A Poem Illicit by Cindy Knoke

The popular photographer and poet Cindy Knoke wrote us a poem in response to our ongoing flash fiction contest (which ends at midnight tonight so go vote for your favorite story!). Unfortunately, per the fine print of the contest rules, only flash fiction responses meeting the stated criteria will be accepted. All other responses are to be deleted. Yeah, I get down like that. However, reading Cindy’s poem felt to me like listening to a Tom Waits song and if anyone knows me they know I have a huge man crush on Tom. No way I could abandon her poem to a trash can death. So instead I share it here with you where it can shimmy and shake for all eternity as a special supplement to our weekly Sunday Song to Spark the Spirit and Summon the Moves of the Dance…

Continue reading “A Poem Illicit by Cindy Knoke”

In Honor of the Far Too Many Legendary Rockers We Lost This Year…


…many of whom came to us from that Rock Empire across the pond affectionately known as Britain, I celebrate this Holiday* Season Weekend with a contemporary British rock band called BRING ME THE HORIZON.

Finding their fame as a screamo band, with the screamo genre being a derivative of the once popular emo genre, BMTH is transitioning into more of a popular rock vibe, similar to that of a Linkin Park.

While they are youthful lads, BMTH’s music and especially their poetically powerful lyrics, which often put interesting twists on clichés and figures of speech, speak/sing well beyond their years.

You can get a taste of what they have to say in one of the more creative lyric videos >> TRUE FRIENDS (All you grammar nerds, forgive their subjunctive mood faux pas. Even the most intellectual of rockers, Jim Morrison, made the same error).

They also have one of the most creative and socially smart videos I’ve seen in a long time with >> FOLLOW YOU. However, I will warn you in the most strongest terms… It is very graphic and potentially disturbing to those who disturb easily; and maybe to even those who disturb hardly. Be careful.

And in case you were wondering, IMLTHO the best lyric video of all time is courtesy of my main man and living legend >> MR. TOM WAITS.

Time will tell if BMTH reaches the legendary status of the far too many rockers we lost this year. You’ll have to check back with me here in fifty years or so to find out.

Okay, then…


*See this.

You know, sometimes it’s okay to meet your hero…


George Winston in pencil with graphic design


Most of what little refinement I have can be attributed to my lovely and loving wife.

I would say all of it could be attributed to her, but I do have a pretty good three-object juggling technique that I’ve worked hard on over the years to perfect.

Metaphorically speaking, the wife can juggle just about anything thrown her way; non-metaphorically speaking, however, she’s not a juggler by any stretch of the imagination.

But other than my juggling skills, just about anything else refined about me — especially anything artistic or intellectual — more than likely has its foundation somewhere within in my wife’s lovely and loving intellectual and artistic brain.

For instance, my love and appreciation of George Winston’s music is wholly responsible to my wife.

My wife and I met waay back in the Eighties. And waay back in the Eighties when we first met, my brain was only used to hearing such base, animalistic music as Led Zeppelin and The Smiths and Tom Waits and, unfortunately, all that New Wave pain with its fake drum machines and stoopid hairdos that was inflicting itself upon humanity at that time.

But after I met my wife and we started dating, she immediately introduced me to something strange and different. Something called Classical Music.

She introduced me to all the masters, of course…Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and, my favorite, Vivaldi, among others…

And she also introduced me to some contemporary Classical Cat named George Winston.

Yeah, that cat was not just classically Big in Japan (like that slick Tom Waits reference?), he was huge in Japan. Immense.

And I listened to Autumn and the rest, as they love to say, is musical history.

And I have been a huge, immense, fan of his ever since.

George Winston and me
Guess who’s the lucky guy

I remember when mp3 players first came out. This was at the turn of the century; several years before the iPod.

I bought one for my daughter and my eldest son.

But since these mp3 players were new and all the copying of the CDs and uploading of the files was so tedious and technical at the time (Apple hadn’t yet come along to tell us that these new players were going to be important and all the copying and uploading would become second nature to us), the kids didn’t get much value from them.

So I assumed control, first over my son’s (my daughter was older so her giving up on her mp3 player would come several weeks after my son’s giving up). And I loaded all our George Winston CDs onto it. And then I pressed “Play” and it never stopped playing his music for the next, oh I don’t know, three months or so.


We just kept George Winston’s music on. Day and night.

It was magical.

And after the son’s player died from exhaustion, I loaded up the daughter’s and George’s music continued to play, day and night, until it, too, eventually bought the technological farm, so to speak, from overuse.

My sister and her family came to stay with us for a few months during this period of George Winston as the soundtrack of our daily living. She mentioned not too long ago that one of the things she remembers most from that time was the beauty of George’s music constantly playing. Day and night.

Grand memories they are when they come with a soundtrack.

A few years ago, George came through York, PA, and played its Strand Capital Performing Arts Center. The wife and I went to see him perform for the first time as part of a wedding anniversary treat.

And what a treat it was. But we didn’t stick around after the performance to try to meet him. To be honest, I didn’t think anyone of his stature (An example of his stature is illustrated by the fact that he has close to 2 million followers on Soundcloud. Soundcloud! My guess is many of you haven’t even heard of Soundcloud, yet he still has such a following there.) would bother coming out afterwards to meet his fans.

Boy* was I wrong…

My wife, as artistically and intellectually talented as she is, writes and photographs for a Japanese travel website. And when she discovered that George Winston was once again making his way through our neck of the woods, she boldly (she is completely fearless) sent out interview requests to him.

And he responded positively and kindly said to make all interview arrangements with a member of his team.

Which she did.

And just like that my wife and, by extension, I were going to be able to meet this long-time musical hero of ours.

The show was magical, of course. Sublime…

As we were waiting for it to begin, I couldn’t help but overhear all the conversations going on around me. It was interesting, and rather amazing, that they all were basically saying the same thing: How they have been long-time fans of George’s and how important his music has been to their lives.


How wonderful life is that there are such people who can make it so wonderful…

George is one of those wonderful people.

And he would be such a person just by his musical contributions alone.

But, I’ve come to find out, that he is such a wonderful person even had he not been the genius of a musician that he is.

After the show, the wife and I, somewhat nervously, went down to the stage to wait for this wonderful musician.

And so did a gaggle of other dedicated fans.

As I waited for him to come out, I wondered how we all, this gaggle of fanboys and girls, would be received.

To be honest, I was a little worried.

This man and his music have been such a solid, foundational element of my life for so long — over thirty years — and that of the life of the woman I love the most, that I was worried that we were going to be disappointed in him as a person.

How many times have I heard that old saw of a saying, Never meet your heroes.

Forget how many times I’ve heard it, lord only knows how many times I, personally, have said it.

I, the skeptic’s skeptic, can be very skeptical of the human species, to say the least.

I’ve always had a short list, a very short list of heroes.

Mostly I believe heroes are for kids.

Like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny…

Make believe.

I didn’t really believe that George Winston could live up to all that my wife and I had built him up to be.

And I was worried that my most lovely and loving wife would be let down, hurt even, because of it.

But then George came walking out as if he hadn’t just played his heart out for the last two hours.

As if he hadn’t been performing for the last thirty years or so.

As if he were really looking forward to meeting with those who were so anxiously waiting to meet him.

George came out with a bounce in his step and the most welcoming of smiles.

And he headed head first into the waiting gaggle and he shook hands and he hugged and he signed autographs and he took pictures as if he truly enjoyed doing it.

And he did enjoy it.

It was so easy to tell…

By the twinkle in his eye and the ever-present smile on his face, it was so completely obvious that he did really enjoy meeting with us who were so looking forward to meeting with him.

And finally, after all the hand-shaking and all the hugging and all the autographing and all the picture taking, the gaggle went on its merry and mesmerized way…

And then he turned to my wife.

And I thought, okay, how is he going to respond to someone who has come not just to worship, which we of course did, but to also question him and photograph him for a purpose beyond just pure fandom.

Ha ha ha…

He didn’t even think twice about it.

His eye lost not a glimmer of its twinkle, nor did his smile lessen the least bit in its broadness.

He, much to my wife’s amazement and joy (and of course mine..but especially the wife’s), treated her to, quite literally, the time of her life.

George Winston and the wife

I could go on and on in very vivid detail how impressive George Winston is. I could because I saw it first-hand, up close and personal for very near an hour. I watched in awe as he reminisced and laughed and joked – oh lordy is he a funny guy – and impressed us with his knowledge of Japan (he has been to the country twenty-six times and has visited over sixty cities) and its language and his humorous outlook on some of the funny quirks and peculiarities of the Japanese way of life; and I watched especially awed as he performed in his own unique and beautiful way traditional Japanese songs just for my wife…

While she sang to him!


I could go on and on…it was just that special.

It was just that magical.

But I guess it would be better for me to just stop here so I can begin reflecting upon that most magical of evenings.

Yes, I truly am the lucky guy, for I now have the memory of a lifetime, a magical memory, one starring a true hero, and one with the most beautiful of soundtrack from which I will be able to draw upon and play over and over again in my theater of a mind for the rest of my long and lucky life.

George Winston Autograph


*non-gender specific



A selection and sample of George Winston’s work

The Official George Winston Site

Follow George Winston on Facebook

Follow George Winston on Soundcloud

Inside Your Head There's a Record That's Playing

Tom Waits
Tom Waits

Hold ON

They hung a sign up in our town
“if you live it up, you won’t
live it down”
So, she left Monte Rio, son
just like a bullet leaves a gun
With charcoal eyes and Monroe hips
she went and took that California trip
Well, the moon was gold, her
hair like wind
She said don’t look back just
come on Jim
Oh you got to
Hold on, Hold on
You got to hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here
You gotta hold on

Well, he gave her a dimestore watch
and a ring made from a spoon
Everyone is looking for someone to blame
but you share my bed, you share my name
Well, go ahead and call the cops
you don’t meet nice girls in coffee shops
She said baby, I still love you
Sometimes there’s nothin left to do

Oh you got to
Hold on, hold on
You got to hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here, you got to
just hold on

Well, God bless your crooked little heart
St. Louis got the best of me
I miss your broken-china voice
How I wish you were still
here with me

Well, you build it up, you wreck it down
you burn your mansion to the ground
When there’s nothing left to keep you here, when
you’re falling behind in this
big blue world

Oh you got to
Hold on, hold on
You got to hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here
You got to hold on

Down by the Riverside motel,
it’s 10 below and falling
by a 99 cent store she closed her eyes
and started swaying
but it’s so hard to dance that way
when it’s cold and there’s no music
well your old hometown is so far away
but, inside your head there’s a record
that’s playing, a song called

Hold on, hold on
You really got to hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here
and just hold on.

© Tom Waits & ANTI Records

About a Fanboy

I am fortunate to have many interests and loves in my life.

One of them is Music.

I love music like it’s nobody’s business.

At least that’s what it says on my About page, anyway.

And it’s true. I love all kinds of music. I especially love Rock music—particularly of the Indie variety—and Bluegrass music—particularly of the Traditional variety—and Classical music—particularly of the Baroque variety—and Rap music—particularly of the Gangster variety. I prefer my music new as opposed to old and live as opposed to recorded. And I’m always a sucker for musical street performers—anyone who has the stones to put themselves out there in front of the unsuspecting and merciless public like that, regardless of what they are playing, regardless of how good or bad it sounds, will always get a grateful round of applause and a sympathetic buck or two out of me.

But when it comes down to it, I’m not really that picky at all about my music. In fact, I regard my relationship to music just as I do my relationship to food: It is absolutely critical for my survival and, if I am given the choice, I will always choose that which pleases my palate the most; however, when I don’t have the choice, I will thankfully eat whatever is on my plate and I will often ask for seconds.

In regards to music, my eyes are rarely, if ever, bigger than my stomach.


I have a decade or so worth of pleasant memories from my early youth of cheesy Top 40 Seventies music playing (streaming?) constantly on my family’s kitchen radio. The station on the dial back then was always on an AM station (the early Seventies was in the pre-FM era don’t forget) called CKLW, which was broadcast all the way out of Windsor Ontario, Canada.

That’s right, I said Canada. For those of you younguns who know nothing about the power of the AM signal and its history in shaping America’s musical soul, you might want to take the time to learn a little bit about it.

While an AM signal may be powerful, if you’re picking it up after it has skipped and reflected and refracted its way over long distances, like say from Canada across Lake Erie to Ashtabula Ohio, it sometimes—okay, it mostly—tunes in a little garbled sounding, a little shaky sounding, a little like these-crazy-Canadian-DJs-warble-like-they’re-aliens-from-outer-space sounding.

However, to me, that was part of its appeal.

It was pretty cool as a kid to listen to a radio station beaming in from a foreign country, crappy signal and all. It was as if I was the Repressed Underaged Dissident secretly tuning in to Radio Free Canada to listen for the songs with the secret instructive codes as I worked to fight and overthrow the Repressive Parental Establishment.

Okay…you’re right…as a kid I didn’t think about that kind of stuff at all.

That was just me as an adult projecting a somewhat skewed romantic idealism back on my very normal youth. It was more like that was the only station there was to listen to so that’s what we listened to. No romance there but when that’s all you got, then that’s all you know, and that’s all you expect, so I was perfectly content with the quality of the sound that I was listening to at the time.

I still can hear the station’s jingle as clear as ever (or as clear as an AM radio signal can be): “C-K-L-W, The Motor Cit-eeee…”

And let’s not forget those goofball schticky commercials they used to play: “…that Merollis what a great great guuuy!”

Good times.

But I guess you had to be there to understand.


Listening to crazy silly Top 40 Seventies music non-stop between the ages of five and thirteen (I was 13 in 1978 and, if I remember correctly, 1978 was about the time that FM radio and a station called K104 out of Erie PA entered my life) had to have done some kind of permanent brain damage, no?

Yes, I suspect it was those crazy silly Top 40 Seventies songs pouring non-stop out of that tin-can-sounding kitchen radio that set the foundation for my love of music.

And I also suspect it was my mother.

My mother was always singing songs of her generation—partial clips of songs from Bobby Vinton – “Roses are red my love, violets are blue…” or Frankie Valli – “Dawn, go away I’m no good for you…” or Neil Sedaka – “They say that breaking up is hard to do…” or many other singers of the Golden Oldies era whose songs are forever embedded in my brain.

And she liked to listen to the radio and sing along and dance and happily shuffle and scoot around the kitchen as she cooked and cleaned.

When she sang along with the contemporary songs on the radio, she always would get the lyrics wrong and it would always drive my sisters and me crazy.

But in a good way.

I have to laugh now because I am completely guilty of driving my kids crazy for the same kind of reasons.

What is it about parents that make us so embarrassing to our children?

Speaking of embarrassing your children, not only did my mother like to dance around the kitchen by herself, she also liked to far too frequently haul me out onto the living room dance floor to dance the jitterbug with her. In retrospect, I suppose I actually enjoyed it…at least up until I hit puberty and transformed into one of those unbearable passive aggressive teenage turds. But by that time, the damage had been done: I was well on my way to becoming a music junkie.

And speaking of dancing, ask my sisters about our Saturday Night Fever living room dance floor moves.



As a teenager, I was pretty agnostic about music. For the most part, whatever was on the radio was good enough for me. But I did collect a few albums that I pretty much wore out, which, I guess, is indicative of where my musical preferences were first defined, and from which they were developed.

The first album I can remember really latching on to was my parents’ eight-track tape of The Beach Boys’ Greatest Hits. That album was an epiphany to me. Little Deuce Coupe, 409, I Get Around, California Girls…pure musical bliss.

As for eight-track tapes—what an unfortunate but necessary period in the evolution of music, I suppose.

In vinyl, my favorites were Queen’s “The Game,” Alice Cooper’s “Billion Dollar Babies,” and Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” albums.

I had many cassette tapes, but my favorites were anything by ACDC with Bon Scott as the lead, especially their “Highway to Hell” album, Van Halen’s self-titled first album, The Cars’ self-titled first album, and Rush’s 2112 and “Moving Pictures” albums.

All very much in the mainstream, I admit; but hey, in my view it doesn’t matter what stream you’re fishin’ your music out of as long as the fishin’ is good.


As an adult, many singers have left an impression upon me over the years, but there are three who were able to leave more than just an impression—with their voices and artistry, they were able to weave themselves and their music into the very fabric of my soul. A dorky-clichey thing to say, I know, but true, nonetheless.

The three singers are:

  • Morrissey – the depressingly uplifting androgynous punk pop rock seething soul singer
  • Tom Waits – the harsh-voiced hobo of haunting harmony
  • and, of course, Kurt Cobain – the king of pain…excruciatingly painful and pleasurably addictive pain.

I could have almost just as easily listed Tupac and Beck and several singers who mean so much to me, but it is Morrisey, Waits, and Cobain who have made the biggest musical impact on my life and who most deserve my public recognition and admiration.

I am sure their publicists have called them all ready to let them know the unique and distinctive honor I have just bestowed upon them.

Well, perhaps Kurt has yet to receive the call.

You never know.

Okay, not a very original list, I concede. Probably a good chunk of folks from my generation would come up with the exact same three. However, I don’t so much see that as a knock on my originality as it is an affirmation of their power and influence on a critical, sometimes cynically so, and scarred generation that had to endure the unbelievably bizarre and oftentimes downright embarrassing pop music of both The Seventies (Bay City Rollers anyone?) and The Eighties (A Flock of Seagulls anyone?).

Back in the late eighties and early nineties when I first began listening to Morrissey, Waits, and Cobain, their individual styles were completely unique and their influence was at their greatest (Waits began his career began in the early Seventies as a jazzy cool piano crooner, but it wasn’t until the Eighties and his release of Swordfishtrombones when he began transforming his sound and really began hitting his stride; one could argue that Waits is still just as influential now, if not more, as he has ever been).

It was when I had just recently been promoted to adulthood status and was still learning the ropes of life when I became a devoted fan of each of the three singers. To me, back then, they were the most original mind twisting turning embarrassingly revealing artists I had ever heard.

Their indelible stain on my life is obvious and distinct.


My transformation from a passive listener of whatever pop crap corporate America shoved at me on format radio to an active seeker of new and visionary sounds began when I joined the navy in 1983:

– While attending my navy service school in Pensacola Florida, my first roommate, after a long, persuasive campaign, turned me on to such groups as Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, and Yes.

– A lifelong buddy who I met at my first duty station in Washington DC and who I am so thankful to have recently reconnected with online turned me on to the likes of Steely Dan and Supertramp and Led Zeppelin and insisted, and still does I am certain, on nothing but the highest artistic and technical standards in his music.

– But it was while assigned to my second duty station in Kami Seya Japan sometime in 1986 that my musical interests really began to, paradoxically, both broaden and refine. Again, it was another roommate who deserves much of the credit, and who also happened to be a “Cleveland kid” like myself (he understood all of my regional cultural references and even did a great impersonation of those ubiquitously annoying Rick Case commercials–“HI! THIS IS RICK CASE!”). I credit him for turning me on to two out of the three most influential musical acts in my life: The Smiths/Morrisey and Tom Waits. I never was able to be as demanding of my music or its sound as he was—I was and continue to be way too lazy for all that effort. Consequently, he once accused me of having a “barbaric ear” when I told him I couldn’t tell the difference in sound quality between his old stereo and his upgraded and very expensive, new stereo system (I assume I “developed” my barbaric ear by listening to and being content with that wonderfully crappy Canadian AM signal for so many of my formative years). Boy, was that a mistake. I don’t think I ever regained my credibility with him after that. But I definitely did learn to be more musically discerning from him, and for that, I thank him, as I thank all of you who have guided me and instructed me all throughout my musical evolution.

– It was during my last duty station in the navy that another enduring buddy of mine (surprisingly he endures even though he’s from Michigan—Aaaach! Spit!—sorry, had to get that nasty southern canadian taste out of my mouth after saying the “M” word) who, with his deadpan spot-on humor and hilarious outlook on life and (begrudgingly, and somewhat enviously, I admit) deep and broad and understated intellect, was always turning me on to some of that new and good stuff. Among other musical groups and singers, I give him credit and especially thanks for introducing me to a group called Cake (I also “blame” him for addicting me to a couple of my now can’t-live-without-authors, two of whom are David Sedaris and Tom Robbins…but we’ll save that discussion for another day and another overbearingly long and boring article about my literary reminiscences).


Since I don’t get around too much anymore and I do not have too many opportunities to make new friends who can expose me to new sounds, I am very fortunate to have such an intelligent and creative and gifted family. It is my wife and three children, each with their own unique tastes and deep love for exceptional music from whatever genre it may be found, who are now my constant goto sources for the new and the different and the good.

It is my wife who has instilled in me a love for all of the finer and refined things in life, and music is no exception. It is from her that I have become a classical music junkie. I can get lost for hours with the headphones on listening to Bach and Vivaldi and Mendelssohn and all of the other universal geniuses whose names I can never remember. And when I am not listening to them in isolation, it soothes me to hear my wife’s stereo, forever fixed on the local NPR Classical Music station, constantly floating out wonderfully timeless melodies into the atmosphere of our home.

And it is from my children’s influence and advice that I have grown to love and depend upon the likes of Bright Eyes and Modest Mouse and Blink 182 and Boxcar Racer and most recently Sun Kil Moon and Jose Gonzalez and I cannot wait to find out what they will turn me on to next.

And if I never discover any new music for the rest of my life, I will alway have my boys’ band The Northcoast to listen and groove to and to be thankful for.


Some say that rock is dead.

That is debatable.

But the possibility of discovering that next fresh new sound that will take my life in new directions is not debatable. That possibility will never die, at least not within me.

For it is those kinds of possibilities in life, musical and otherwise, that I live for.

Because I have so many interests and loves in life, life affords me so many possibilities.

Because I have so many possibilities, I have so much to live for.

And, since I have so much to live for, I am very aware of how fortunate I am.

Sure, I have had my share of ups and downs and I will continue to have them, but I have always been a fortunate man.

Just take one look at my beautiful family and my comfortable home and my supportive friends and my interesting work experience and and my enduring educational experiences and my distant travels and even my goofy dogs and so many other things that I call mine and that are priceless to me, and you will see my fortune and you will understand just how fortunate I am.

If you think I am talking about money, then you have yet to build your fortune.

I feel sorry that some people live such unfortunate lives.

If it didn’t make me feel so happy and lucky and, in all honesty, a little cocky, I could almost feel guilty for how fortunate I am and for how good life has always seemed to treat me.

But I feel no guilt because it takes hard work and commitment to build a fortune.

Yet I do feel thankful. Very thankful.

And I am especially thankful that Music is one of the many valuable shares within that vast and forever-inflating fortune called my life.

Yes, I am a fortunate man, indeed.

And yeah, I do love music like it’s nobody’s business…