American Windsong Music just released Ken Lehnig’s new CD “Holding a Rose”.
This album is a departure from his debut solo album, while still maintaining his heartfelt style and his love of lyric.
“The American Music Show” was to Ken and exercise in production restraint, with memorable melodies and a minimalist approach to arrangement and production. Ken’s intent was to give homage to songs he had heard and loved on the radio over the last 50 years, exploring an Americana aspect.
The new album “Holding a Rose”
In this project Ken can kept the broad Americana theme and utilized expanded arrangements and production tools, all not possible without the extraordinary talent of these wonderful people:
John Hildebrand- co-producer, engineer, bass.
Ed Kornhauser- piano, organ, string pads
Robert Cowan- harps
Chris Lehnig- bari, alto, tenor sax
Jamie Shadowlight – violin
Caitin Maelin – cello
Bob Poulin- drums
Jackie Whitney Austin Singer – back vocals
Korn Flower – fiddle on ‘Thimble of Sin”
Scottie Blinn – electric guitar on ‘What will become of Me’
Why use me as a keynote speaker for your next conference or event?
In my long life I have been a business man, building contractor, plant manager, designer, major conventions salesperson, Public Speaker, singer/songwriter, producer, recording artist, record label owner, poet, writer and author. I have also survived a terminal disease that lasted four years. I have been as low as it is possible to be. I have picked myself up more than most. In all that I laugh and tell stories that lift and coach, and I sing songs that explore all it is to be human.
I have been my own boss as a Contractor for most of my long life, on the occasions I worked for other companies I had the good fortune of finding good fits for my skill sets. Like many others I had some bumps along the way. When the economy was particularly bad I did some soul searching and realized I needed a way out of the trap of my own thinking. I made the decision to learn and immerse myself in something I didn’t know. There were certainly plenty of self programs in the early 80s to engage. The choice was made after a thorough and non-delusional self examination. I might add that my wife helped me with obvious zeal. With her help I discovered that one of the areas I was weak on was my presentation, notably in the area of sales.
I had a weekly ritual of having breakfast with a few friends, I chatted about what I discovered. One of my friends suggested looking in to Toastmasters. I did and joined. It was remarkable. To shorten this part of the story I was soon elected as the president of my club and shortly thereafter became an area Governor working with four clubs. I had the delightful opportunity to be a Keynote Speaker for dozens of San Diego local business’ and organizations while in that position. As well as winning an Area Humorous Speech Contest.
As my profile states I am a musician and singer/songwriter which for me was a parallel life path. It is interesting that as a singer, something I had done since I was sixteen, I do not have the nervousness I did when first doing public speaking. I’ve been told that my guitar acted as a barrier. Perhaps.
Set Backs and Set Back Ups
My life was good, having the normal up and down of my chosen discipline, until my business failed, with setbacks and problems pilling up looking like a blitzkrieg, that a story for another day. Consequently I contracted a rare auto-immune disease. I and my wife even went back to the Mayo Clinic for study – nothing conclusive came of that study. The fifteen of us there just went home, being told to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. I, without substantiation, make the case it was due to stress. My nervous system was being attacked by my own anti-bodies, I could not walk, was in horrific pain, and lost feeling in my legs, arms, hands, feet. and most of my skin surface. I was in a wheel chair for almost four years and told my condition was terminal. During lucid moments, when I wasn’t blitzed on morphine, I one-finger typed poetry and short stories, in fact a little over 500,000 words. My story should have ended there…but it didn’t. I slipped into a comma. My family was told that my time had come.
I did not die.
Nicely situated and tucked in for my last viewing, I awoke, scaring the wits out of young nurse. The din was terrible, with her dropping a tray full of noisy metal plates and me screaming “Let me up” and ‘Where the (bleep) am I’.
Doing What It Took
The disease’s deathward march had abated. The next two months was dedicated to kicking my legally acquired morphine habit and teaching myself to walk again, one hundred yards at a time. The next five months was a living discipline of losing 100 pounds of the weight I gained from large doses of steroids I ingested for four years. The next was to rebuild my life. I am often asked “How I was able to do it?”
That’s the grist of my stories and songs.
Since that time I have written six books, and recorded one album with the Burning Sage Band, two solo albums, one will be released next month. Started http://songwritersmarketplace.com with my dear friend David Dodds. We are in out seventh year, included is my podcast wherein I chat with music industry mavens. I also built this website http://kenlehnig.com
I might add that it has been 11 years since I was ill. I just turned 69 years young.
The point of this story-telling post is for you, my friends I haven’t met yet, is that there is no failure, or trying circumstance stopping you. Take a short rest and then pick yourself up and start all over again.
I’m available for bookings as a Keynote speaker for your Company, Associations, or Organizations.
Ken offers entertaining, uplifting, thoughtful, and life- educational stories and songs in the areas of:
The quick and easy answer is because it is very difficult to view your own work objectively.
Every songwriter/performer/writer/poet/artist reads and hears that everywhere.
That answer is incomplete for a lot of small reasons. To say that you as an artist are not able to view your own work objectively is discounting the fact that you are being judged mostly by people who are not artistic. You know what your doing even if the world doesn’t get it. We, you and I, are a rarity we are probably eccentric, often called affectionately weird by our friends and family, and have no real memory or understanding of when this need to express your inner-reality, often to the point of obsession, came into being.
There is a fly in the ointment, so to speak. When the creative energy is in play it doesn’t edit, modify, or care about rules that is a separate process that matters only when the ‘creative output’ is intended to be in the world: painting, song, book, short story, poem, sculpture. To the degree that the world accepts the creation is a matter for acquiring skills appropriate to cultural perception. Art can change and transform culture if it creates a narrative, ‘The narrative’ begins outside the culture and begins a dialogue
The success of any artist as to being paid is by the degree that narrative impacts the culture.
Have you ever really wondered why it is so hard for you to hear criticism?
This will be hard to get, but please remember I am speaking for myself as well. It is hard to hear because to be an artist one necessarily needs to be self-centered and possess a well defined ego.
Creativity is a personal act, inherent in one person at a time, no matter what all those books tell you to the contrary. The work is done and it is your ‘baby’ – anyone outside the process telling you, with some grating presumed authority, that it needs work, or this needs to be changed, is upsetting. The only two things that can happen is you take your work and leave or you swallow the lump in your throat, bite your tongue and allow your work to be molded into that persons vision. I will add: often with success but more often not. A narrative the world already knows. ie: Starving artist, tortured soul, mis-understood genius, et al.
The trick/ skill is to make your work as complete as you can with an allowance for some ‘already narrative’ to be included. I know its a little hard to get but that is the nature of ‘true’ collaboration.
Here is the answer to the title question.
Why do I need a coach?
1. Creativity is the ethereal stuff of creation being brought into reality, ( no matter its form), with the skills that are inherent in the medium worked in to bring the artist’s creation into existence as close to the original vision as possible. Medium is the translation tool.
2. The world is quizzical, it likes things to stay the same. It is the artist’s job to create change. because the world likes nothing to change – culture is the portal in. The culture looks for a new narrative all the time. It is however a hard judge. It will always take more of the same. ( ie. pop music, clothing, movies, books) If the new work is worthy and the narrative about the work is compelling the culture will embrace it.
3. A coach is not necessarily a teacher.
4. A coach is a catalyst, an advocate and a supporter.
5. A coach already honors and recognizes your creative potential and the skills you have acquired. And speaks to your ability rather than what may be lacking. Ignorance is not a fault being unwilling to acquire knowledge is.
6. A coach is someone who has acquired the skills that pertain to your artistic expression. That person has traveled further down the road and can point out those things you missed or were unaware.
7. A coach is there for your success. Whatever level of success you want to attain.
If you knew the world were to end tomorrow I don’t know how important any of us would find those unfinished and ‘as soon as I’ projects. That is unless all muse-fused, snarky, poet/songwriters were mandated to stay behind and explain, in inspired verse, what happened – besides I like the idea of second chances, and just think of all the poems and songs that would come from the residue of such an event. God has a universe-sized sense of humor – how else can you explain we humans and our world-wrecking mechanizations.
It’s said God made every woman and man
Some believe that it wasn’t a good thing
Though flawed I think we are more than worthy
Is the recall for flawed manufacturing?
I know there is poetry and songwriting in Heaven, the rub is only good poetry and songwriting is allowed. (I guess I better get to improvin’ my writing efforts) Getting better at our craft is what I’ll write about in this article. Now, nothing I ever write is written in stone, but is an exploration of ideas that I believe are worth consideration. I am about all of us bettering our poetry skills. You can take my rambling in any way you find useful.
The World Continues
I sit down after a day of rest from writing, I note that I am still here. The world did not end and the election process is about to bore us into oblivion. And it seems most everyone I know is still here – and some are not – sadly. There were no abandoned and wrecked cars on the road, and the sun came up as it has always done. The only quaking I felt was mine own, stemming from the uncomfortable interaction between our President and Netanyahu, our country’s predilection for joining in on every fist fight on the planet, how every bill in my wallet is worth less every day, whether, soon, I’ll have to decide between a ten dollar gallon of gas or paying my rent, and my concern for all those other nuclear reactors built on fault-lines, if the ultra-rich will just take all the money, if any banker will go to jail or even be arrested, or if I have the strength to weather it all. So, our responsibilities are still here, with the plethora of problems and worries we all face as well. Yep, all the dramatic materials that make up the natural resources for mining poetic gold.
We didn’t believe but we secretly hoped
That the world would change for us
With our now overdue bills and dire concerns
We were all distracted by the media fuss
Let’s have a look at using some of that poetic gold in a way that transforms it into an even finer thing.
The World and the Mundane
I have written about this before, and I think it worth a further examination. When you sit down at your computer, or writing pad, how do the poetic thoughts come to you? Have you seen something of beauty, or ruin that makes your brain percolate like a coffee pot? (a reference perhaps lost in the under forty crowd.) Has a beautiful someone walked across your hormone infused vision, instigating an obsession? Has an evil, cheating, despicable, lying, ogre broken your heart and thwarted your fairy tale expectations? Have you decided that you are the only one who sees the world’s problems clearly and are compelled to write down your lofty thoughts and inspired insights in verse to share with we less enlightened?
Before you decide that I am rude, insensitive, arrogant, or full of s**t and stop reading – it would be better, for the purpose of this article, to acknowledge the glaring truth. If we are serious poets we have all sat down and thought about and/or written in one of these ways. It is the grist of a poet’s personality, the process every poet goes through. It is not a criticism, we all can cite excellent pieces based firmly in each of the areas that I mentioned. Are those poets more or less than us? We even write a few good ones ourselves. But here is the thing, the rub, have you noticed that Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s love poetry (Sonnets from the Portuguese) is just a bit better than our own work? Or that the dark musings of Edgar Allen Poe’s work is darker than ours? Kerouac, Ginsburg, Ferlinghetti, all take existential reveling and observational poetry to a different place than we seem to be able to access. The mastery of Keats, Wilde, Mary Oliver, and Thomas, Bronte, Tennyson, Kipling, Cummings, both inspire and leave us humbled.
So what do we do? We write, and write, and keep writing!
…but here be the thing. We have to realize that our early pre-writing musing, nudged by the muse, may not be the thing that goes down on paper, or on your computer screen. In fact most lofty and worthy thoughts once filtered through our TV and computer addled mind will most probably come out mundane and banal.
The World Is Too Loud
You the reader may be thinking, “Now he’s telling me to become a freakin’ Luddite! Maybe he’ll say I have to move to the some Palin loving wilderness so I can write authentically about global warming – try to turn me into a Walden Pond loving Thoreau, writing about water skippers dragon flies, uncomfortable sweating, and my-blood hungry mosquitoes – eating leaves, dirt laden mushrooms, and stuff – when I really want to write about how that no good %$#@# broke my heart, how ‘The Man’ is out there pulling us down, or about those fools who cut other people off on the freeway. I’ m hungry – maybe I’ll go make a sandwich and read this article later.”
So what’s a poet to do? First tell your mind to behave itself – at least until our conversation is over. However, a sandwich does sound good. (Pause – imagine in your mind a muzak-ed Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven’.)
I’m back. I had a nice roast beef and swiss on a kaiser – mayo and a little dab of horse radish.
What makes great poets is the manner in which words are used. Instead of looking at the words as a casual conversation between you and your mind – have your mind look for another way, a deeper way to say what you saw – what you experienced, and not the mundane first explanation that your mind wants to give you. Our minds are lazy and unwieldy. The mind hates looking at things anew. It is designed for our survival and memorizes repeated events and environs, it memorizes what we see, hear, and feel and stores it for use in determining ‘Similars’ as a way to keep us safe from harm.
Ever notice that when you look in your journal the same words show up when your writing about your new Love – as when you wrote about your old Love (when you were briefly happy) –’ tis your mind reviewing the words attached to the feeling of new love. Your frustrations about that man or woman’ are your thoughts related to every time you have been thwarted, or frustrated, mixed in with things you have read, heard, or seen to validate those same thoughts – Does that mean you’re wrong? No, it means when you write you write through that mundane filter. I had written that I was moved by the beauty of Sadona – every time I sit down to write all that I see in my mind is every other breathtaking mountain and heart stopping vista I have seen in my life, nothing new, and nothing approaching the feelings I had at the time. I wrote one poem, from that trip, about a sad and odd little living ghost town we had passed through on the way, because I was affected, and new and fresh words were deep in me about that experience. Words deeper in me, for seeing something new, than the mundane observations my mind quickly offered.
Ken Lehnig(c)2016 all rights reserved
The World Anew
Yes, the rose is red and it has thorns, but what else does it convey – what words come to that higher/deeper mind. Does the rose look as if it were colored by blood – do you sense a connection between the rose and your heart? Does the blood red rose remind you of the loss of a loved one? Do the thorns remind you of the pain and uncertainty of relationships? Can you see that there is more to be written than:
You left me with a broken heart
as if you think I wasn’t worth a thing
I sat up all night and cried and cried
I can’t believe the sadness you bring
Really? I know your friends think it’s brilliant – it’s not. Look deeper at what you feel, find something new in the experience, and then elevate the language.
and now a broken heart
misused and discarded
did I give permission
are my tears penance
blind and gullible
a love starved
Okay – give me a break I’m a dude. We guys have to dig a little deeper. But I think it makes the point. Don’t settle on the first idea that comes in your head. That first effort is mind-conversation and suited to a journal entry – not a poem. Use the experience, dig down, and wait for the words – they will come. Let’s try again.
revealing a broken heart
an act in my life’s circus
painted tears and a frown
where I gave permission
I spin with believing
I flip with love’s hope
I fall with gullibility
a loved starved clown
playing the same scene
over and over again
Better? I used imagery that may be peripheral to the main thought. For me the Circus is imagery I associate with busy mysterious coming and goings – perhaps the way I hold ‘love’ – my lovely wife of 38 years has now made that abstract – but is a solid image for me.
I have often written about finding you poetic ‘voice’, this is how that comes about. When you flex the muscle of your mind, by dismissing what the mind flaccidly first offers, and look for another unique way to write, you go beyond a conversation and create a non-verbal, a non-conversational expression. To but it more simply – a good poem is not a conversation with your mind it is a tangible and unique expression of a new or profound experience. That experience being from memory/past looked at anew, an event/present looked at uniquely, or speculation/ future/ abstract in a unique exploration.
The craft of poetry is just this – say it in a better way until you, as the poet, are satisfied it’s the best you can do.
Sorry for the inconvenience. I’m still working on the site.
Ken Lehnig’s Live Set of:
THE AMERICAN MUSIC SHOW
THE AMERICAN MUSIC SHOW
Here is a link of a review of the album by San Diego’s Troubadour. CLICK HERE
What is said about songs on The American Music Show
– Jeff Roberts
About Willy’s Got an old Gibson
I love to open air sound of the recording, brings the song blues cred. Nice guitar accompaniment. Very good vocal and a great harmonica solo cap off this gem.
Dave Haddad (CenterPeace)
Classic, driving acoustic blues about a roving street singer. Cleanly sung, with some good strong blues harp behind it.
– Ian Graham
On Stronger Anyway
I was instantly captivated by the subtle guitar, and the voice only further drew me in. The lyrics and music are emotionally consistent. I love the carefree delivery of the vocalist. Harmonica playing was ok, i thought the lead guitar work could have been better, only because of how could everything else is! the background harmonies gave me chills. reminds me of Dink’s Song by Bob Dylan, also performed in the movie Inside Llewyn Davis, but its not derivative, both songs just give me the same feeling of solidarity and hope, along with a sense of being content with your lot in life. i apologize for the length of this review, but the song was excellent.
– Chris Haise
On Angel I have lost
Nice arrangement. I like the way you mixed up all the different instruments. You place stops at just the right places. Good dynamics. Good job, keep it up.
Dark melody, good harmonies.
On Miss Pauline
This song had a nice feel. The instruments blended well with the main theme. I thought the different sections blended nicely and the transitions worked well also. I liked the soft quality in the singer’s voice, it worked well with the lyrics and added to the overall mood. I liked the variety of instruments used here as well the little counter themes they added were nice
A very “honest” interpretation of the lyrics. I would defiantly “Take Your Hand” ! Lovely song!
Sorry for the inconvenience. I’m still working on the new site.
Ken Lehnig’s tutorial on Song Structure
There have been many workshops on songwriting. On this tutorial I talk about songwriting in general and then in my usual style get eventually to a real study on songwriting specifically on song structure. I use recordings of my own songs to illustrate the points I’m sharing. I trust this will be informative or at least entertaining. I would be pleased if it’s both.
This new Ken Lehnig and the Burning Sage Band’s CD has been a long time in the making. Lyric and melodies written by Ken Lehnig. Arranged by the Burning Sage Band. Produced by Eric DeLand, Cory Wilkens, and Jeff Sers. The intention was to capture the essence of songs, bands, and rock styles that have been apart of American Life.
The band has actually recorded two previous CDs but didn’t release them, due in the most part because its lead singer( me) fell seriously ill. The last album “Four Directions” was made at the beginning of my decline, a good Cd and available now. I have recovered and still in creative mode.
The question was asked of me just recently “What was the strangest gig you have ever played?” Now I know that this could turn into one of those old guy giving you some’ Back in my day!’ tale that just might boor you to death. I have been performing and songwriting since the 60s and it was entirely a different world back then (not the re-packaged version of the psychedelic 60s history you are told) – more to the point the music business was completely different than the technology driven ambiguous thing it has become. In fact the coming tale’s very character, fairy tale like, is I think the charm and value of the tale I am about to impart. I promise I will do my best to bring my writing skills to bear so that it will hold your attention or at least keep you from falling asleep.
It was in the early 70s and the best selling albums were movie themed soundtracks, there were hundreds of signed bands and most of these bands never even broke even. In spite of the harsh reality of the ‘free love-music-is-free-man‘ mentality, I still believed I could be an artist who made money. I believed I had my sh*t together and was in LA doing my best to get signed by a label and prove it.
So after forging myself in the fire of performance and carrying a hand full of demo tapes I headed to LA with an appointment to meet a Talent Manager who had decided to take me on. I was booked as a solo act in all the usual places and was received with luke-warm to outright appreciative applause, depending on the venue and the crowd (That never changes – thick skin is still needed today). I did have some A&R folks stop by here and there and a little buzz started. In those days the starting point to signing with a label was to get a showcase scheduled, with reps from the labels, and that was what I was expecting.
I went back to San Diego and waited for weeks for my manager to call. The frustration was mounting to the point that I had decided that I had better go back to doing construction work – something I did stay with all my working life as a Contractor. I did get the call one Thursday and was told I had an important gig on Saturday night in Beverly Hills at a posh club. I told him I wasn’t that posh – I was long haired and bearded:
“She asked me why, I’m just a hairy guy
I’m hairy noon and night, hair that’s a fright
I’m hairy high and low, ask me why, don’t know”
He said, “Clean up a bit, wear clean and pressed bell-bottoms, boots, a flower shirt and lighten up on the beads. I didn’t wear beads and the beard, in a spirit of cooperation, was reduced to chops. I pulled up in my ‘61 Econoline to the ‘40s like, fancy landscaped, sea rock faced club in a neighborhood that my kind was more often ‘Rodney King-ed’ and hauled off to the drunk tank with a bruise or two, stinging from slanderous comments about my manhood, and ( I swear) a planted bag of weed. This night I escaped that experience. I picked up my guitar case and entered through two eight foot oak doors, replete with stained glass, into a scene from a Bogart movie. The 1940’s motif was carried through with red leather booths, low light, oversized crystal chandeliers , dark walnut grand bar, covering the whole south wall, red lipsticked waitresses in black and white maid’s outfits with very short flaired skirts and petticoats, black seam stocking lines down to red spike-heeled shoes, serving Manhattans, Rob Roys, Martinis, while giving a clear view of their décolletage (no doubt a tip giving incentive). The incredibly fit waiters all wore black tuxes and slicked back hair. The patrons were movie star- made-up women of indiscriminate age, with half revealed buxom, coiffed hair, wearing evening gowns, diamonds, and furs. The men were all balding, or corn-rowed, paunch-ed, cigar smoking, Armani wearing, with diamond pinky rings a-flash, and donning ten thousand dollar watches. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
My Manager pointed toward the raised stage and I moved my ‘out of place’ self through the club, with winks in my direction from both male and female, and me glad-handing all the men as I went. On the stage was a small electric piano, a stand up bass, a mini-drum set with snare, tom, and high hat. – oh and one mike. A big guy in a tux stepped in front of me, smiled and put out his hand. He graciously told me the location of the green room. I made my way through the kitchen and the storage room, finding the afore mentioned green door, with a gold star on it ( I guess that was for me) that same door right next to the lidded garbage cans. The door suddenly opened and an afro wearing white guy, in a tux, threw his arm over my shoulder saying, “Come on in Kenny and meet the guys. We love your stuff.” I asked if he had gotten to one of my shows. He said no but that Phil, my manager, had played a tape to them. I sat down and was handed a can of coke and a turkey croissant. “So have you all memorized my music?” I said between bites. The bald headed guy said that it wasn’t necessary, because the boss believed that any artist worth their salt had to be able to convincingly deliver the epitome of popular contemporary music. Honestly, I was worriedly thinking; Paul Anka, The Four Seasons, Bobby Vinton, maybe Tom Jones, none of whose songs did I play. The ridiculously tall and skinny guy with the impossibly big nose said,” We always do CCR on Saturday nights.” I would have loved to have a picture of my face. So much for making assumptions and thinking God doesn’t do miracles anymore. I probably knew and sang most all Credence tunes – ‘cause I like them and I sang them pretty well. If I hadn’t it would have been a disaster. I never thought to ask if the boys had charts. We waited and chatted till the phone rang – it did – we were on. I pulled out my Yamaha twelve string, checked for ‘close enough’ tuning and followed my ‘band’ to the stage. The big bouncer guy in the tux put out his tree limb sized arm out, clothes-lining me. “Hey Kenny, wait here till your introduced.”
I couldn’t hear the intro other than a low drone. I was concerned at its length, thinking that I hadn’t done enough of real merit to warrant whatever was said. I walked up the stairs to the stage and endured far too much unwarranted applause. Behind me the ‘band’ started Proud Mary; I lifted up my un-mic-ed guitar, leaned into the mic and sang. I and the band did an hour-and-a-half of CCR, repeating those tunes that the club’s well heeled and surprisingly rowdy clients yelled out. When the set was done I schmoozed and took the compliments, business cards and phone numbers on lipstick printed napkins (I wasn’t sure about these), with promises of lunch dates, well as back slaps and cheek smooches with my best ‘It’s all groovy!’ gracefulness.
I went home feeling a bit discombobulated.
The next morning I got a call from Phil and was told I had a meeting with a label. After his pitch all I could think to say is, “What the hell was that?” He laughed as long and as loud as I have ever heard him. He then told me that my audience was, for the most part, underwriters to the music business. It was no wonder I couldn’t put my mind around it – it was not so much a weird audition as it was a business meeting with talking points: 1. Could I sing? 2. Did I have the look? 3. Was I personable? 4. Could I interpret CCR in a way that worked?(still don’t know about that.)
What happened later on is another tale. Oh, did I mention that between a percentage of pour and a huge and stuffed tip jar I walked out with more money for a single gig than I have ever been paid – I guess I owe John Fogerty a couple bucks.
One of the things I am privileged to do is interview up and coming singer/songwriters. I started doing this when my partner David Dodds and I created songwritersmarketplace.com. an international site and San Diego Acoustic.com a local site. Our original intention was somewhat different from what now exists, but there is no complaint from us. Originally we wanted to post articles about songwriting and reviews on equipment. We still have the articles,from very talented folks who generously contribute to the site, on all things of interest to singer/songwriters (hopefully) the interviews was something I did because I knew so many talented people and it was just a natural outcome to chat and give promotional help to these people I cared so much about.
What came of it, as a true blessing, was the gift I got within each and every conversation with such creative people. As my site so ‘modestly’ asserts I am a poet, artist, author and a singer/songwriter. Most of my life I have plied those crafts on the side, while I labored as a contractor in the construction biz. That decision was made early in my life because it would give me the opportunities to gig, do art shows and write, particularly when the building market was slow. It certainly was difficult at times for my family, but all my creative endeavors have on those occasions contributed financially in difficult times.
My point being that when I look back through all those years it wasn’t my 6:00 to 6:00 job that kept me sane it was the fruit of my creative self. Every creative person I chat with says the same thing, “I write songs (paint, sculpt, write, dance, act etc.) because I have to.” The story is always a bit different as to what happen to start the process and every story is unique and remarkable.
The hardest thing any artist faces is whether to make their efforts into a full time endeavor, whether that effort will provide enough income to live at least modestly well.. Today’s economy is not at all helpful. And discourse among artists as to whether their work is devalued is a conversation artists have had since there have been artists. The word ‘Selah’ in Kind David’s Psalms is said to be a note to accompanying musicians to present a musical interlude – one wonders if they complained about the low wages King David offered for their services.
The gift of creativity is apparent and needed by a society that seems, more and more, to devalue the work of, heart, mind and soul –synthisized into one dull grey phrase ‘intellectual property’. I don’t think that any artist will deny that technology has been a help, but can also point to where it has been a hinderence. In a recent interview with a remarkable singer/songwriter the current condition of the music bussiness is a result of the Internet – the ‘Gate’ is open. The simple truth that everything both good and awful is put up on the web, the screening process of the old business has been removed. What the music business, the publishing business, the business of art will turn into when the cultural and technological dust settles no one knows.
What I know for myself and all those fantastic creative people I chat with is that there is no dampening of creative output in the world or the appreciation by society for the exceptional. Whatever the world becomes, the manifestations of creativity; art, music, and literature, will be a part of it, because it is what it is to be human, a spirit or a muse built in and permanent. If you are a person that expresses their creative side continue and work hard to develop your craft joyfully, even if the world now seems indifferent. Do it because you must.
One could well expect a writer of the dark, weird and mysterious poetry and stories I write that I am interested in all things spooky, shadowy, and those things that go bump in the night. I might as well confess that I am a fan of all the ghost hunting shows that are now so popular, and that interest may be so because I too have had so many real life ghostly experiences. Now I don’t know why some folks never have an extraordinary experience, while so many of us have a plethora of odd experiences. I remember a scene in Spielberg’s ‘Third Kind’ film when all the witnesses to the alien aerial display were demanding an explanation from the authorities, an actor, cast to look the loony, said that he had also seen Bigfoot. I’m sure it was written to evoke a laugh because any such statement would have had any sane person doubt that person’s veracity. Why is it that one must be exclusive of the other? I am not loony and those folks I know who have had such experiences are not loony. In fact I would make the case that people who have had such experiences and continue to function are of a sounder mind than those who don’t, I know that is quite a sweeping assertion, but hear me out. These are people who necessarily must radically change their worldview, their sense of reality to continue living. Those that can’t fit those experiences in that world view suffer serious psychological damage, the same kind of damage that is created in war zones, and in disasters both natural and manmade. The fact that these experiencers can assimilate such events and continue to function is remarkable.
Is it possible that such a person might just be hyper aware, because of what they experienced? There is much strangeness out there and one should be skeptical, not closed minded – open minded, but not gullible. I tend to look at the huge number of reporting’s of ghosts, UFOs, and heretofore unidentified critters as more credible than the opinion of some PHD sitting at his or her desk dismissing such sightings/experiences as nonsense, hysteria, hallucination, misidentification, or mental inferiority . Believers perhaps hold opinions and speculation as truth, Skeptics perhaps dismiss as a mindset, with no concern for the truth other than as their Degree would perceive it to be. People do see strange aircraft; even scientific non-believers say there is still 5% of such sighting that go unexplained. Folks do see fanciful creatures that turned out to be real, the mountain Gorilla, jungle Elephants and the Okapi are examples. Just recently looking for the mythical chupacabra has yielded the discovery of a hairless canine with huge biological differences from dogs, wolves and coyotes – the suggestion is that it is a reproducing hybrid., Perhaps lake monsters and bigfoot are not hallucinations but only creatures that have not been positively identified. Somewhere in it all is the answer.
I’ll keep this examination to one aspect of the mysterious. Are there ghosts, and demons and shadow people? I don’t know what these very real experiences are.
I would like to look a bit deeper into one aspect of this ultra reality – ghosts, demons, shadow people and ghost hunting.
I have lived in three paranormally active houses growing up as a boy. The word “Paranormal’, in the meaning I wish to convey, is an experience that is strikingly different than any you would normally experience in your life.
The first house was a duplex made form a large three story house in Providence R.I. 1959. This house was where I believed I developed a dark turn of mind and a fascination for all things weird and unusual. My brother and I had to sleep on the third floor. The stairway was narrow and steep, perhaps three feet wide, at the top was a landing lit by a single hanging bare bulb. There were two doors, one to a locked attic and one to what was to be our bedroom. The room had an eight inch wide plank floor painted green and a simple bathroom with a footed tub, the bath door was cut to match the rafter line. We shared a bunk bed, I on top, my brother on the bottom. We had two small dressers and a toy chest. A single small fan-shaped window allowed a view down to the street and served to create the atmosphere of a horror movie when the full moon cast its silvery beams into the dark room. Everything about the room was from a tale by Edgar Allen Poe, an author I was then reading – the skeptics now saying, “Of course your saw things, your mind was polluted and affected by Poe’s writing and the gothic surroundings”. Perhaps it was all just a young man’s overactive imagination – that was my parents view and accused me for filling my little brother’s head with dark nonsense. Such is the way it is with ‘sane and balanced’ people. My brother and I were still terrified of the room, in spite of all the attempts at having us admit we were scaring ourselves, and would often, when we felt a creepy vibe (a word we didn’t know back then.) we would slip down after everyone went to sleep and fall asleep in the downstairs living room, an act that earned us several weeks of groundings.
In the room my brother and I would hear loud angry arguments between a man and a woman, the argument was the same night after night, to the point that we would sit on the floor and mouth the very adult dialogue by memory. When we told my Father, he took us next door to show us that there were no connecting walls on the third level. The woman who lived in the other duplex was a religious older widow and her daughter; there was not a constant male presence in that house. The voices eventually faded. Blankets were often forcibly pulled from both my brother and me as we lay abed and we were often touched; earlobes tugged, hair pulled, and had our names whispered in our ears by an invisible presence. There were always shadowy movements and many nights a deep sense of dread permeated the room to such an extent that we took the punishment regardless of the severity and continued to sneak down the creepy stairway to sleep downstairs. The solution from the ‘sane’ was that my brother and I had to go to mass every day – the activity did not cease in spite of our new forced piety.
The second was a new family tract home in Warwick R.I in 1960. (The home of SYFY’s hit show Ghost Hunters) My father was doing some remodeling in the kitchen of the newly purchased home. After the first night of demolition, I was laying in bed at about 3:00 am, staring into the hall because I had heard a noise. I then saw a young woman in an old fashioned nightgown walk silently down the hall. She wasn’t solid but transparent. I jumped out of bed and ran out of the bedroom and into the hall – she had disappeared. The same event happened for three continuous nights. The third night when I had run into the hall I looked back to see my father standing in the dark, leaning wide-eyed against the kitchen counter. He had seen her too. When the remodeling was done so then was our lady specter’s nighttime walk. With a bit of research we discovered that the house was built over the foundation of an older farm house. Such events are now called residual hauntings; these episodes are allegedly a recording on the environment of an earlier emotional event, activated by activity, temperature and/or humidity variations. Allegedly limestone filled ground, block, or foundations are the best for holding such recordings
The third house was extreme and the most disturbing. My family had moved to L.A. on Mount Highland just a bit away from the city of Glendale in 1966. I was holding down a job and going to college and moved into a small apartment in the back of the house. The main house was a mansion built in the early 1900s, leased to my father for a ridiculous and suspiciously low rent. The verdant street was lined with older houses and even now has an odd quality; the houses were built along the walls of a small canyon. All the front yards were 10 to 12 feet above the street. The vertical sides were rocked or bricked and most had garages carved into the hillside. Originally the street was apparently a run off or creek bed, paved over to act as a regress. The mostly terraced yards behind the houses rose at about a 60% incline up to an unpaved utility road. Inside the house was resplendent with dark stained oak, hand carved details, a stairway with a stained glass window at the first landing, built-in sideboards and book shelves, butler’s pantry, captain’s room, and cut glass windows in the dining room. Two of the huge bedrooms had double ten-paned doors opening to a veranda that overlooked the street. A perfect setting for the hearing of two young girls giggling and whispering in the night, doors opening and closing, locking and unlocking on their own, objects as small as vases to as large as desks visibly moving on their own, often several feet or more, cold spots that moved around, and the terrorizing of my dog Lady, an otherwise fearless Boxer. The most startling phenomena was that when there was many people in the house table lamps would easily light the room and the place seemed cheery. When you were alone in the house the light cast from lamps, or ceiling lights, seemed to only cast light a few feet. I did an experiment using a white piece of paper – I was able to see the terminus line separating light from dark. When this phenomena would take place my dog would cry, shiver in fear, and snuggle up to me, and child-like whispers and giggling could be heard upstairs. The laws of physics would attest that such a thing isn’t impossible. I have never heard or read of any person who has experienced such a phenomena.
All of these experiences happened before modern equipment was available. Now ghost hunters use camcorders to have a digital eye all over the property, and digital recording devices to record EVPs, voices that are not heard by the unaided ear. EMF meters allow the user to find energy fields that are a function of physical wiring or fields that seem to move about on their own, allegedly indicating spirit presence. Inferred cameras that create video images using heat rather than light, full-spectrum cameras allow still photographs to be taken in both the ultra-violet and infrared spectrum, often used in timed conjunction with standard cameras as a base line image. Ghost boxes are radios that rapidly scan AM frequencies; allegedly spirits can use the white noise to speak through the device. Another device has a word bank and a speech mimicking program, allegedly ghosts can pick words from the bank and the device will say the word or words. Other variations of an EMF meter have an audible tone that is activated, allegedly when an invisible entity comes close.
If we are to believe that all the TV shows that have us watch real investigations in real locations where all of these devices at one time or another have ‘proven’ the existence of invisible entities then it is an astounding, and life changing thing. So why isn’t it? Are the producers of such shows ethical? Some of these shows claim they are skeptical , another comes from absolutely knowing there are ghosts and demons, another from the south uses modern devices and a stick with a bell and feathers, and yet another believe that often spirits of the dead connect to objects and that is the reason for hauntings. All these shows are very entertaining and I remain a fan. Nor do I in any way suggest that the hundreds of paranormal investigative services that are out there are not offering a good service to people who are terrified and need some answers.
Here is the thing – do I believe the things they catch on these shows are real? – Absolutely. Not because I am gullible but because as I have already written, I have experienced such activity first hand , and in fact I have experienced even more strangeness than what has been heretofore revealed on these shows. Perhaps I am waiting and watching to see a way of legitimizing these shows for me. I do have a problem with the whole idea of Ghost hunting. Here are some questions that address my concern.
Why is it that with all the millions of people who have lived before us and have died easily or horribly, died complete or died holding on to a secret, are there so few ghosts to hunt?
Living people come in all variety of being, from sweet as honey to as nasty and cruel as Hitler and every variation of good and evil in between, why then do we assume that ghosts have to be a certain way? How do we really know a demon from the ghost of an asshole?
How do you know that what you are recording is a ghost, the spirit of a once living person?
Having said that – many cultures do have ceremonies that allow for living practitioners to speak aloud directions for the deceased person’s spirit to help find a way to some form of heaven. Angels come in white and black, deamons were spirit guides in ancient times, little folk were both mischievous and helpful. As a Christian I believe there is an afterlife as do most all the religions on earth, past and present. We cannot, or at least do not yet know the nature of that next reality or what and who inhabit that realm. I just have a hard time believing that I’ll have to hang around here in an invisible state for a length of time – not that it couldn’t be exactly what is happening. The use of scientific equipment that catches strange phenomena is a fact, the huge leap to the assumption of what those devices are actually recording is an issue. I would make the comparison of an ancient seeing lightning and believing that Thor was at work in the heavens and someone looking at the bouncing needle of and EMF meter and believing there is a ghost nearby – is the same. We don’t know!
For all that here is a question I have been asking myself since I was a boy. Why do we assume these proofs we witness on TV, or gather for ourselves using scientific equipment are from ghosts?
One of the popular TV shows investigated an Inn. If you have seen the show you’ll know the episode. The claims were that a bride had burned to death in a wing of the Inn before her wedding, her wispy apparition was seen by many guests. A young child was riding his tricycle in the hallway and fell down the stairs and died, the sound of the trike on hard floors was often heard by guests. A cook in the restaurant went mad and killed several patrons with an butcher knife, pots rattle and a threatening voice is heard. The team went to work and caught on video the bridal apparition, recording devices caught the sound of the little boy and trike, pots and pans swung and rattled and were caught on tape; a great night of investigation. The problem was on doing research – none of those events ever happened, there was never a fire, the restaurant was just recently built and there was no record of the child dying – all three tales were local myths. What is the explanation?
Perhaps there have been invisible creatures in the world since the beginning – maybe they hang out now days in abandoned building and the attics of inhabited houses. They hear the stories and want to please, or are pissed off at the intrusion. I don’t know the answer and I’m not sure we ever will.
The Apostle Paul was asked by early Christians (I paraphrase) “Do we have dominion over spirits and demons?” is answer was not as cryptic as we think. “Yes you do – but why would you want to?”
Purchase and read my e-book The Elms Chronicles a paranormal/fantasy/thriller. You will sleep with the lights on – I promise!
The Sozzel the Jongleur is a series of books of dark poetry and eerie and disturbing (but great fun) short stories.