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CHAD TALKS: A Moving Tale of an Incredibly Shrinking Pianist, among other things

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Hello. I am Chad Coles and I haven't spoken up in a while because I lost my voice. I lost my voice because I lost my nerve; I lost my nerve because I continue to shrink. Once, I stood at 6'2" and weighed 196 pounds ... I was a concert pianist, a rather good one, and came in second place in the 1987 Van Kliburn Competition in Texas for my interpretation of Rachmaninov's "Groove Thang" ... We called it that. It was actually a real knuckle buster -- Rocky's Third Piano Concerto ... Even then it was obvious that I was losing weight and height. My skin was changing, too. My hands grew stiff. I didn't let any of that stop me. If I hadn't botched a few measures in ... well. That doesn't matter does it? I didn't really want to go to Russia. Not then. I wanted to go to a Russia that was robust, not crumbling, not chumming it up with Ronnie Reagan and getting beat by the Afghanis. So maybe I made a little mistake or two -- intentionally, just to show them. Because I knew in time it wouldn't matter who won the competition. Go ahead. Name the winner. Can't, can you?

Sigh. Over the years I continued to shrink and shrink and finally my dear mother came to me and said "Chadwick, my darling, you have a terrible illness and it is not going to go away. I could spend our substantial family fortune on a cure, but there isn't one. You are turning into a freak, a tiny plastic figurine and I fear for your future." My mother was a clear-eyed, no-nonsense woman, and she wouldn't say something to hurt me. She only ever spoke the truth. Herself, Charlotte Magdelena Geldman-Coles, was a marvelous pianist. If it weren't for the Crimean War she most certainly would have had her own career as a concert pianist.

No one knows why this happened to me. Mother suspected it had something to do with nuclear testing -- I was born some time between Krakatoa and the first atomic bomb experiments in the Bikini Atoll. She tried numerous quack remedies, and one morning, looking up from my bowl of broth-of-hen's-tooth, she said, "Chadwick, my little angel feather, eat whatever you like, you are shrinking and shrinking and there is nothing I can do."

Though she was born in Odessa -- the real Odessa, not the places here in the states that are full of Mennonite farmers and overweight teenagers -- her accent disappeared and she developed a delightful southern drawl which enamored her to the ladies auxiliary in Mechanicsville, Alabama, where my father, a doctor, had a small office. Back in Odessa he was considered the finest physician in the region; he treated women's maladies for the most part, and was a strong believer in the healing powers of salt baths and laudanum, the latter to be taken with honey or smoked with sparrow feathers. His practice grew prodigiously but when war broke out, the Turks captured him and we never saw my father again until, one purple day in February, he showed up at the residence of a former Regent of Odessa where we were living in a barn with some other fallen aristocracy; a cow with crooked horns named Crummyski and his pet, a monkey who clutched a tiny skull -- all that was left of the child to whom he was given as a playmate. What happened to the child I will never know. One thing about this monkey I knew right off: It was best not to refer to anything about the past. He is stronger than the strongest person on earth and once, when we were making our escape across the frontier, a group of Cossacks were about to murder our entire entourage and their intention was to rape my mother in front of us as we were tortured to death. You do not need to know all the brutal details of that horrid event except that the monkey disarmed and tore the limbs off five of the toughest men on earth and then proceeded to remove their gonads. Even my mother, who was about to be shamed in front of my father, begged him not to take his vengeance too far, lest the next batch of bad guys do the same to us. The monkey pretended to not hear a thing she said. But he did not kill them; he left that squad of five, armless and sans manhoodlian-powered macho-men and tossed them into a ditch. Next I remember a terrible train ride in a sheep train. One of the sheep fell in love with the monkey and she is with us today. They never engaged in any sort of romantic physicality, but their love is strong as a rip tide.

How we wound up in Mechanicsville is a wild and weird story that began on a barge on the Erie Canal of all ways to start an episode. More on that trip, another time. We had relatives in Prague who got us steerage on a ship from the port of X and from then on, our lives took on a more normal routine. There was a piano on the ship and my mother was invited up from steerage, a stinking place full of displaced persons such as you might find in any rural soup kitchen, and she performed for the captain. It was surreal. My father, treating the many diseased persons in our compartment using only gripe water and spirit-talk, had no idea that the captain was taking advantage of my mother some four or five times a day. For these services, he paid her in gold coin; I still have one of these. By the time we landed in the American port of K, my mother was quite rich, but hid this from father so as not to shame him. He was a distracted man whom people likened to Anton Chekov, because he was Anton Chekov. Who the person who went on to be known as Anton Chekov actually is, is a Russian mystery. At any rate, my father wrote some 4,000 short stories and twice as many poems, 14 songs for boy's choir and the first Agnostic Mass known. All these were lost in the terrible fire you all know about so well.

Suffice it say we ended up in Mechanicsville, a very small southern town. The monkey was immediately put to work in the cotton fields, which he agreed to as long as he was allowed to keep the skull. With one arm he heaved more cotton than any of the very talented field workers there, a mix of white trash and the sons and daughters of former slaves. It was a share cropper's land and the monkey was made to do things that embarrass him to this day. Once they dressed him up as Othello and had a good laugh with the sheep playing Desdemona. At some point, the monkey got hold of the share cropper's favorite son and had pinned him to the rafters in a hay barn for two hours; I say "pinned" but that's not really true, he simply held him upside down using his one free arm, dangling him from the loft by his testicles; he had stuffed the young sir's maw with cotton balls so he could not scream. The boy was so traumatized he never did get right again, but we were left alone and the monkey was not forced into any further theatrics.

Here, too, my mother's prodigious talents as a pianist gainsaid her access to the upper crust of that backwater and when the wealthy learned my father was a doctor, not a shoe-maker (a skill he acquired from his own father), as well as a first class weaver of tall tales, we became, shall I say, the talk of the town. No! More than that! For we made a fortune performing in concert halls (such as they were) and army barracks and ... well. Mother was always smart with her money. Father was less so, being more a man of abstract thought and more interested in others than himself. Eventually we -- that is, the monkey, sheep, the red-headed step-child who was the offspring of the captain of the tramp steamer that brought us to America, my mother and father, we ended up living in a mansion in Mississippi, near the headwaters of GAH and there I began taking serious lessons on the piano and the monkey and the sheep would listen. If I made the slightest error, the sheep would go "baaaaaa" and the monkey would hide his face behind the skull, so it was not necessary for my mother to act like a Chinese Dragon Lady to get me to attend to my practice and in just two year's time I had mastered the rudiments of most of the Western Canon and, at the time, could play the thorniest Bach fugue backwards, if necessary, just so I could get to bed early. I was very fond of sleep because I was growing so fast.

Odd to think of those years between 11 and 13 when I grew from 4'6" to my eventual height of 6'11" and then, ever so gradually, began shrinking and by the time of the Van Kliburn competition, was merely 6' 2" but I had extraordinarily large and powerful hands. The monkey would exercise my hands until I, too, could swing one-armed from tree to tree in the primeval wood out back of the manse.

Well, you know most of the rest of the story and if not, then we can fill you in on the details bit by bit. How we arrived at tinytowntimes.com is an uncommon bit of imagination, but it did involve meeting the Tall Animal Revue and a traveling show run by a certain Missy Hoolihan. The rest, as they say, is history.

Last Updated on Friday, 20 June 2014 10:05
 

Can you really open a door when opportunity knocks?

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Opportunity: When one door closes, another one opens. So. You go close the other one as well. But be careful. Some times the first one opens again. So you get an eye-hook for the door and an eye-screw with hook for the door jamb. You place them about level to one another and use force to get the fastening pieces to agree.

Then the one door stays closed.

You can open and close the other door and there is no problem with intake or outflow of air (which is not just air, but that's a small set of lists).

What's important is that because you've now re-aligned the door, there is a shift in the angle of repose. Now the window rattles because the door seals when it shuts as it creates suction from the intake around the seams of the leaky window.

So, opportunity reveals an inherent instability. This opportunity may be a good one, since it was nice of the door to be open in the first place (so much to be said about an open door). Then again, an open door is merely an opportunity to pass through and across a threshold; crossing thresholds can be a tricky business and has the potential of placing oneself in an entirely other frame of reference: You are not on the other side of the door any more.

Whoa, Nellie! How much time did that take?

Do you get a reimbursement for all that time?

How about the materials?

O Man, help thyself!

I don't recommend going the route of the fellow pictured here. He is talented in many directions

-- Chad Colez, ondo


Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 January 2013 14:58
 

Baby's First Bottle of Rock n' Rye: The Road to Perdition

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Tiny Town, USA – I remember it all quite well and none of the need for making bits up.

Mother knotted her blue kerchief under her chin. It was a bright swirling day in Spring. We exited the sea pebble driveway alongside the Greek lady's elaborate and beautiful garden of soon-to-be.

This was a special trip. Mom had already told me about The Rock. That had been a disaster. The Rock you see, wouldn't be opened until 2040, and  Mom and even the Dad-Who-Could-Never-Die, said there was no way for them to attend the party. That made me cry and sulk for seven years. The rock was a time capsule, even if it did not look like the pills Mom took for her nerves. Those were nice capsules in pretty red and blue colors. Dad said they were Barbarians. Why would Mom eat a barbarian?

Douglas, the brother, had spoken of the Fall of Cantstandtoknowpeople, a book that had no pictures. He was so much further out into space than me. He knew a lot of things, that brother did. Always at his Gilbert chemistry set or making model cars or superheroes or battleships and tanks and things. Then he painted them so patiently. Patient and keen and bad-sighted the brother was.

Anyway, there we were tripping down Second Avenue toward the hole at the end of the road where Main Street opened up to the sky. And it was a blue balloon day with quick-quick hurry-up clouds and fast melting faces screaming and rockets leaving trails with booming afterwards.

The leaves scuttled and skittered and carouseled around and around in whirlygig packages and cellophane things too made noise and the birds twittered from fast-speaking beaks -- so small to make such loud sounds!

Happy to be with Mom. Mom who sucked on tubes called cigarettes. She had trouble striking matches at the corner of the street where the big cars zoomed by. "Oh Hells Bells," she said. It took two traffic lights to light the tube of tobacco and then the wind snatched the smoke fast as she let it go from her mouth: Mom, so pretty in her sun glasses and her coffee colored hair. Coffee before the clouds of milk in it. Mom, taller than me. How could that be? She was a bitty thing. I must have been a very bitty thing.

"Are you ready, Honey" she said, smoke out, wind-snatch -- gone!

I was ready all right!

"Yes, Mommy!"

There was a cure for the horror of The Rock no one would come to see get opened and Mom was going to get it for me!

The cure was not the wind-up car we could get at Friestadt's Pharmacy. That was a great place! Outside it had the purple glass in the cement and the letters above like flags and the thick green-glass doors. Inside, it had a soda fountain and you could get a chocolate malted that made you sing songs and the man behind the counter was a soda jerk! My brother said that. I did not know why the man behind the counter was stupid because my brother called me a jerk when I asked silly things like "does the moon follow me when I am walking?"

"No, don't be a stupid jerk. The moon doesn't move."

But my brother could be wrong about things. The Bird, my sister, was nicer. She said it looks like the moon is moving but that has to do with my eyes and a big word that sounded like "purse sessions." That was too hard to ask about.

So Mom was done at Friestadt's and had her crinkly white package and only one more stop, not like the long trip when I first went with her to get Husky clothes and Hush Puppy shoes from a man named Thom McCan. How can a Tom be a Mick in a can? Thom McCan can! You got a clicker thing, too, with Mr. Peanut on it. Mr. Peanut was smart and he could dance with a cane. I hoped to meet him on TV.

Then we went into the building I liked so much because it was like the back of the church only it wasn't as hard with the clock never moving as the church. Mom said it was the Licker store. But I saw the red letters and they were cherry colored and I would like to lick a cherry colored letter. But also I was pretty smart and I knew the "Q" and the "U" could be tricky. Some times they made a "Kweh" sound and some times just a "Kay" sound. My brother said it was a French word but Frenchie was the guy who fixed bicycles and that brother of mine, I had better keep an eye on him because he was always up to something Dad called Dee-Link-Went. My brother knew hoodlums! But George and Tommy and Essy were nice, like my brother was nice. Sometimes.

O that store was wonderful! The floor checker-boarded right up to the counter where the Sandman stood smiling. The mahogany shelves were lined with jeweled bottles full of gem colored wonder juices that made Mom and Dad so happy they fell out of chairs and so mad they hated each other with words and then slaps and then the brother and me ... O, not yet with that.

Mom got one of those nice chestnut colored bottles with a gold label and she talked to the Sandman.

"Sandy, I want a little something to help him, what do you think?"

And Sandy came around the counter touching Mom at the elbow of her sailboat overcoat and I did not like the touching.

"Well, let's see. You like candy, Frankie?" Sandy was a smiling guy with flat black hair and a strip of scalp Dad called "apart."

"Yeh!" I said.

And so it was done. I got my first bottle. It was Rock n' Rye -- six honey golden ounces in a nice little bottle with a picture and good letters. My very first introduction to the thing that could make the scare go away so I wouldn't be a " 'fraidy cat" no more and I could be like "John Wayne" who the brother was very good at sounding like, although he did Kirk Douglas much better, probably because they had the same name: Douglas.

And I drank half one day and half the next. Both times were very good. Very good indeed.

– Franklin Crawford, A recovered Alcoholic who doesn't see it exactly the way everybody else does and that's the way it should be

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 January 2013 19:35
 

Everything's Men: "Go Homeless Mondays" Are Here!

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Poetry Monday is brought to you by Quakers. Not that the Quakers know this. Go tell them. Let them know, it is your duty as an obliging visitor to call us out on such things.

Everything's Jake at Forty-Two

Everything’s Jake at forty-two

You still stand to pee, you still sit to poo

You may need specs

Like old Magoo

But what the heck’s a blurry view?

Fuck the view!

Everything’s Jake at forty-two.

Sure, there are things that you

Will never do

And true: you have been screwed

Still -- Everything’s Jake at forty-two!

Don’t come unglued.

So you find

You’re a step behind

The steps you meants to takes

And your mind

Possessed, rewinds

The aches in your mistakes

Don’t fuck a duck for heaven’s sakes --

Everything’s Jakes!

 

Just bust a move

On that ghost of who

You ain’t no more at forty-two.

 

See: Forty-two’s a double-take

A twenty-one-times-two+one

salute

At the grave of yer youth.

Forsooth!

Superduperman emerges

From his battered coffin-booth

Full of oogly-googly urges

Tho’ longer in the tooth

Flights of fancy

Are still fair

Tho’ far less chancy

In a chair

-- M-m-morning wood gets rare

But now & then – a one-eyed stare

Still greets you when you wake

Like a lighthouse on a lake

Everything’s Jake!

A good long piss

Is still such bliss

& nothing yet displaces

The joyful hiss you’ve got

At five full paces

from the pot.

So you aren’t famous yet?

And your ass ain’t worth a bet?

It’s too late now to get upset

The best revenge is to die in debt!

So your thoughts are mostly twaddle?

And you never fucked a super model?

And all your friends have kids to coddle?

At least you’re not weaned from the bottle!

Disabled –So? Ain’t you still walking?

And I gotta dollar says that when yer talking

You don’t look or sound like Stephen Hawkin

Here’s your cake & here’s your stew

For one whose wings got knocked askew

When o’er cuckoo’s nest he flew

F-f-fuck the fucking fucker’s who

don’t know Alf from Scoobie Doo,

Tippecanoe & Tyler too

Or Superfly from Bitches Brew

& think Buckley is a kind of shoe

Everything’s jake

At forty-two

Everything’s jake

At forty-two

Everything – I mean

everything

’s Jake

At forty-two!

At forty-two!

Forty-two!

– Franklin Crawford, poet laureate of tinytowntimes.com

 

The Origins of My Filthy Mind from Tiny Town's New Contributor

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Editor's Note: Eric Little, a Native Son of Tiny Town now wandering in the desert, introduce's Himself and His False Start to Lionization via imitation of the 12-Steps: This species being The 12-Steps of Artist's Anonymous, which is a joke of course. No artist by nature of the disease can long remain anonymous. But here in one of his earliest posts on his own blog My Filthy Mind, he gives it a good shot. Thanks, Eric.

eric little Tlazolteotl, the Aztec goddess of lechery, inspired this blog.  My Filthy Mind MFM is a farm team for future literature, an incubator of incendiary prose, a compost of culture.  As we have seen, in our brief sojourn so far, life springs from moisture, friction, and obscenity.  We are conceived in filth, we are born in shit, and we live our lives covered in chthonic creatures who devour our carcasses when we die.  So too with anything worth reading: it is conceived in the creative crucible of conflict; charged with foul utterances, ineptitude, and inappropriateness; and, after a meteoric rise, deconstructed by slimy critics.

This is a place for conception, for stinking, filthy creation. Everything that goes on here is fodder for something bigger, better, more intellectually fecund than any of us imagine.  Best of all, you can be as dirty as you want.  (Just keep it legal, okay?) Bear in mind, however, that whatever you say here may end up elsewhere on a page, stage or screen without attribution.  But so what?  This is the shop floor for material. Where’s that devil-may-care attitude?  Enjoy My Filthy Mind!

Be also mindful that MFM is a continuously open meeting of Artists Anonymous, founded in 2011 by your blogger in chief as an answer to those self-helpers who seem to help themselves to too many Smugness Brownies and Take Yourself Seriously Cookies while sipping their Gravitas Coffee. The tenets of Artists Anonymous are set forth below, and should be considered a code of conduct here:

The 12 Steps of Artist’s Anonymous

1. We admitted we were total freaks who speak our own, unique language that no one else can possibly understand.

2. Came to believe that, despite the fact that no one seemed to understand our crazy ideas and projects, nonetheless they come from a power greater than ourselves, hold intrinsic value, and must be spawned into this crazy world, because they are the only half-baked honesty around, and at least they don’t pretend to have “all the answers” or adhere to some “all encompassing” truth, but only show “how wondrously fucked up we/you/things are or can be”.

3. Made a decision to never let any punk, no matter how “important” or “popular”, get us down on ourselves, through quizzical looks, judgmental comments, or bull-session lectures about how their belief-system is superior to our own (all belief systems being the product of spaghetti between the ears).

4. Made a searching and fearless inventory of everyone who had ridiculed our “irrational” or “stupid” ideas and thoughts, and shit-canned those people from our “Who’s Who of Cool” list.

5. Admitted to Stephen Colbert, to ourselves, and to a random stray animal the exact peculiarity of our particular, dysfunctional mode of expression, and then said, “Fuck off if you can’t handle the awesomeness of the shit (i.e., Art) I come up with.”

6. Were entirely ready to have society worship our shit because it’s original, or at least mildly interesting.

7. Arrogantly decided that we should promote our shit (i.e., Art) and that it should live on and on and on.

8. Made a list of everyone who ever discouraged Us from becoming our true selves as artists, and burned that list in a ritual that we made up on the spur of the moment.

9. Made obscene gestures toward such persons wherever possible, except when to do so would invite them to engage in unwanted sexual activity with us.

10. Continued to make an inventory of our nay-sayers, and when we let assholes nay-say us, promptly admitted that we were wrong, and made obscene gestures toward such persons, even if they had left the room long ago.

11. Sought, through community with other “fuck-ups” and “hopeless dreamers,” a connection with the wider world of unseen geniuses like ourselves, so we could improve our music, sarcastic writings, subversive activities, and other “profane” art forms, hoping only that it would gain enough recognition for us to live like rock stars, and, maybe, achieve the tired, drug-addled wisdom of rock gods.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening through repeating the mantra “Fuck It” over and over again, we tried to carry this message to other freaks, in order to tell them “You’ll never top my shit, Punk!”

Eric Little is a native of Ithaca who, like Odysseus, is currently held captive in a cyclops’ cave in Texas. A Cornell graduate, he is also an alumnus of Ithaca’s late Apple Blossom Café, Class of 1991. While his body may be in the Southwest, his heart belongs to Ithaca. He supports the tinytowntimes.com as a correspondent at large, reporting back with observations germane to, or of interest to, Tiny Town types.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 17:36
 
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