12 October 2008

The Things My Brain Does Sometimes

Larry K., Larry W., and I were gathered around the lunchroom table, working on an after-work crossword puzzle.

The clue for 21 Across read like this:

"'______ Blues' (Abbey Road song)"

"Hey, look at this!" I said. "This is ridiculous!"

"What?" said the Larrys.

"Well, look. The answer here should be "Yer Blues." But "Yer Blues" is not on Abbey Road. That's ridiculous. Just totally wrong."

Larry K.: "What album is it on?"

"It's on the White Album, of course."

Larry W: "No, it isn't."

Me: "Yes, it is!"

Larry W: "Well, I know the White Album really well. I have the White Album. I don't really know Abbey Road. But it's not on there."

Me: "It is. It's definitely on the White Album."


One of the Larrys: "Well, maybe they are looking for some other song here."

Me: "No. Look. "Yer" fits perfectly here. It's got to be "Yer Blues."

Silence. More crossword work.

Then, me: ""Yer Blues" is NOT on Abbey Road."

And so we continued working on the crossword. Much haranguing and some hilarity.

I only thought of it again the next morning while I was shaving: "Yer Blues! Larry must know the song, but not know its name. It is a hard song to forget. Yes, I have to prove that it is on the White Album."

I thought of the song, with John Lennon nearly shouting its scary-violent suicidal lyrics: "Yes, I'm lonely. . .wanna die!/ Yes, I'm lonely. . .wanna die!/If I ain't dead already/Ooh, girl, you know the reason why," all rough and punctuated by fuzzed-out guitars. Great song! Though one that, admittedly, scared me a bit at the young age when I first heard it.

I pictured myself checking out my white-vinyl version of the White Album and finding the song right there. And did I keep my copy of Abbey Road when I sold off most of my lps years ago? I hoped I had. I could check there first, just to prove it.

That was a precious album to me, Abbey Road. I got it for Christmas the year it came out, Christmas of 1969, months before my family left New Jersey to move to Colorado. My friend, Chris Moffa, also got the record at that time, and we listened to it carefully, minutely, lovingly, over and over again. For me, that whole album still breathes a dash of brisk winter weather and my friendship with Chris Moffa.

I thought about the album. Thought about how I have played side two of the record about 10 times more than I've played side one over the years. Yes, side one has a lot of good songs on it, sure, but side two of Abbey Road is just beautiful, one of the great album sides of all time, including that amazing song-after-song grouping that starts with "You Never Give Me Your Money," peaks at "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window," and ends with "The End."

I realized, standing there in my bathroom, that I didn't think I could even list all the songs on Side one anymore. It had been a long time since I'd played it. Let's see, it ends with that amazing sonic storm, "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" grinding on, over and over again, until you are never sure when it's going to suddenly cut off. And "Maxell's Silver Hammer" is in there, and "Octopus's Garden." What begins the side? Hmmmm. . ."Come Together," isn't it? And right in the middle, there is kind of a longer, violent song that always kind of scared me as a kid. What was that?

Uh-oh. No. It couldn't be. Hmmmm.

"Yer Blues" is on the White Album, dammit. I know it is.

Could this be happening? Could I actually have transposed one song from one album to another in my memory? It had happened before. There have been things I swore I knew which turned out to be just wrong. And not just once before! Geez. I thought that song was on the White Album! I really did. And I shot off my stupid mouth to Larry and Larry! But it looks like I am wrong. It's that song in the middle of side one of Abbey Road. Damn! Those crossword puzzle editors wouldn't let something like that get by, would they? Certainly not Will Shortz. Hmmmmm. . .

With a silly smile of shame on my face, laughing at myself, I went out to the living room and looked through my few remaining lps. And I found the song. Right there between "Birthday" and "Mother Nature's Son". . .on the White Album!!!

I felt so good. At least this one time, my memory was not playing tricks on me.

Though it had been, of course. For a few minutes I had convinced myself that the song actually was on Abbey Road, to the point where I knew which side it was on and which track it occupied on that side. I could see it there in my mind's eye, hear it, and had feelings about it.

It turns out that my boyhood feelings about that song on Abbey Road, which was really "Oh! Darling," were similar to my feelings about "Yer Blues." Both songs were violent, screaming, about lost love, and made my 12-year-old self cringe with excitement.

I just now read that, though "Oh! Darling" was sung by Paul McCartney, John Lennon remarked that it was the kind of song that he himself would normally have sung.

So, while I can understand how my brain could swap one song for the other and really believe the new arrangement for a few minutes, it just points out again what strange and protean landscapes are our memories!

04 October 2008

Another Spider

Down at Amy's yesterday afternoon.

Standing in her kitchen, I chanced to look out the window. Up under her eaves and silhouetted against the sky I saw a big, dark blob.

A spider. A spider! An amazingly big spider!

If I stood at the right angle and looked at it against the neighbor's house, I could also see the spider's incredibly intricate, large circular web. The web was over a foot in diameter and beautifully constructed. I wondered aloud how long it took this creature to make such a web.

I was thinking back to that other spider, the one on Amy's porch. You may remember, in "The Spider on Amy's Porch," how, in blind ignorance and the stupidity of the moment, I obliterated a jumping spider, Phidippus Audax, using Amy's tiny shoe.

Well, as I stood there looking at this spider, maybe the largest spider I had ever seen "in the wild," it felt like a second chance.

That was, of course, simplistic and unfair, since I had killed that other spider. Nothing would bring that spider back. But this was a second chance for me, at least. I was determined not to make the same mistake. I would not kill this spider. I would not let Amy kill this spider.

Amy was standing there talking about how she used to be tall enough to stand on the back steps and brush off cobwebs under the eaves with a broom. She asked if she should go get a broom.

"Spiders are good, Amy," I said. "They kill a lot of flies." I used this utilitarian argument because Amy does hate the flies, moths, and other bugs that congregate around her front porch light. Also, I didn't want to get into the deeper issues. And besides, Amy understood. She remembered that other spider as much as I did.

But backlit against the afternoon sky, this was one amazing, angular chunk of a spider. As I stood there in awe, Amy said, " Too bad you can't get a picture of it."

This, I think, was Amy's sly way of saying, "Why don't you get a picture of it?"

Of course!! Why not?!

Instead of killing it, this time I could photograph it.

I whipped my new cell phone out of my pocket and tried a few shots. I knew that, whatever kind of pictures I did get, they would have to be severely enlarged to see any detail of the spider at all. So I took a couple pictures, with the spider barely visible as a speck against the sky, right at the center of the frame. I went through the manipulations of blowing them up in the camera.

But, backlit as they were, the pictures came out as dramatic but entirely dark forms, with no detail.

I decided to go out on the back steps, to see what I could see from there.

When I looked up at the spider, I was thrilled! I could see all kinds of detail from this angle.

The spider was not dark at all, but rather beige, as if he was constructed out of old parchment. And he had interesting markings, light and dark dots, all over his legs and his body. Wow!

And how big was he, really? This is a tough question, since I spent lots of time taking pictures of him and later enlarging them to get good big images. I'm guessing his body alone was around half an inch long, and with his legs added he filled up most of an inch, maybe.

In all the time, some ten or fifteen minutes or so, that I spent gazing at the creature, he seemed to be posing for me. He didn't move much, just swaying a little as the afternoon gusts moved his web. I tried picture after picture, knowing that most of them would come out blurry when blown up enough to see the beast. Eventually I braced the cell phone camera against the brick of the house to keep it steady.

That's how I got the picture you see above.

Definitely the biggest spider I have ever seen.

I'll go further than that: It was the best spider experience I have ever had.