Raindance

Dani had started the absurdities, being the lightweight drinker of the four of us. The smoke from the fire seemed to follow her no matter where she sat and, in a fit of pique, she decided to try incantations and cantrips. “Dead bunnies bed bunnies dead bunnies!” she shouted at the smoke. Nonsense, of course, until the smoke attached itself to Tim, her fiance. He’d poo-pooed the idea the loudest, but was quick to copy her. She smirked when the smoke ignored his chants until it finally listened and found me.

I didn’t move. The mosquitoes vanished when it chose me as the next victim and I didn’t mind watery eyes.

Anna just smirked. The smoke wouldn’t dare find her. This, she knew. “Y’all, we’re tapped,” she informed us, showing the empty case of what had previously held beer. “I’m going to crash.” She started for the tent and Dani stagger-swayed towards her own.

“Let’s see if we can piss the fire out,” whispered Tim once they’d crawled in. I had to admit I was curious if it could be done. “It’ll stink,” I warned. “eh,” he said and started anyway. I joined in, figuring what the hell. For science, of course.

We had unexpected help.

Within minutes our minds shifted from beer and makeshift rituals to ward off magnetic smoke to trying to piss out the fire in the fire-pit — the next was a glorious midsummer downpour that crashed all camping plans. Without warning we were swallowed whole by a soaking downpour.

There’d be no sleep that night — no one had trenched, or put up a tarp to keep the heaviest rains off. We were drenched and there was nothing to do but revel in it. So we did what any drunk guy in a situation like that would do. We stripped and ran naked, howling like wolves in the rain.

We were two men gone batshit crazy as far as the women were concerned, as they crawled out to try to save the sleeping bags from the downpour, but to no avail — it took only moments for everything to get pregnant with the rainwater and, as quick as they moved, they didn’t make it to the cars in time to save anything. We were too busy howling like animals in the rain to help, probably pissing off the other campers who hid in their tents, still soaked from the unexpected downpour. No one had prepared for a rain event. No one.

And here were two idiots, howling while their partners rolled eyes and gave up trying to restrain themselves from laughter and finally howled with us.

Sometimes, there is no point in shaking your fist at adversity.


Mostly true. Some names changed, not all.I think I was 23 at the time.

Dead bunnies.

For Ever More [old masters]

This is the Mission cover I warned about yesterday evening. Potentially explicit for those folks offended by lyrics that mention sexual acts. It is a very slow piece and requires patience to listen to to get to the final buildup (at about 4.00 minute mark) if you hate slow songs. Auditory artifacts in song are due to poor cassette storage.

I won’t rehash the wedding this was done for in this post, refer to Bits and bobs for that. But I will foist a short story about the song on you all the same. That’s the kind of guy I am.

This recording wasn’t strictly Mike and I back in 1992. My bride (and now ex-wife) knew a guy from the old days, someone we’ll call “Axe” (“to protect the innocent”), who happened to be into music and recording engineering as well. So much so that, unless I was told a pack of lies (which is not as far-fetched now as it seemed at the time), Axe was a recording engineer for Paisley Park (Prince’s studio). Not necessarily for the man himself, but for other recording acts. As a wedding gift, he donated his talents to engineer and produce this song.

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Bits and bobs

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I’ve received lower readership today than most days — two poems and three audio pieces from a wannabe musician.

Och weel, as I like to pretend my criminal ancestors might have said. You win some and you lose some. But be forewarned, I do intend to put out at least one more piece in the coming days, so if you are adverse to seeing a SoundCloud link to a Mission UK cover I did with the same guy singing as the last tune I shared… cover your eyes over the next few days or scroll very very fast. It’s a cover of a B-side For Ever More, and I’m surprised I got it past all the religious censors in attendance at the wedding, but I don’t expect they actually listened.

That was a strange affair, even by my standards. I wore a Victorian-style ruffle shirt with leather slacks, and my bride was in a velvet royalty outfit a la Renfest. We were married by a druid (with other druids in attendance) dressed in long white robes and a gold-thread sash around his waist, in a de-sanctified church that had been converted to a theatre. The bridesmaid had hot pink hair at a time it was still a rarity and she belted out some techno tune her band had written and my best man was Mike, and he sang a re-recorded dub of the aforementioned song with backup vocals of his own making (we also recorded a version prior to the wedding with the main vocals intact for the memories). He and I had curly-assed blonde hair down to our mid-back and the temperature went from 35°F the day before to 90°F the day of. And then we did the handfasting thing and jumped a broom. The evangelicals in the audience were rolling on the ground in outrage. But not because of the song, strangely enough.

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Trade.

“You have something I haven’t been able to find,” Steven said with the air of conspiracy. “And I have something you will want when you see it. I think a trade is in order.”

Steve was the kind of guy you half-ignored. It didn’t matter what he talked about with you, it always sounded slightly off — not crazy, but starting to eclipse crazy. I responded with a noncommittal grunt.

He pointed to the pentagram on my chest. “I want to trade for that. Can’t find one like that ’round here.”

“I’m a bit partial to it,” I replied. “No trade.”

“But you don’t know what I have.”

I sighed. “I’ll still say no, but whatcha got Steve?”

He reached into his backpack and pulled out a wicker basket, grinning ear to ear.

“Well?” I asked, getting impatient with the man.

He opened it and inside was a raven skull, boiled clean and intact.

“Found this by the beach, though he had a little more meat on him when I did. Cleaned it up for you, pretty sure you’d like a raven to add to your sacred tools.” He held it closer. “Big bastard, too.”

I held onto the pendant I wore, contemplating.

“Fine,” I said taking off my pentagram and handing it over to him. “Apparently we both have something the other wants. “Deal”.

He slipped the satin cord over his head and handed me the basket, a shit-eating grin on his face. “I know things, Mick. I knew I had something you couldn’t resist.” And then he skipped down the street to the waterfront, making me wonder if there was something else I owned that he coveted.


© Michael Raven

I’ll keep this short.

This was largely a true exchange. The actual conversation mostly lost to time and memory, but “Steve” was an incredibly short man I knew when I lived in Seattle, someone who had also befriended a recovering heroin addict (that really should have had a support group more than me and “Steve”, as she thought her teenage boys’ love was what would keep her off smack — boys that saw her for one whole mandated day — hours really — a month and refused to talk to her on the phone). Anyway, I met him through the addict that I at first found attractive, but then just liked her as a friend, especially when the depth of her addiction became apparent. We rarely hung out as a trio, but he found out the cafe I hung out at when I wasn’t cutting hair or dancing myself to exhaustion at the fetish club. He was a bit “off” and claimed he was both gypsy and Cherokee, which may have been the truth. He also barely reached my shoulders in height (though not showing signs of being one of the little people) and always had a wild look in his eyes like he had done a shit-tonne of coke before he bumped into me at the cafe. When he saw the dead raven, he knew he would more than likely be able to trade me for the pentagram I wore that he apparently coveted. It was a simple welded silver wire piece, nothing special — but that was the thing… You could only find medallion or fancy/fussy-looking ones around Seattle at the time. I could vouch for that. And it seemed right on him, once he slipped it over his head.

I still have the skull.

bellydance/

daring me to
return her sultry
stare,
to fall into her
walnut eyes
lined with kohl
she danced
for tips on
saturday nights

bold, i mirrored her stare
& i handed her a fiver
she winked
and let the doumbek
guide the dance
my money disappearing
impossibly into her dress
before moving on

Another one of those poems that actually needs a bit of explanation or you’ll think I was hitting the strip clubs every Saturday. On that note, I’ve ended up in strip clubs on two or three bachelor nights and I have to say that I found it a pretty degrading experience as a customer. I’m more than fine with nudity or with other people going to strip clubs, but I felt like a real creep and spent most of my time talking to the fully-clothed bartender when I was in those situations. I think the problem is that the desperation is so dense, it feels like a hot, humid day in August and I couldn’t wait to be done with it.

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Backstory

The two poems from today, proposition/ and church/ deserve a little more explanation than I’ve given them because they are both true stories and the poetry is opaque unless I explain a few things.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I was a denizen of Seattle in the heyday of the grunge movement (but not part of the grunge movement). Though I could have largely cared less about grunge at the time, I did take advantage of the fetish and goth scene, scenes that were — for all practical purposes — interwoven so much as to be inseparable. Add those to main subcultures to a even more sub-subculture of living vampires, and you can imagine the scene (I think).

I personally had a hard time taking the vamps too seriously — their expensive dentures looked a bit clunky and it took genuine practice to not speak with a lisp with them in. Which, of course, few of them took the time to do. And, with AIDS just barely surpassing its first decade, their profession for drinking each other’s blood seemed both campy and dangerous. I typically laughed behind my hand and shook my head for them taking the whole spook business far, far, far too serious. They were a small group, but also largely inseparable from the fetish/goth crowd, for obvious reasons.

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proposition/

ooooh, honey
she crowed as I walked
past her perch
in regrade park
imma gonna peel you 
like a banana, sugar
as she stared at my
pvc pants and not much else
and i even gonna do it
for free this round
i smiled and kept walking
you hear me? free!
i went to my apartment and
amused by the offer,
peeled myself

© Michael Raven

Drive.

Another older piece. I’m not sure of the date but, judging from the number of edits needed, it was probably from the early days of trying to write fiction instead of poetry. I’m a little baffled why I chose present tense other than I think I originally intended for this to be a series of shorts, The file is named “Assorted Flavours” and the page had the header of “Drive” after the word “tick–“. Oh, how terribly artsy and vague of me — between the UK spelling of flavours and my use of the italicized word “tick” and a time to indicate a moment changing… All with zero follow-up.

Anyway, I’m sharing this because it is more fact than fiction. I apologize in advance if I didn’t make enough edits to make it readable. I did a lot of losing sense of my time-tense in the original version, shifting from present to past to present/past to… well, you get the idea. It’s this problem alone that suggests that this was an early adventure in writing fiction.

As usual with my old writings, I kept edits to the absolute minimum and usually only corrected spelling errors or, in this case, problems with moving POV with respect to time.

3.33 pm

Early summer in the arid foothills west of Billings, the windows rolled down and dry heat washing over sweat-stained shirts, cooling to the skin as it saps the sweat and left moment’s dryness before another bead of sweat boils up and takes a seat.  Everything is burnt amber and gold, even the sage seems yellowed and dry this drought season, the sand in the tall grass floating on the breeze, a dust you can discern on your tongue as the world whips by.

Dragons and gold pieces fill his head.  He imagines himself a valiant barbarian ranger, tracking quarry, finding riches, battling atrocities and scoring cosmopolitan chicks.  His eyes do not see the vast endless azure peppered with cotton-puff clouds, nor does he witness the jagged granite teeth of the Beartooth mountains gnashing in the distant haze of afternoon sun.  He is a warrior, fighting the bugbear and the ogre.  He has the map and there are worlds of treasures to explore.

The fantasy is broken with a query.

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Seattle Rain

I think one of more “I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone say that” things I miss about living in 90s Seattle is the general approach most people had about rain when it fell. Which happened, but not as often as you are lead to believe during warmer months.

I don’t know if this is at all true anymore — the last time I visited was around 2002 — which is why I limit it to my narrow experience in 1994. From what I understand, the population and personality might have gotten a bit more Californicated (no offense to my friends from Cali, but that’s what folks in Seattle (then) and, now, in Montana say when you migrate to their places of residence) and the carefree approach towards rain and, hell, daily life, might have gotten more complex since then.

But when I was living there, my experience was:

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Tale of a stylist

My name is Michael.

[“Hi, Michael!]

I’m a recovering hairstylist.

[heads bob in understanding].

I haven’t cut hair in exchange for pay for over 25 years and I haven’t reached for a business card to hand someone with a bad hair day for 15 years…

Curl Up and Dye is one of the best salon names I almost (probably not) had the opportunity to work for when I was still doing the whole hairstylist thing. I can’t recall if I “wasn’t a good fit”, or “we don’t have any open chairs right now, check back” and I didn’t check back, or if it was one of those situations where they were renting chairs and I wasn’t eligible for my manager’s license, which is a prerequisite in this state to rent a chair. It was a while ago and I recall leaving on amicable terms from my interview, so it probably wasn’t the first possibility.

Instead, I ended up working for a less gutsy and eminently better known salon (which I’ll omit for the sake of anonymity) on the other end of town where I was more apt to give bog-standard wash and cuts instead of dreads and extensions. It bummed me, but the pay was some of the better pay out there because it was hourly and not dependent on volume (things have changed, I’ve heard — I don’t keep up; see: “recovered”). So, even if I hadn’t seen a client in three straight working days, I was getting paid something slightly more than minimum wage. Which happened more often than I care to admit in the days before I became a known quantity. Then I “stole” a few clients from folks when people found out I was the only person anyone knew who was willing to do old-style shags using, of all things, a straight-edge razor.

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