Saturday, February 17, 2007

Greg Brown Is Good

Maybe it's not a great recommendation to say that the first song you ever heard from a particular artist remains your favorite. Greg Brown has written scads of great songs, so it's not a one-trick pony thing. It's just that back in 1997, the poet and translator Geoff Brock (see link in sidebar) asked if I was a Greg Brown fan, and I had to admit I'd never heard of him. And Geoff seemed shocked, like I'd been living under a rock. Which I had -- rock AND ROLL, you snooty elitist folkie academic bastard! [insert heavy metal hand gesture here]

So Geoff says, "Oh, you gotta hear this," and puts on "Brand New '64 Dodge." It's slow, with the guitar intro walking down into a root cellar, where Greg's voice lives. I mean, that first booming growl and I was hooked.

Money comes out of Dad's billfold
Hankies come out of Mom's purse
The engine hardly makes a sound
Even when you put it in reverse...

The song is every suburban boy's childhood in Camelot, just before the end of Kennedy-era America ("It's November of '63 / And the brand new Dodge is a '64"). If you're a baby boomer like me, that time resonates so hugely at the end of the song, your coming-of-age years start flickering and floating through you like a Zapruder film of the inside of your own psyche. It's just a staggering piece of songwriting.

I love a lot of Greg Brown songs (he's put out nearly 20 albums), but nothing since has come close to that first listening experience.

His daughter, Pieta Brown, is a rising star on the folk scene now. She sounds like a female Bob Dylan. My daughter saw the two of them perform and said Greg was so drunk nobody could understand a word he said or sang, and then Pieta came out and blew everybody away.

Greg is married to Iris Dement (I'm still not a fan of HER voice, despite its Grand Ol' Opry verve -- but I wanna be a fan, because Ted Kooser is). Greg and Iris live here in Kansas City. He still sings like a thunderstorm over a cornfield somewhere in Iowa. And "Brand New '64 Dodge" is still on my list of favorite songs. At least in the top 20 or 25.

Hmmm... top 25 songs... next post, maybe....

Friday, February 09, 2007

Ted Haggard, Back On Top

So, three weeks of "intensive counseling" and Ted Haggard is as straight as Mike Jones's beeline from hotel room to bank. Freud works in mysterious ways.

You gotta wonder what kind of therapy Ted received. Could he possibly have ventured outside the fundy paradigm for some bona fide psychoanalysis? Did he ever get anywhere near the unconscious? Oh, who am I kidding...

But how might various therapeutic schools approach Ted's particular issues?

Freudian: So the only image you recall from the dream is of you and your friend Mike bowling by the Washington Monument?

Jungian: It's your mandala, Ted. You can draw it however you want. I'm just saying you've got pens and crayons here -- why not zip up your pants?

Gestalt: Of course, you're upset. That's a lot of meth to misplace. What? The ball-muzzle makes it hard to understand you...

Reichian: Breathe, Ted. Breathe. Now, talk to the empty chair. Yell at the chair. Give the chair all your anger... Ted, stop humping the chair.

Cognitive/Behaviorist: Uh, Mr. Haggard, we know you have the money. Why won't you pay your bill?

Pastoral counseling: Praise the Lord, you're cured! Just try to avoid any scripture with a rod or staff in it. And the Song of Solomon, of course. You know how you get.

Apparently, the church has suggested that Ted's healing will proceed more smoothly if he moves out of town. Ted and his wife say they may both get masters degrees in psychology. I just saw the documentary "Friends of God," in which Ted claims that the sex lives of evangelists are better than other people's, evangelical wives more satisfied, etc. Perhaps the Haggards will offer couples counseling to help others have what they have.

I looked back at my previous Ted post and found that Dan left a comment. Sorry I missed that before. Point taken on Ted's financial exploitation of his flock. I probably have less sympathy for people who fall for this kind of crap than I should. I tend to think that when a guy professes Christian piety, yet seems both hateful and insane, people should be able to see through him. But it doesn't necessarily follow that they get what they deserve for being less than perceptive.