Sunday, June 3, 2007

Music Lesson #3

Music is a fantastic way of perpetuating beautiful lies.

I wrote "Fran" in 1997 during the tail end of one of the more prominent writers workshops - sort of like summer camp for young and not so young writers and writer types. The song is about a guy who cannot let go of his girlfriend who has since dumped him for another guy. This, of course, presupposes that the speaking voice had been having some kind of meaningful romantic relationship with this "Fran" character.

The real life inspiration for "Fran" was actually a co-fellow at the workshop whose true identity I shall conceal under the name "Bhabes."

"Pieces of you broken on the floor
Now I'm standing right above your photograph
Remember how we took it on the dam, Fran."

-read: cinematic beginning. Guy stands above a framed picture of himself and his ex that he let fall to the floor in pieces. It's safe to assume his ex has since been avoiding his calls, as exes are wont to do, so the Fran he's talking to is all in his head. The word "dam" sounds like such a contrived rhyme for Fran, especially with the word "damn" from the next verse. But the idea of a weirdo who'd actually take his girlfriend on a date to Magat dam or something felt right for the song. Especially with the imagery from the chorus of falling from a bridge.

"Now I don't give a damn, at least I don't think so,
I don't think I care about that guy
I saw you you with inside the disco."

-read: When you're a nineteen year old poet, it's easy to get lovesick at girls in their early twenties who are also into poetry and art and are named "Bhabes." My friend Joel, who had been fancying himself (still does, actually) a "New Romantic" in the new wave music sense, kept feeding me at that time mind poison like The Care, Wild Swans, and Red House Painters and this only aggravated my, ehm, infatuation.

One of The Wild Swans' songs - Archangels, from Bringing Home The Ashes - goes something like this:

"You dwell with archangels,
I am as poor as any
You are invincible
I am in awe."

I listened to this song over and over in my bunkbed, night after night during the three-week workshop, until I was feverish with, well, actual fever. I'd never met a girl with such an effect on me (though now, in retrospect, I think the fever was brought on by the copious amounts of cheap canadian whiskey I'd been imbibing). I knew I had to ask her out, or I would die (again, because of the Seagrams. If you have the cash, go for Jameson or JB).

"Go, go, go
You said I should let go I never did
Now you are a solitary branch left to the wind.
My tired hands are hanging off a cliff
Where you said I should let go, I never did."

-read: I was thinking of Charlie Brown hanging off a root sticking out the side of a cliff, from those Peanuts comics, when I wrote that part.

So I did ask her out one night. I asked around what the best, most romantic seaside restaurant was in those parts and they pointed me to a place I still call Ghost Ship Restaurant, because of the ghostly ships stalking the horizon that beautiful, cloudy evening.

"Now I'm hanging with my friends right outside the 7-11
Smoke another cigarette, 'til I can get you off my breath
See I can't get you off my breath, Fran
I wish that you were dead, but then again,
My favorite CD's still in your apartment."

-read: "Fran," of course, was a hit with my workshop friends, especially for mutual writer acquaintances of myself and Bhabes who were amused by the reference to real people. Poets and fictionists are a gossipy lot. I remember everytime we'd find ourselves smoking in front of a 7-11 someone other than me would sing that first line. I liked the idea of a guy trying to drown his love sorrows in cigarets instead of the more conventional alcohol.

The real Bhabes, I have never wished dead. And she doesn't have any of my CDs.

"Go, go, go
I said that I'd let go I never did.
Now I've everything to end none to begin,
And tired hands left hanging off a bridge
Where I said that I'd let go I never did."

-read: So the ex tells the guy to buzz off and he says, if I let go of you I'll die. Can you get any more romantic than that?

"Late at night I'm up in bed
I can't get you off my head
I wish that I could call you home
But I don't even have a phone
How'd my walls get so cold
You're the only room I know"

-read: After that date with Bhabes, two things were exceedingly clear:

a. She was just as interesting and completely way out of my league as I had imagined; and
b. Nothing whatsoever was going to happen between us. Nada!

And that, as they say, is that. I never really saw her again, but I wrote this song anyway. A year before the workshop I was telling my friend Ed about wanting to incinerate all my old poems from high school, all that embarassing juvenalia garbage. He told me to hang on to them because they were snapshots of my progress as a poet, sort of an ongoing chronicle of my literary life.

I got rid of them anyway.

Well, this is one piece of juvenalia garbage that survives (and hopefully will survive me) and that my band Chupacabras still performs on a more or less regular basis. Bhabes, I believe now modifies toasters in Greenhills for a living and I'm still at the top of my game in the prosthetic elbow business. Everything has turned out well. Sometimes we bump into each other at writer gatherings and I still act like an idiot. Some things will never change.

"Pieces of you broken on the floor..."

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