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March 2nd, 2022

The Old Folk Song Has Found A New Voice In Willi Carlisle

I didn’t wanna go. No I did not. I wanted to stay home. Like I’d done the night before, and the night before that.

And I wouldn’t have gone had I not turned the living room into the Bungalow Bookstore, and had I not spent the time and money I didn’t have making flyers and buying donuts and coffee to get people through the door thinking that was enough to make a bit of scratch to pay for the space and the lights and a little more time to get it down and out, to make something worth a damn, and had I not done all this and had three friends not come by and put the idea in my head, Sean offering to sponsor my coming should I want to go with them, saying

“This is one show you won’t want to miss coming through Omaha.”

I would’ve stayed home and not heard the gospel of Willi Carlisle.

That’s the way it goes, though. That’s the way it happens. We can look back at the small instances that add up to the moment of something that hits right there at the center of our beings and realize there is no other way for it to have happened than the way it did. There’s no going back. It is pointless to think what might’ve happened had other choices been made. Made a left instead of a right and so on. But it happened and that’s what’s important to narrow in on. That’s what’s important to remember.

And when I entered the Reverb Lounge I could spot the young man from Arkansas as large as he was, like a giant compared to the rest of them with red suspenders, cowboy hat on his head and brown tanned jacket lined with white sherpa, glass of whiskey in his hand, and when I shook his other hand I felt like I could barely grasp one of his fingers such was the magnitude of his frame and he told me right there by the bar that he used to be a Caller which is another way to say he dictated square dances with that quickdraw loquaciousness that is so needed to keep those feet hammering against the dance floor and that he had a Masters degree in literature, a man after my own heart and I liked him right there.

I didn’t wanna go. No I did not. I wanted to stay home. Like I’d done the night before and the night before that.

And I wouldn’t have gone had I not bought the van named Modestine and picked up and left California on the first day of June the year the world shutdown,

my mother crying as I drove off, and had I not broke down in Oregon and Washington and Idaho and Wyoming on my way here to Nebraska to pick up Gusto and drove around this continent, stalling out at green lighted intersections in Minneapolis and Chicago, Milwaukee and Detroit, Boston, New York and Richmond, trying to get a good idea of what this country was all about all of it whirring passed my windshield most of it a blur because I was so set on moving and getting around it instead of saturating myself with the people and the landscapes, taking it all in one little town at a time, but had I not moved at the pace I did and had I not ended up here in Omaha I would’ve stayed home and not heard the words of Willi Carlisle.

He took the stage with the lights on him and the shadow of the man casted against the backdrop so large it could contain multitudes and in fact it did and once he spoke he didn’t stop until the whole thing was done, his words filled with wit and humor and an intellect that could make your head spin and make you go cross-eyed by how fast he’d done it and all that would remain whirling around between your ears would be the words

“The road cries out what the rocks don’t know,”

over and over. Yes, Willi Carlisle is a young Whitman with a banjo. He’s Eugene V. Debbs playing the harp and hambone. And those words he belted out from the belly and that heart of his as big as an ox, voice quivering like Johnny Cash before he was splintered by cigarette smoke and old age, could make a person sell everything they own and take what little money they have go walk off into the open lands or forests of this country with nothing else save for a pen and paper and let whatever happens be the nature of their inspiration and imagination taking in what the earth invites them to understand, all the world a cathedral from which these words sprang up and out of like clean spring water flowing like silver from the mouth of a child of god boyhowdy hotdog!

Yea, I didn’t wanna go. No I did not. I wanted to stay home. Like I’d done the night before and the night before that. And I wouldn’t have gone had my family not migrated and forgot the history of their foreign tongues and had my mother not birthed me into being on a hospital bed in Fountain Valley, California, the final child of four who found his way by peering out into the world with quiet observation and so lived contrary to the choices those around me made and walked the other way, and

had I not been so taciturn and had I not accidentally spoken up at the right time I wouldn’t have got the job at the skate shop at fifteen all my friends jealous

and had I not worked my way up in that industry marketing products I didn’t give a damn about I wouldn’t have turned my cheek to it and tried to find my own way once again and had I not done all of that I would’ve stayed home and not heard the transmission from the soul of Willi Carlisle.

The weight can be too much sometimes. Being behind in the count isn’t the most preferable place to be, though we can find ourselves there when we least expect it. Suddenly there is only the waiting pit and every move made makes the body sink further down into it like quicksand. Sometimes the best thing to do is just sit and be patient and wait. I had been waiting for weeks, really. Too long it felt like and when I heard the man speak suddenly I wanted every word that came out of my mouth to be poetry and

I wanted to sing and drink the thimble full of magic like the man said right there on stage so that the lights above us would shatter and rain down like confetti and the taps at the bar would burst open and spray us all with the golden nectar

all of us drunk on life and then all at once we’d march out into the streets the world our stage and we’d dance in the night all of Omaha waking up the rest of the world all of us singing in harmony as one being experiencing itself as the polyphonic hymn of a grand design like a fire that burns eternally, a conflagration of the human spirit burning in us all, illuminating the distractions that has our actions hindered and rerouted by headlines and the greed of few men who have conspired against those who want to live freely in the creation of their own existence!

I didn’t wanna go. No I did not. I wanted to stay home. Like I’d done the night before and the night before that. And I wouldn’t have gone had it not been for the abolitionists who agreed they could not live free if others could not do the same, and had it not been for the Civil Rights Movement and all those men and women who marched on Birmingham because freedom just ain’t free, and

had they all just gave up and gone home, the fight in them desisted with a limited capacity that is only a drop of water in the ocean of human potential and let the ripples of truth die out before it even began

I would’ve stayed home and not heard the John Brown of our time with a guitar in his hand singing ironically, “I need the masters leash more than it needs me.”



March 23rd, 2022

In And Out And Upside-Down It’s All A Mess No Matter What

I was not. And then I was. Birthed out of nothing. A thing of two become one bathed in milky cream from the womb of my mother. Eyes lolling in my head. The tongue a loosed agent like a blind serpent on the head of a gorgon. Wailing into the light…


March 16th, 2022

Realistic Magicalism Is The Real Deal So Deal With It

It’s reality at its finest. That’s what it is. It’s the beauty and mystery of a moment, of instances. Of existence. It’s the realization that we are living, breathing, creating realities…


March 9th, 2022

It’s A Dog’s Life. . .After All

It’s strange to be in it. I mean, I knew it was possible. That it would probably happen someday. I just didn’t know when. Or how. Under what circumstances. Of all the place it could’ve happened I never would’ve guessed Omaha…



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