Nobody's creekbed

songs, prayers, poetry, stories, art, photographs, moving pictures, fondnesses, tall-tales and meditations

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The Anterior Insula and Hwy W

Friday, October 27, 2006


now an old poem
i wrote to myself
not knowing how i
would need it tonight. . .

a synthesis of years:
the st. louis cardinals baseball broadcast on an alarm clock radio,
a darkened room on late evening, a bed.
my hopes and focus come to rest on
a hardened, wise and salty radio voice:
the ageless jack buck.
we are both disembodied this night, jack and i,
and we are both pulling for a win.
but there are, as time and experience has proven,
so many things beyond our control.
there is a crowd in my room,
a raucous, edgy milieu,
and for a night life's uncertainties
become sport and entertainment and reverie.

the cardinals go on to lose this game,
thus ending the season three games shy of the world series,
but the game was a good one,
the time well spent.
thank you, jack buck, and good night.
i think we both look forward to sleep.

momentum will return.
belief and ability will again seem a gift.
future plays will go our way,
and we will run onto the field, joyously delivered.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Open Letter #96 to My Heart and Facial Tac-tics

There are days the credibility of this entire operation withers under scrutiny. Days like today, yesterday. Last week. September. 1992 through 1997. The phrase beyond belief. A briefcase has been handcuffed to my wrist. What is in it? We have been waiting around for too many seasons now to mention hoping to get an answer. You should know the writer is making it up as he/she goes, and no amount of histrionics or quirky detail will prepare you for the eventual realization that there is nothing in the briefcase. The island is a jungle backlot. The professor is a schizophrenic. Gilligan has a jet ski parked around back. Mary Anne dreamt the Others and convinced us they were real. Integrity has been compromised. God accidentally left the polar bear on a live set and the plot had no choice but to encompass it.

That place you stayed last night was under surveillance.

You were busted while you slept.

A list of things/notions swirling in my late, gnawing Fear:
1) A middle-aged office temp named Justin Stone
2) Sharks
3) “Minimum payment of [a lot] due by [yesterday]”
3a) 22% apr
4) Mechanical birds
5) High school reunion
6) Small talk
7) Political opinion
8) My car’s anxious idle
8a) Relationships
8b) Photos of me lying
9) Others using the public restroom in my office
10) Carpal tunnel syndrome
11) Food preparation
12) Serious writing
13) Parking tickets
13a) Street cleaning, literally
14) Family
14a) Intricate filigree of silver, failure & folly
14b) Headlong foisting of things
14bI) Dream somersaults (long falling)
15) A clock beneath the floorboards of my chest
16) My unfinished thesis production of Onan the Barbarian

A list of options:
1) Dental work
2) Mental work
3) Seals, to throw off the sharks
4) Coffee
4a) Enema
5) Learn a new trade (something, perhaps, with “smith” at the end of it)
6) A seat in the Missouri Commonwealth?
7) Pine tar, benzoin? (need to give the ball some action)
7a) Vaseline
8) Electrolytes
9) Shoot night for day, 8 day weeks
10) Rouge
11) Keep pulling my shirt down
12) Take long walks; stare at homes
13) Coach a team of inmates into the sectional championships

Jon Bon Jovi did not famously say that we will sleep when we’re dead, but he did say it. Fact: I am tired. Slippery When Wet was one of the first tapes we could listen to together, mom.

Will Oldham, Bonny Billy, Significant Wolf, thanks for making it all better the other night at The Smell. You were an electric rascal, buddy. You had me goose-pimpled and high-minded again, you slipped me a bit of that wily consciousness.

I would have left with you, had I not had this thing go down. Might you know a bail bondsman? I swear I remember you telling me that your cousin was a bailbondsman, or that your cousin used to date a bailbondsman? Maybe you can go into the bathroom and find me that number? The ad was above the stall, I think, or on the back of the door?
His name was Terry...?

Also, if you have a few bucks. I can get a tax return again in a couple years and I will hit you back, bro.

I hate having to do this. Beg and sally. Wheedle. Search want ads. Hide out in libraries and book stores. The contact high doesn't last the walk home. Once I'm out, I'm going to quit, I'm going straight. I'm going back to night school. Classes about frowns turning upside down, maybe some web design. I know you have seen this particular blogger template all over the internet. Not only that, I know you have repeatedly seen this template filled with the most trying writing! Oh, my gawd. The ridiculous, boring suffering my fellow citizens must bear. For all this and more, I apologize, mother. This is what we get. This is what it's come to. What would you call the opposite of Manifest Destiny, mom? The question would appear to be the set-up for a great punch line, but I am afraid there is none. The answer is a turkey sandwich. Ba-da-bing! Ginger told me that joke. Oh Captain, where is my Captain? With Gilligan, settling in amongst the crash survivors. In flashback we see there never was an assignment I couldn't skip, a responsibility I couldn't shirk. There never was a challenge I could rise to.

I have just been informed that there is something in the briefcase. Gawd; this is all I need. If it ain’t one thing, it’s another, and usually that other thing is wearing a lousy wig and painting his nails with shaky hands as he talks, telling you all about how he quit painting his nails last year and how he just got hooked up with a fantastic hair guy. You should see this writer’s room: the get-ups, the prancing, the plastic bowling set, the voodoo dolls, yesterday’s one-liners, Nero’s bust. You would positively drown your television. I apologize for the desperate tenor of this missive, but what is one to do…?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Justin Stone's creekbed is now one year old! I want to thank everybody for the fruit baskets and the cards. ((I can tell you must have written them in your sleep!)) We made it, mom. Pretty soon he will be painting pictures of sunsets in a back yard, a cool glass of tea on a table. Fresh lemon. You are a special bunch of folks, you really are. They grow up so fast! I can still see him standing next to that creek with a crawdad between his fingers. The sparkles in the air and on the water's clean surface. Sun spangled manor. I can still see the minnows flit in schools. Feel the rocks beneath my feet. The world truly is flush with color! Leaves crunch so quietly when they hit the timber floor, and if you lay down and close your eyes you will hear them dropping all around you. Though the gravel they have hauled from the creek banks has done much to change the lay of the land we will always have that hike back to Round Rock. What a swimming hole! We will always have the Rock House. That year the bridge washed out. Arrowheads. Mom, you have found so many arrowheads! That must be a special sense. The Creek Road. They can call it whatever they want to now. Float round belly up. I wish you faith, happiness and love. Float round belly up.

Swinging Holler

i'm about a bushel a day

i'm out a bushel of hey

i left that stuff in the garage
no no i forget
i wanna stuff that stuff in the garage.
how was it
you did that?
i forgot i left this stuff here i’m sorry

brainglish, she said

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


He had a couple of huge hits when he was young,
What can you say?
Call it the lyrical quality of youth,
Call it the successful packaging of personal difficulties,
Call it sheer bravado, manic force of will,
Call it good looks in the right light and pants.
Call it close-up photographs staring directly into our camera's eye.
But there came a hitch in the get-along
As his grandfather would say.
Something barked loudly in the distance,
But it sounded like it was right there in the room with him,
And once he was aware of the braying racket
It would not shut the hell up.
He drove clenched fist to ear.
His eyes swallowed rigor in yawning gulps
And his guts seized hold.
In the manner of an arthritic body on a cold, damp morning,
His mind was always
Coming-to stove-up.
It was always dawn
And he was always reluctant.
But his manager had a plan
And it is a plan that often works:
Re-package the hits every two years with new artwork,
A biography written by a similarly beat beat friend,
And a booklet of photographs of him younger, in profile,
Staring away from the camera.
Lastly, tack two really shitty new songs onto the package,
Pray for radio play.

Given the chance
He will climb on top of you again.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Cash in all your wolf tickets, call in on that rainy week favor from your bookie, break up with that girl who embarrassingly named her pipe Witchy Woman, break up with that boy who listens to the Eagles greatest hits, bandage your hands, ask your parole officer for one last night on the town, steal from your dealer, walk ten miles in the pouring rain, wrap your legs round these velvet rims and strap your hands across my engines, give the street corner a break, roll me away, ride the rails, get off the comfortably numb couch, tell your mother you are going to the store, borrow money from your father, sneak past the alarm system, realize you are not about to paint a masterpiece, tell your astrologer that the stars are lined up as far as you can see, get out there ridin fences, ask your roommate’s girlfriend for a ride, give up the ghost, pull the water gun out of your mouth, wrap your shoes in duct tape, tell the White Whale you quit, see wind be dust, hurry up and ask for that divorce, give up the damn house, rip out your back pages, give Sancho Panza the shake, think dragons not windmills, fall off the wagon just for one more night, do whatever it takes—whatever it takes—and get down to the Troubadour tonight and see the Hold Steady with me; Craig Finn may save us yet, and even if we cannot be saved, he will administer our rock n’ roll last rites with the ramshackle fervor of one born of awkward light & heat.

Friday, October 13, 2006


I feel in my body change,
I feel changed, change-less.

Stacks of wood, chopped, but glum,
Behind brokedown houses.

I refuse.

Naked trees, like half-brothers, bare and emaciated,
Reaching tongue to cheek to hard-scrabble frozen ground.

I wrap my arms around the trunk’s bark,
I slide painstakingly deliberate to the cold earth.

Dear God,
A night shift pulled and an uneasy sleep through the middle morning. He lays his head upon her chest and he disappears. She is eleven years older than he. “Life is hard,” she sighs. The kids have left the house, bound, perhaps, for school. Anyway, the kids have left the house. Two kids: his son, her grandson. It is hard to know, on such a schedule, who is doing what. Everybody does what they have to do. For the time being he and she are only staying together temporarily, but soon they will move in together. His second marriage, her third. They will sleep through many a day, work the production-line shift through many a night. Theirs will be a pooling of meager resources. A love.

Rodrigo's Distribution Deal

wrote a very bad check.
no one expects to find oneself in debt,
but debt doth surely find itself in one.
oh, god, “you just get fucked”.
oh, god, he don’t answer the phone,
he don’t go to the window.
"they signed my back."
burn! burn the house down!
choke on them teeth.
choke on them tears.
the residuals ain't what he expect.

Rodrigo's First Independent Movie

post-video, the shoot,
everything is scattered into corners
waiting and thinking
i have been mean
casually cool is
in no way casual
and in no way cool
and you sure did know
“you sure did know a lot of people in there.”
“that’s the thing in this town.”
rhymes with frown
rhymes with gown
the new word lown
and it somehow rhymes with you
and mean rhymes with short
and hung
with over

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Lean Streets
Justin Stone on the Bagnell Dam Strip ca. 1988
Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Some words about the Stags

These are the songs you would write if you could. These are the songs about your hometown, your ex-girlfriend, your lover, your asshole friends, your confidante, your epiphanies, your frustrations, your hopes, your midnight fears, your afternoon bike ride, your all-night bender, your morning reflection, your looking glass, your desire to utterly lose yourself in music and life and wanderlust. Such is my profound fascination and love for the music of the Stags that it is difficult for me to write about the band with a minimum of emotional language. I found the Stags in El Paso, an enigmatic southwestern town under a mountain, on the border between so many different worlds. A wild town. Old world. Desert vibration. Mountain sounds. Midnight spaces. Magic and paranoia. Something else. It makes a weird sense that here in this land is where I would find a thing like the Stags. I first watched them share a bill with a band made up of my friends, one night in a glorious hole-in-the-wall bar. Obviously, I had come to see my friends. But I was told to watch this band, the Stags. Okay, I thought, whatever. Another band in another bar on another night. Let me tell you, I was hooked from the very first hook. And the hooks did not stop for the entirety of a set that was, to say the least, ridiculously mind-boggling. I turned to my friend and asked Who are these guys?! The songs were literate, rootsy, abstract, pure, simple, complex, heady, visceral, emotional and epic. I was to stay in El Paso for some time, and I was to see the Stags perform again and again, every chance I could get. I am afraid my obsession was almost grotesque. There were just so many songs, so many parts, so many ideas. You had to listen and then listen again, and still you weren’t sure what you had just heard, but it was so catchy and so weird and it made people dance. It fucking kicked your ass, I’ll say that. Redolent with attitude. But also thick with heart, soul and humility. Two song writers, two lifelong friends: Ben McCormack, a lyrical gunslinger, a deep pocket guitar attack, renaissance man and abstractionist, truly a force to be reckoned with; and Joseph Hodges, an old poet in a young man’s body, a guttural folk instinct, a stunning world-weariness, a sense and feeling that is just so pure, like a million emotions on a single desert breeze. You would hear one of these guy give it to you, and you’d be floored, and then the next song would come, and the other would give it to you, and you just couldn’t believe what you were hearing. And that rhythm section: Will Tanner on bass and Jimmy Sochat on drums. These two lifelong friends provide the foundation on which this mammoth brokedown palace is built, and without which wouldn’t stand. The grooves just lock you in. I can’t say it any other way. Roots you to rhythm, the Earth, and blasts you into outer space, the deep highway, way the fuck out of town and back again. Punchy and direct. Melodic, inventive bass. Juke joint get you hopping. The Stags: two sets of lifelong friends, a foursome come together to create a classic family: fractured, loud, reflective, psychic, symbiotic, belly laughter and shared stories. I had the good fortune to become friends with these guys, after attending many shows and committing many drunken sing-alongs. I can still remember delivering fawning admiration outside on the sidewalk to raised eyebrows after the shows. And these individuals are just as cool, just as weird and smart and complex and down-to-Earth as their music. I count them among my best friends, and this to me is an honor, because the music, the songs, are just as rich and illuminating today as that first night in that hole-in-the-wall bar. Eventually I moved away from El Paso. And I begged these guys to please record these songs. They recorded four or five of the songs for an e.p. and it was like the biggest goddamn tease of my life. Because, as I said, the sheer number of original tunes these guys had at their disposal was ridiculous. And then through the grapevine I heard that they were finally at work, deep in basements, experimenting, dealing with the devil, digging, chopping chords from old musical timber, field recording and going insane. My hunger grew. Holy shit. What is coming? And one day there in the mail came two discs of music. A double album. Holding the music in my hands, I felt I almost had to be disappointed. There was simply no way the work could hold up to the legendary expectations I had. I put disc one in and hit play. My roommate at the time had never heard the Stags. And there came from the speakers something distant and so close. I listened. And listened. And listened. What the fuck? My ass was kicked all over again. My roommate and I sat dazzled. Dazzled. Ensconced. Locked in. Grooved. These recorded songs were a revelation. They rocked, they laid out stories, they created puzzles within puzzles, they were thick with experience. There was literature, anger, disgust, zen, confessions, protest, barnstorming and faith, all of which was carried on chord progressions and melodies and rhythms that just kept delivering. I had thought I had heard everything in these tunes, when in acuality it is as though I hadn’t heard anything yet. The enormity of this double album, Humble (part one) and Welcome to Apathy (part two), was breathtaking. A throwback to the days of complete albums. A thing you put on and let play while you and your friends sit and listen close, appreciate the time together—this ain’t background music, this is music that commands the attention. The songs are each a journey unto themselves, and the whole of them brings an epic feeling of discovery. I sat and dissected these songs. Tried to divine the lyrics. Created myths and interpretations in my head. Turned up the car stereo and drove and drove. I fairly demanded that everybody I knew—mostly all music geeks and emotional outcasts themselves—listen to these records! The experience of the album for me is analagous to the Stags’ live shows in that with the start of a song--these so enigmatic riffs and lyrics!--I think Yes. This is a great song. This is my favorite song. But then after that song, the next song kicks in and I think Oh, god, yes. This song! How could I forget about this song. I love this song. This is my favorite song. And the experience continues like this, song to song to song. I’m not exaggerating. How can I make this any clearer? There are so many bands today, and quite popular bands, that I think would kill for a catalogue like this unsigned band currently living in Austin, Texas has. The Stags. God, I could go on and on. And let me say: I listen to a lot of music. I like to think I have one ear living in the history of rock n’ roll, folk, the blues, and the other ear firmly in the world of today. I seek things out. Geek out. Obsess and cry and holler and drive great distances with these varied voices of distinction in my brain. And the Stags have long been my great discovery. I am hard-pressed to name a better band, a better whole of individual parts. They distill the many essences of rock n’ roll into a homemade spirit that will cross your eyes. Moonshine, friends. And now I can play the music for others. ((The word I cannot now get out of my head is epic.)) Time and time again, the reaction of the listener is like mine that first night: Who are these guys?

Check out the Stags myspace page