I’m Not Afraid

I’ve always loved the way Brian Wilson and Tony Asher start each verse of God Only Knows with a line that is the opposite of the rest of the song (“I may not always love you,” “If you should ever leave me my life will still go on believe me”) and I appropriate a bit of that lyrical technique here. This is a song about fearlessness that begins and ends with the things that scare me most.
I’m afraid of losing you
I’m afraid to lose me too
I’m afraid to hurt the people I love
But I’m not afraid of anything else
I’m not afraid of crazy people
Hateful, angry, violent people
Powerful people or the people who crave it
People who want to blow the world up to save it
I’m not afraid
I’m not afraid to hear the truth
Tell me anything you want to
Tell me how I drive you nuts
Tell me why you hate my guts
I’m not afraid to lay with you
To work, or fight, or play with you
I’m not afraid of unhappy endings
Or starting all over again
I’m not afraid
I’m afraid of losing you
I’m afraid to lose me too
I’m afraid to hurt the people I love
But I’m not afraid of anything else

New York City

I wrote this song when I had only lived in New York City for a couple of years. I was already deeply in love with the place. I’ll be performing it this Friday, July 15 during my 8PM set at Exile Above 2A on the corner of 2nd Street and Avenue A in Manhattan. The recording in the video is from the first band I was in that used the name Late Model Humans: I’m playing bass and acoustic guitar and singing lead, Martin Hill and Chris Park are playing electric guitars, Todd Elder is on drums, backing vocals include Carla Lother and Valerie Feuer. Chris is playing violin. I don’t remember who played the organ.



The only place I’ve found
Where I can wear love like a crown
Is never going to let me down
Like every other ordinary town

New York City

Lying on your bedroom floor
Or with flowers at your door
If I still need something more
It’s not as bad now as it was before

New York City

The sun sets on the other side
Of a thin wall that divides
Where we are from where we hide
And where we always end up back inside

New York City

Away From The Numbers

I downloaded the first album by The Jam, “In The City,” a couple of weeks ago. I’d never heard it before but it sounded like the kind of thing I’d like, and it is. On my way to work last week “Away From The Numbers” came up on my iPod and stopped me in my tracks. I had to listen to it again as soon as it ended. Then I had to learn how to play it myself.

I’ve been working in finance positions for decades and there hasn’t been a second in all those years that I haven’t been disgusted with myself for undertaking such meaningless labor. My thinking has been that I would find the work so revolting I’d have no alternative but to become a professional artist. It hasn’t quite worked out as planned but as far as I’ve been able to determine I’m not dead yet. I try to ignore the stench.

I think of this song as the anthem for bookkeepers, accountants, controllers, and the rest of us fiscal misfits. It turns out I recorded it a lot faster than The Jam’s version but then I didn’t have Rick Buckler’s drums to keep me in line.

Things are getting just too cozy for me
I’m not seeing people as they see me
I’m gonna break away and gain control
You free your mind, you free your soul

I was the type who knocked at old men (history’s easy)
Who together at tables sit and drink beer (somewhere is really)
Then I saw that I was really the same
So this link’s breaking away from the chain

Away from the numbers
Away from the numbers
Is where I’m gonna be

Away from the numbers
Away from the numbers
Is where I am free

I was sick and tired of my little niche
I’m gonna break away and find what life is

And all those fools I thought were my friends (coasting is easy)
They now stare at me and don’t see a thing (reality’s so hard)
Till their life is over and they start to moan
How they never had a chance to make good

Away from the numbers
Away from the numbers
Is where I’m gonna be

Away from the numbers
Away from the numbers
Is where I am free
Is where I am free
Is where I’m gonna be
Is reality

Reality’s so hard

Magdalena

“Automat” by Edward Hopper, 1927

I woke up this morning with this melody and the first couple lines running through my head and figured if I didn’t get it down today it would be lost to the mists of time. In the dream the song accompanied an animated video by a Scandinavian artist. The characters in the video had broccoli for hair. Bright red broccoli.

I know Magdalena’s not real
But I still remember how she makes me feel
It’s a thrill you can’t buy, beg, or steal
And I miss Magdalena
I miss Magdalena

I know there’s some things I can’t fix
But it turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks
Like how to stand on his hind legs
Before he rolls over and begs
Come on old dog, roll over and beg

I know that time just moves one way
But memories linger from long-ago days
Not every memory is true
The only one matters is you
The only one matters is you

I know Magdalena’s not real
But I still remember how she makes me feel
It’s a thrill you can’t buy, beg, or steal
And I miss Magdalena
I miss Magdalena

Come Back to Me

My mind keeps drifting back to my Greenwich Village days lately. This is another song from back then that I’ve been fiddling with. At the time I wrote it, I was singing to a woman. Now, it’s more like I’m singing it to myself, or someone who looks just like me. It may be a doppelgänger. It’s hard to tell.

If ever you get tired of holding your breath
While you wait for something on the other side of death

Come back to me

I’ll tell you anything that you want to hear
I’ll tell you the truth behind the lies you fear

Come back to me

Those people there
Don’t deserve
Half the thing
You’ve pledge to serve
Those people there
Don’t give a damn
That I’m not the guy
They say I am

Before you raise your hand and take the oath
Think back to the time when you used to love us both

Come back to me

Autumn in New York

“It’s autumn in New York that brings the promise of new love
Autumn in New York is often mingled with pain
Dreamers with empty hands, may sigh for exotic lands
It’s autumn in New York, it’s good to live it again.”
Vernon Duke

Some people like Autumn. I’m not one of them. All the good things come in the Spring and Summer. By the time Winter comes along, death has already claimed its victims. There is a stark beauty in the desolation of Winter, and enough distance from Autumn’s carnage to appreciate the memory of the lives that have been lost. Autumn is the season of death and dying. The rough intrusion and raw destruction of this season is too fresh for detached appreciation. They don’t call it ‘the fall’ for nothing.

The advantages of age are subtle, obscure, and slippery. One thing that older people seem to appreciate more than younger people is the magnificent explosion of the colors in Autumn’s foliage. I must still be young at heart because to me they just look like dead leaves.

The rising winds and falling temperatures of Autumn drive us out of nature’s world into the ones we’ve built to comfort ourselves in bleak times. We retreat not only into our homes but also into public spaces: museums, theaters, pubs. We look for inspiration and entertainment in man-made works. We listen too.

Autumn in New York is a standard in the jazz songbook. Vladimir Dukelsky was a fine enough name for a boy born in a railroad station in Misnk but for a man trying to make it as a composer in America in the 1920s it might be considered a handicap, which is why Vladimir’s friend, George Gershwin, who was born Jacob Gershowitz, suggested a name change. That’s how Vladimir started calling himself Vernon Duke. In 1934 he wrote Autumn in New York for the Broadway show Thumbs Up!

The song has been covered by hundreds of artists, from Sinatra to Sun Ra. This fine performance is by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald:





Autumn in New York, why does it seem so inviting?
Autumn in New York, it spells the thrill of first knighting
Glittering crowds and shimmering clouds in canyons of steel
They’re making me feel I’m home

It’s autumn in New York that brings the promise of new love
Autumn in New York is often mingled with pain
Dreamers with empty hands, may sigh for exotic lands
It’s autumn in New York, it’s good to live it again

Autumn in New York, the gleaming rooftops at sundown
Autumn in New York, it lifts you up when you’re run down
Jaded roues and gay divorcees who lunch at the Ritz will tell you that it’s divine
This autumn in New York transforms the slums into Mayfair

Autumn in New York, you’ll need no castles in Spain
Lovers that bless the dark on benches in Central Park
Greet autumn in New York, its good to live it again