Muse and Whirled Retort Archives 2004

The Muse and Whirled Retort July 2004

The Muse and Whirled Retort July 2004

Oliver Steck at the Oregon Country Fair

Chandla Anne and Oli

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T h e    M u s e    a n d    W h i r l e d    R e t o r t  July 2004

San Francisco, CA June 28, 2004 Volume 5 issue 10 By Chris Chandler

Hey everybody, it's that time of the month again.  I decided to send

it out a little early this month due to the fact that this exciting

version of the Anyone But Bush Tour -- begins on June 30th here in

San Francisco.

To help us celebrate we have brought along our old friend and former

band mate of mine Oliver Steck  (The band Avoiding Godot). He is our

secret weapon of mass dysfunction.   If ya know him you ya know why

it was simply a no brainer when he said he wanted to join us for this

leg.  He is simply the world's greatest accordion player, trumpet

player, physical comedian and auto mechanic.

The three of us just arrived here in San Francisco from different

places.  Me, I flew in from Pittsburgh after driving there  from DC

to cram three weeks of camping gear, microphones and CDs into two

suitcases that pass the homeland security act.  It was has been quite

a challenge!

But not as much as simply piloting the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  Sheez -

when I handed them my ticket at the toll booth -- I fully expected

to be rewarded a cash prize just for navigating the 300 mile

construction zone successfully. It should be a negative toll.   I at

least feel like my insurance company should give me a discount.

"Let's see, Mr. Chandler, I see you have a good driving record, not

wanted for any felonies, managed to drive over a million miles

without a ticket - however, have you ever  driven on the Pennsylvania


"Yes, sir."

"Without an accident??"

"Yes, sir."  Balloons fall from the ceiling, a mariachi band rises

from the floor. Ed McMahon knocks at the door - carrying a gecko. I

just got a great deal on auto insurance.

Coupled with the dangers of the highway I found myself in late June

driving through a Christmas display of fireflies.  

They were everywhere!  Harder to avoid than the deer.

Knowing I am about to go bang my head against the leaning tower of

public opinion and driving through a psychedelic light show that

resembles viewing the city of Dallas from  outer space somehow seems

appropriate.   Now bear with me here a second -

I remember as a kid catching lightning bugs in a mayonnaise jar and

poking the tin lid with an ice pick.

As my childhood memories of fireflies flashed before me so were

oncoming headlights and blinking yellow construction hazards.  

Some lightning bugs continue to glow as they smeared across the glass.

I remembered as a kid watching them die inside the mayonnaise jar.

I think back to the last time I was in Pittsburgh back in March.  Out

of wrought, I walked down to my favorite little Irish bar to sit and


Usually this is a quiet Irish bar where I drink Jameson's and

scribble silently  until I have hallucinations of being Dylan Thomas.

But on this -  St Patrick's Day weekend -   my sweet little retreat

has hired of all things a Karaoke DJ.  A sign on the door announces

that "ladies drink for free."

The funny thing about fireflies is that it is only the male that

flickers.  They do this in the hopes of attracting a female.

I think about the poor virgins that hit my windshield.

If no female firefly can be found males will join forces and begin to

blink in unison  in hopes that their combined brilliance will pierce

the sultry southern air and reach the heart (or at least the thorax)

of their beloved.

At the bar in Pittsburgh, barflies are garnished in blinking green

shamrocks and unbearable green paper hats, yet I cannot break from my

own tradition.  After all, I came here to write and this is what is

happening. I order a green beer, accept my own blinking shamrock, and

find the only open table.  

Familiar acoustic guitar chords leak from the sound system as the

Karaoke DJ rummages for a potential participant.

I wonder, what do fireflies think as they enliven their luminous

bodies, captive in a world beyond their own making??  Do they dream

of trying to pick them selves up  by their tiny little bootstraps as

they slide down the glass?? I get into an argument with  a

libertarian who is saying that the poor deserve what they get and

they should pick themselves up by their bootstraps.

A single firefly escapes the windshield of my car and burns in a

rhythm all his  own.

One lone brave soul steps to the karaoke microphone to intone the

ubiquitous.  "On a dark desert highway - Cool wind in my hair..."

Other lightning bugs announce their presence - one - then the other -

and then - some unseen force makes two of them blink together -- just


Someone at the table next to me mutters beneath his breath "Up ahead

in the distance I saw a shimmering light..."

Strangers saunter in and join in the chorus  "Welcome to the Hotel

California." Once-hollow eyes gleam like fireflies piercing a once

sullen darkness.

The libertarian fumbles for change to buy another green beer and I

pick up his tab singing, "We haven't had that spirit here since 1969."

He continues his argument making reference to Rosa Parks and how it

is the individual that is at the heart of settling the world's

tribulations.  I think of the armies of others working in solidarity

with her and say if you believe a middle aged cleaning woman from

Montgomery Alabama single-handedly started the civil rights movement

than you probably also believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

Strangers clink glasses - and swear undying friendship - bound by

lyrics inscribed upon our psyche by the tattoo needles of elevators,

and grocery store ambiance.

It occurs to me that the reason some people want us poor folks to

pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps is to get us to bend over.

The highway looks as if it were webbed by a single strand of

Christmas lights -- dazzling in harmony, blinking as one - while a

thousand car radios are tuned to Rush Limbaugh - ironically

spewing  "The poor should pull themselves up by their bootstraps."

The whole bar sings together.  "There is plenty of room here at the

Hotel California!"

Aware of my own awkwardness in accepting the fact that such an absurd

pop song has captured the zeitgeist of my generation; too wrapped up

in the beauty, danger, tragedy, magnificence and irony of the group

experience to care - I strike my cigarette lighter and hold it in

the  air.  

Others follow suit.

Cigarette lighters slice open the darkness, like fireflies which take

me back to a childhood of being humbled that such majesty cannot be

controlled.  We, like fireflies, are greater as a collective, as a

whole - as a union - than we could ever be alone.

I, as a child, unlock the mayonnaise jar prison and the captive

fantastic are set free.

The song ends. The applause erupts - spontaneous cacophony which

quickly evolves into uniform blasts of simultaneous rhythmic rifle

fire.  Its pace quickens.  Soon everyone in the room is clapping in

unison - and then - as if prompted by a higher unseen being - sways

in unison.

Strangers link arms.   Some go home together.

Darkness descends as one by one each solitary sparkle is extinguished.

But in that darkness a new generation of fireflies is created....

My friends, if we are to take down this administration, we all need

to link arms, burn like fireflies and try to avoiding hitting the

front windshield of the oncoming truck!

updated: 15 years ago