Bird For the Green Stars (for Bobby Keys) Here You Go Neko

birdforthegreenstars
If you’d ever seen Bobby Keys, you’d never forget him; big body, face like a canned ham, sandy-grey hair, and a smile as big as Texas. He was from that part of the country where you swear there is something in the water that makes musicians–Lubbock County, which gave the world everyone from Buddy Holly to Delbert McClinton. Bobby was from Slaton Texas , a stone’s throw from the county seat in Lubbock.

I don’t know how many times and in how many incarnations I saw Bobby Keys. Of course I saw him with the Stones, his biggest platform in rock and roll. But I also got to see him with Joe Ely at the Fitzgeralds American Music Festival, playing the kind of music he was born to play and playing with musicians who shared the same hard-scrabble geography of childhood that he did.

Over the years I’d seen him play with Lloyd Maynes, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and all manner of Texas troubadours and he was never less than a force of nature. His sound was as distinct as that of big Lee Allen; like a sonic fingerprint. He also had the Bobby Keys mythology following him around– the only guy to get kicked out of the Stones for a while after drinking a bath-tub full of Dom Perignon. There was talk that he drank it while he and two French hookers had cavorted in it, but Bobby often said he’d already drank it by the time the hookers arrived, saying “I’ve got too much respect for Dom Perignon, than to BRUISE it in such a way.”

Whenever I listen to John Lennon’s Whatever Gets You Through the Night, I always think it is the kind of song he should have written more of. All throughout this joyful stomp is Bobby Keys, off the leash and running amok and it is the aural picture of a good time. Or when I hear the Stones’ Can’t You Hear Me Knockin‘, it is Bobby’s horn playing that low, rhythmic, dirty mind kind of horn that seems to crawl up from the depths and reach into your pants. His horn provided a great percentage of the Stones suggestive and transgressive funk, grease, and dirt and I, for one, am going to miss him.

Published in: on December 12, 2014 at 4:43 pm  Comments (1)  
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La Duo Infine

blackburnianwarblerThese are actually Blackburnian warblers. They blow through here during migration. My pal, Greg, knows a place where you can see them every year in Lincoln Park.

I met with a bunch of the Chicago and Illinois Birders the other night at The Rail, a joint up on the north side. We watched the Bears get creamed and talked birds. It’s amazing to be in the company of people who know so much; where the owls will be, where this bird and that bird will be and always having to adjust estimations because of stuff like climate-change and adjust expectations accordingly. Sometimes I feel like I am WAY too late to all of thit, but these folks made me feel at ease. The only desire that is important to them is the desire to see birds, and to share in the wonder of what they magically bring into our world. I’m very grateful to be in their company and it’s wonderful to be able to learn so much new information at my age. I’m lucky.

 

Published in: on December 9, 2014 at 4:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Bird from a Crown of Knives

Bird from a Crown of Knives

In the song, you gently built your nest in a crown of knives.

Somebody sent me a picture of this bird on Facebook. I believe its proper name is a “Silver Eared Maltesia,” which sounds like a medication you take for the clap. One often sees these birds in the Asian bird markets, where they are sold tethered to sticks as cage birds; a stupid and cruel practice which I wish would cease. In fact, I wish all trafficking in exotic birds would be outlawed. I’ve never understood the instinct of people who would cage a creature meant to fly. It seems contrary to the creature itself, and identifies a deep and abiding cruelty.

Published in: on November 5, 2014 at 1:12 am  Comments (1)  
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Riverside Wren

Your Songs Feel Out The River Like a Blind Man

This is actually a Riverside wren, a little bird endemic to Costa Rica and Central America. It is endangered because of shrinking habitat and climate change. The State of the Bird Report from the ABA came out last month with some dire and sobering results regarding the expected extinction of hundreds of songbirds in the next decade, which will be devastating to our ecosystem and a grim reminder of what “progress” has robbed us of. . .

Published in: on October 29, 2014 at 11:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Bird for Cuba

Bird for Cuba

Published in: on October 8, 2014 at 12:15 am  Comments (2)  
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Bird for Israel

bird for israel

She flies from Tel Aviv to the wall, moving the silences tree to tree

Published in: on August 27, 2014 at 10:48 am  Comments (1)  
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Bird for Palestine

Bird for Palestine

Published in: on August 19, 2014 at 11:54 pm  Comments (1)  
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Volo

 With Your Bloody Bib, In Secret, You Do The Work Of The Songs.


With
Your
Bloody
Bib,
In
Secret,
You
Do
The
Work
Of
The
Songs.

Published in: on August 14, 2014 at 1:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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Bird for Bobby Womack

birdforbobbywomack

Published in: on July 8, 2014 at 2:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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Alphabet of Songbirds – B

Alphabet of Songbirds - B

I’ve kind of been quietly making an etching alphabet of songbirds. The first idea was to make them pretty, pretty, pretty, and then I thought about the nature of Nature–it’s not all pretty–and then the hideous habitat destruction we’ve inflicted on songbirds and every other creature the landscape attempts to sustain, and the pictures have become a bit tougher and more wild, and maybe more true. We’ll see.

“B”is for Baltimore Oriole.

Published in: on June 20, 2014 at 2:29 am  Comments (2)  
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Lunch Drawing #49: Gary, Indiana Cardinal

Lunch Drawing #49: Gary, Indiana Cardina

Published in: on June 12, 2014 at 4:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Azul

Azul

All over the west and south sides of Chicago there are still live poultry shops. It only now occurs to me that I’ve never actually been in one. Americans are particularly squeamish this way– we never want to look the creature we’re about to slaughter in the eye. We’d rather see it fried with some biscuits and gravy on a plate, or in nugget form in a small styrofoam box; or even better, chopped up with a bunch of vegetables in some soup. We’re not much for the blood and the feathers and the screeching death that comes along with butchering poultry.

A number of people in the city have begun to keep chickens in their yards in Ukrainian Village they raise their own eggs and I have to admit it is kind of heartening to see a plump chicken or two walking the alleyways. You want to warn them that: feral cats, large rats, raccoons, and now coyotes also now walk these alleys, and would gladly feast on them; but then you notice these are some big-assed chickens and when you get right up close and look them in the eye?  You see all of the madness in the world.These chickens are Chicago chickens and they just might be able to hold their own.

Years ago, when I first opened my studio on Damen Avenue, there was a small bodega a few doors down from me. The older Puerto Rican guy who ran it made change out of his pocket, rather than the cash register. The store was badly stocked, open when it  wanted to and closed at odd hours. We struck up a friendship by virtue of being neighbors and sometimes having to look out for the same goofs who would run in and grab stuff when you weren’t looking. We were also the only Sox fans in that part of town. I liked him, He had thick bifocals and a sad smile and spoke the kind of English that one speaks when they learn it first in Chicago. He referred to the alderman as “our guy” with a roll of his eyes.
I only knew him as “Popi.” One day, I noticed these Polaroids taped to the side of his antique cash register. They were all pictures of roosters…more specifically, fighting cocks. He told me, that in Puerto Rico, he’d raised many champion birds. He said where he came from people weren’t  hypocrites about things like cockfighting. He’d tell me, “You gringos get all weepy about  two chickens fucking each other up WHILE you eat your McNuggets.” He had a point.
He also, once in a while, would stop me in my tracks when this line of conversation occurred. He would ask me if we cared as much about people as we did about the chickens. “There you go– white people will wring their hands over cockfighting, where each bird has a fifty-fifty shot at coming out alive. But kids in this city are blowing each others’ heads off for dime bags and where are your tears for them?”
Bucktown changed and the bodega is long gone, as is Popi and his backyard full of fighting cocks. There were a few of them that were beautiful in a wild, mad, kind way. Rubio, a starkly black, long-plumed bird with a blood-red head. Pinto, a speckled mess with sharp thorny spurs, and Azul who. Popi explained. was a rare blue-faced gamecock who he’d paid better than a grand for back home. He fed them only prime feed and fought them in Indiana, he explained, “with a bunch of white guys who look like a dumber version of you.” It was nice to know that somewhere out there there is a dumber version of me.
I guess what has changed about Bucktown the most is the absence of people like Popi and the fact that I used to walk my neighborhood and sometimes hear three or four different languages being spoken in the length of a couple of city blocks.
Now there is a Marc Jacobs store and restaurants that people blather on about on Yelp! all the time. I’m old enough to know that this isn’t bad or good–that change is the human experience. I don’t miss the days when you had to look over your shoulder in this neighborhood, though. Judging from the gun violence you STILL kind of have to.  I do realize that in very short order, it is a different city. That for all of the technology that was supposed to connect us, it feels like we are more alone. For all of the cameras and crime-prevention gestures and feel-good documentaries, we are still apt to maim and kill each other.
It has always been a cruel city– it is our history; Steel, slaughter, railroads,and bootleggers made the cash register ring, and this was the only music anybody with any power danced to.
Popi was right. We’re still killing each other in Chicago over dime bags, and still wringing our hands over smaller cruelties. Everything has changed, and everything remains the same.
Published in: on May 13, 2014 at 5:47 pm  Comments (1)  
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Last Child

The Ice Bird

Last Child

 

Published in: on May 8, 2014 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The City Bird

The City Bird (etching)

Published in: on May 5, 2014 at 6:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lunch Drawing #45: Blue Steel Bird

Blue Steel Bird

She
is
a
gem-
Blue,
Blue
as
a
Murmur.

Published in: on April 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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