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The Chris Chandler Show

  • 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!