, I forgot about him.  He was just another schoolmate that I didn’t know, somebody who kept to himself.  Nobody asked him to be on their team or anything and he never tried to join in any games.    He just did his work in class and went home, leaving the last class ahead of anyone else and running until he got out outside the school gates. I didn’t think about it at the time, but it’s possible that some kids chased him after school, and maybe beat him up if they caught him. 

I hadn’t given Clark a thought in several months when the announcement came over the school PA yesterday that one of our classmates had died.  They didn’t say anything other than that, didn’t even give the name, but by the end of the day it was going around that it was Clark who had died and that his parents had found him in his bedroom where he had hung himself. When I got home I told my parents, who made some phone calls and later told me that it was true.  I couldn’t believe it.  Getting hung was something that happened to horse thieves in cowboy movies, not to kids going to school in America in 1959.  I didn’t even know what I thought about it, but I couldn’t eat my dinner and then couldn’t get to sleep all last night.  And this morning, I didn’t feel like going to school, but I had to go anyway.

Now that I am here, all I want to do is crawl under my desk and look for Clark. I know he’s under there someplace, and when I find him, I am going to give him a kiss.