Hounds of Smith! Hounds of Smith and metal dogs from Kent. Things are getting serious. These are hard times for a floundering wax turkey. The floundering wax turkey just wants to play music with like-minded foul. But by concentrating on the joys of life this paraffin bird has let career matters slip. The floundering foul bounces from job to job. He finds that life is much more significant and satisfying to him if he doesn’t try to dissect reality and pin it down.
One night the greasy bird is working in the dish-room of a large restaurant. It’s a minimum wage job, but since the dish-room is staffed by four or more people in order to maintain the pace and keep the glasses, dishes and flatware flowing, rather than allowing the wait staff to have to apologetically ask the diners to eat with their hands from paper plates, since this is the case, and since the floundering wax turkey works hard when he is on the job, his absences and occasional lateness are excused. He’s been warned by the chef, but he doesn’t care. If they fire him he’ll find another job. So when he needs to play music with some friends or play with his band at a bar or party, he can beg off work. So it’s the perfect job for him, except that he’s now thirty years old and getting tired of toiling. Anyway, he’s working in the dish-room one night. He’s unloading the racks of dishes, glasses, and silverware as they come out of the big loud stainless steel dishwashing machine. The dishes etcetera coming out are steaming hot. In fact the room is dank due to the steam issuing from the machine. There are three chemicals in this dishwashing process; the detergent, which is fed to the machine through a plastic tube which pulls the soap from a five gallon bucket; the sterilizing agent, a powder which comes in big plastic jars which are opened and turned upside down onto a mechanism that gravity-feeds the powder into the machine; and the rinsing agent, which prevents water spots and is supplied to the machine through a tube like the detergent and which also comes in five gallon buckets.
In order that these three chemicals do not run out, there is a panel on the side of the machine with three lights and a beeper. When the machine can’t get detergent because the bucket is dry, the detergent light will flash and the machine will beep. Some one goes to the pantry and gets a bucket of detergent and brings it in and opens the bung-hole and drops the plastic hose in.
So anyway, this one night we’re talking about, our man the turkey goes to replace the sterilizing agent, and when he takes the lid off some of the stuff gets on his hands. No big deal. But then as he turns back to his toil suddenly his whole field of vision becomes much brighter.
“Holy hillwax,” he exclaims, “my brain is being bleached and I don’t even have health insurance!”
Yes, these are rough times for the waxers of the world; for those who just want to play music and be free. But I guess it has never been easy to just play music and be free. These waxers are willing to work hard but don’t want to get all imbroglio-minded about a steady career path. They want to stay loose and concentrate on the music.
But there are the triumphs and the wonders. Like being at Carl’s party and meeting some other musicians there; all agreeing to go home and get their instruments and come back to the party. Getting all set up and tuned and asking that the stereo be turned off. Then launching into an impromptu jam that jells, the musical intention fulfilled, egos relaxed and the music leading, the music spiraling higher and higher into realms, and playing that way for hours while the party is thriving.
Yes, and after that party he went home and brought his amp and bass inside and took a walk down to the railroad tracks. The fatigue would come later, and he could sleep until it was time to go to work at five that afternoon. But now he was fully energized, on a rare frequency brought about by being a part of the musical energy exchange. There is a heavy fog down the hill where the train tracks are, and he can hear the slow-moving train of empty coal cars before he can see it. Then, as he approaches the tracks, the train resolves into sight, gray and ghostly in the haze, moving very slowly. Instead of the clickity clack sound, there are loud thumping sounds. At regular speeds the same sound would be less thumpy and more clackity. Both sounds are caused by a “flat” spot on a wheel. So a car with a thumping wheel approaches out of the mist, then comes into view, thumping loud, the sound held close by the mist, the ground next to the tracks shaking just a little with the thumping of the wheel, and then just as quickly the car goes thumping out of sight again. Eery creaking from the coal train. Then the engine, somewhere up the tracks, puts on a little speed, and the slack in the couplers is taken up. The first car sounds off distantly with a soft thump, and thump thump thump comes the sound, as the slack is taken up one car at a time, and the sound changes in volume and timbre as it gets closer. The empty cars act as huge cold sound boxes, reverberating in the early morning air.
So here’s this big iron ghostly train moving slowly along in the fog, making these noises as the light of dawn comes diffused through the mist. And our man the floundering wax turkey is so taken with the train that he begins to run alongside, careful to high-step on the uneven ballast. Then he grabs a rung as he runs along and pulls himself up and onto the little ladder on the side of the coal car. He climbs up and peers down into the huge empty space of this behemoth. He sees that the cars are bigger than they look from the outside. And he stands on the ladder, and he rides down along, through the fields and into a ravine which was cut through a hill that got in the way of the train tracks. The crevice for the train had been carved out of rocky soil near the surface, then shear rock further down. So he was looking at a rock wall with various protuberance and weeds growing out of pockets of dirt which had washed down over the years and it was like something he’d never seen before, it was somehow unreal, but he was here, seeing this roll before him, then it fell away.
The train began to pick up speed and our man leapt off. He walked home as the haze lifted and the sun came out and made him sweat.
Yes there are the triumphs. But the older he gets the harder it is to live in a little tiny apartment or rented room or basement and always work some low-wage job. It gets harder as he gets older to have energy and a good attitude when its time to play the music. He is tired of skimping on his food, tired of scraping by and scrimping to make the rent. And something comes into his life which was never there before; fear of the future. What will happen when he is too old to hold down a job because his body is worn out and slow? Where will he go? Will his fingers still be supple enough to play the bass? And where will he live? Suddenly he sees that he is halfway old already. Will he still be able to keep the pace at 60? Not this pace. Not the four in the morning bedtime and up for work the next morning or afternoon. Not irregular hours and high-energy work and play. So he realizes; he comes to know, that if he stays on the road he’s on he is counting on a graceful exit, a nice sudden death. The other possibility is a slow decline; homeless, dirty, hungry, rotting teeth. What are the odds he’ll go out gracefully if he stays on the road he’s on?
So hounds! Hounds of Smith. It ain’t over yet. Not by a long shot. Every time a group of metal dogs laughs and smiles with the music, every yeah-saying musical moment is an infinite leap for freedom. In the highest realms of musical abandon there is, moment by moment, total freedom. For that moment you are free. So wax on, wax out. Hounds of Smith and squirrels of tomorrow. There’s townwalking to exonify, and we’re the hounds. Hounds of Smith.
COPYRIGHT 2003 DOUGLAS CLOUD ALL RIGHTS RESERVED