A Glorious Mess

[Lyrics here. More about the video below.]

From whiskey river:

Find meaning. Distinguish melancholy from sadness. Go out for a walk. It doesn’t have to be a romantic walk in the park, spring at its most spectacular moment, flowers and smells and outstanding poetical imagery smoothly transferring you into another world. It doesn’t have to be a walk during which you’ll have multiple life epiphanies and discover meanings no other brain ever managed to encounter. Do not be afraid of spending quality time by yourself. Find meaning or don’t find meaning but “steal” some time and give it freely and exclusively to your own self. Opt for privacy and solitude. That doesn’t make you antisocial or cause you to reject the rest of the world. But you need to breathe. And you need to be.

(Albert Camus, Notebooks [source (unverified)])


I have no right to call myself one who knows. I was one who seeks, and I still am, but I no longer seek in the stars or in the books; I’m beginning to hear the teachings of my blood pulsing within me. My story isn’t pleasant. It’s not sweet and harmonious like invented stories. It tastes of folly and bewilderment, of madness and dream, like the life of all people who no longer want to lie to themselves.

(Hermann Hesse [source])


A Warning to My Readers

Do not think me gentle
because I speak in praise
of gentleness, or elegant
because I honor the grace
that keeps this world. I am
a man crude as any,
gross of speech, intolerant,
stubborn, angry, full
of fits and furies. That I
may have spoken well
at times, is not natural.
A wonder is what it is.

(Wendell Berry [source])

Not from whiskey river:

I am a sucker for waltzes, although I have never danced one. Not only am I clumsy, but the slightest spin of my body makes me very dizzy. I have not been to an amusement park in nearly half a century, and were I to go, my movement would consist of going from one popcorn stand to another. It is not the waltz as dance that moves me, but rather its rhythm, which, more than any other time signature, is so expressive about love. Nothing beats a love song in waltz time…

I suppose many people think of waltzes as old-fashioned, even though savvy songwriters still write love songs in three-four. I think of myself as old-fashioned and trendy, sometimes at the same moment. It can be messy and confusing, too, like love.

(Gayle Pemberton [source])


The Soul has Bandaged moments —

The Soul has Bandaged moments —
When too appalled to stir —
She feels some ghastly Fright come up
And stop to look at her —

Salute her — with long fingers —
Caress her freezing hair —
Sip, Goblin, from the very lips
The Lover — hovered — o’er —
Unworthy, that a thought so mean
Accost a Theme — so — fair —

The soul has moments of Escape —
When bursting all the doors —
She dances like a Bomb, abroad,
And swings upon the Hours,

As do the Bee — delirious borne —
Long Dungeoned from his Rose —
Touch Liberty — then know no more,
But Noon, and Paradise —

The Soul’s retaken moments —
When, Felon led along,
With shackles on the plumed feet,
And staples, in the Song,

The Horror welcomes her, again,
These, are not brayed of Tongue —

(Emily Dickinson)


Life has a wonderful, sprawling, aimless quality that only a disorderly person can appreciate. Take such common things as thunder and lightning. They tend to make a neat person nervous, as he hates to see the sky disrupted. But a good, rousing thunderstorm is a source of poetic joy to the disorderly soul. It brings out the best in him.

(Hal Boyle [source])


School photo, found after the Joplin tornado

“Joey, 4th grade, 1992”

He’s been on the fridge since it happened,
sneaking glances from underneath the cat
magnet at our dinners, coffee habits, arguments.
We posted him on the database of items found,
hoping that someone would recognize his messy
hair, Batman t-shirt, blue eyes, but no one
answered the post or claimed him.
Somewhere a childhood photo album is not
quite complete, or a grandmother’s mantelpiece;
an uncle’s wallet. One afternoon I got restless,
flipped through my old yearbooks, trying to find him,
looking to see how he might have aged: did he lose
the chubby cheeks? dye his hair? how long
did he have to wear braces? But he’s too young
to have passed me in the halls, the picture just
a stranger, a small reminder of the whirling aftermath
when Joplin was clutching at scraps: everything displaced,
even this poor kid who doesn’t even know he’s lost.

(Laura Dimmit [source])


Squeezebox keyboard?About the video: My Glorious Mess is a Brooklyn-based folk-pop band whose self-titled EP came out in 2011; the video at the top of this post was shot in March 2012 and released last September. The music’s nice, and of course you can probably intuit how I found the band in the first place. But I was — am — transfixed by the keyboard which appears in the video. You can first see it at around 0:57 or so into the song. My first thought: Is she playing a file cabinet? The image at right is from a still photo taken during the video shoot; the keyboard sits atop a little wooden stool; that’s keyboardist Ambyr D’Amato’s knee and hand to its right. It is not a file cabinet, as you can see. It’s more a… squeezebox piano? It appears to work something like an accordion, although clearly not meant to be clutched to the chest while tootling a polka, and the wooden cabinetry adds a whole ‘nother dimension. Musical furniture.

[back to top]

Send to Kindle


  1. I love the Camus quote. I might steal it. Meanwhile you might enjoy my apron post.

  2. The odd instrument is called a harmonium, I believe. My only previous knowledge of them comes from a piece by Simon Jeffes’ Penguin Cafe Orchestra called Music For A Found Harmonium, the mysterious abandonment of one in the street at the start of Paul Thomas Anderson’s very strange rom-com Punch-Drunk Love, and a recent encounter with one in person in a junk shop in Shanghai.

    • A harmonium!

      (He said, as though slapping his forehead and implying, “…how could I have not thought of that!”)

      Interesting history and cluster of pop-music admirers for that instrument. Presumably you knew about Tom Waits’s use of it?

      I really, really need to see Punch-Drunk Love (not just for the harmonium).

  3. Hyocynth says:

    I liked the Gayle Pemberton quote. Waltzes are a favorite of mine as well. The thought of being waltzed across the floor is one of those fantasies I’ve always had. I’ve danced before, but not particularly gracefully and I can’t quite get the hang of following someone’s lead. But in my dreams I’m a virtual Ginger Rogers, high heels and all.

    • I may or may not ever get around to featuring here a song called “Rock-and-Roll Waltz,” which I’d never heard of until a couple of months ago. A #1 hit by Kaye Starr in the mid-1950s. It includes this lyric:

      One night I was late
      Came home from a date
      Slipped out of my shoes at the door
      Then from the front room
      I heard a jump tune
      I looked in and here’s what I saw

      There in the night
      What a wonderful scene
      Mom was dancing with Dad
      To my record machine
      And while they danced
      Only one thing was wrong
      They were trying to waltz
      To a rock and roll song…

      Nothing in my own experience matches that one, but for some reason the scene it paints made me grin and choke up a little. :)

Speak Your Mind