I lay in the driveway flat as a spatchcocked chicken with the bay doors open and the Captain Beefheart blasting. That old charcoal grill was so beat up the legs popped out when you emptied the ash. The insides were bearded in mold but the fire burned it clean. And those days were all the same, that quilt we made in 2020.
I drove to the store for something to grill but when I pulled into the parking lot the car leapt over the curb not far from the glass storefront of a new Pilates studio. And I wondered if it was the gears that glitched or my brain, and drove home trying not to think about it.
The house became a kind of fifth member of the band, one of us. We hadn’t settled into the cracks and crevices like this before. It became our fort, protection from the outside world. The dog lay in the early morning dark smacking her lips while the heater blew. I had nothing to worry about and nowhere to go.
Our book club talked about Captain Beefheart and my friend called it a violent album. In ‘69 Beefheart had organized a commune of musicians at a remote country house but didn’t feed them or pay them or allow them much rest. He gave direction and then left for the day, returning with stream-of-consciousness lyrics they put against the music. As a result, none of the band members sound like they’re playing the same song. It sounds like they’re fighting each other, like a traffic jam where everyone’s converged at the same intersection but can’t get through because everyone else is in the way.
Yet somehow it works, in a bizarro universe where the laws of nature are reversed. Beefheart (his real name was Don) was a sculptor and Trout Mask Replica is a collage of found objects stitched together into a quilt, bits of detritus and bone, mechanical springs, broken glass. A warlock’s cloak. One of its dark secrets is that none of the pieces were intended to fit together—but it proves that you can still make something remarkable despite.
On my walks I went back in time. To that walk near the Black Forest in Germany, to the walks we took as a family last year. Nature freed me. There was nothing more precious to me than time. But really what I meant by that was life. Time to live. And save what we did, where we visited, what we made. My friend Mike made me a copy of Trout Mask on a cassette and took care to write the song titles out. That’s one small thing most people don’t do anymore, a gift from one to another. And so here is one from me to you, to try on and wear for a laugh: the eyes cut out of the fabric, the band snaps in the back.