The Bluegrass Situation: Roots Culture Redefined

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Between the Lines: ‘On a Plain’

Aug 20, 2015

I’ll start this off without any words. Well, I would. If I could paint, or sing, or run like a deer. I’m pretty clonky. So, words. A few anyway …

Yesterday, after work, I went out back of the old school. I had a tin of chewing tobacco that Uncle Mike left in the front seat of dad’s truck the last time he was here. I packed a little wad of it and put it in my mouth, way over on the side, in a ball, like I seen Uncle Mike do. After a minute, I got so high, I scratched til I bled. Just my arms. Ringold, the janitor, came around and looked at me funny. Then he saw my arms and looked at me funnier.

I started crying. The finest day I ever had was when I learned to cry on command. Remember that? We were both doing it, after awhile. Anyway, I started crying and old Ringold got all nervous and went inside.

I spat the tobacco out and went uptown and got some ice cream at the Pixie. For awhile I was all about the chocolate. Then I was on a strawberry kick. Now I’m on a plain. I can’t complain. Cools your mouth down after the tobacco.

I was gonna send you a birthday card. Oops! The black sheep got blackmailed again — forgot to put on the zip code. Oh well. Next time. Thought that counts and all.

My mother died every night. Remember? Even you heard the screams, next door. You were always like, “Your mom died again last night.” But maybe it was pleasure. At least, I hope it was. It might have been, sometimes. And if not, well, at least she felt something. (Safe to say, don’t quote me on that!)

They have a new fire engine over here. It’s not like the old siren. This one’s like, “ga-goo-ga!” Somewhere, I have heard this before. Los Alamos? In my dreams — that’s where my memories are stored. As a defense, they say your dreams are more vivid if you’re not getting any. Ha! That explains me! Heck, I’m neutered and spayed!

What the hell am I trying to say? Just this: You seem so bothered, so pressured, into spelling everything out for everyone. Not everything has to make sense. Even to you!

How about this: It is time now to make it unclear. To write off lines that don’t make sense.

Let them figure it out! Baudelaire, Rimbaud, those guys … they’d just write whatever came into their heads. You can do that, too. So can I, for that matter.

One more special message to go. Then I’m done and I can go home. Ready?

I love myself better than you.

Whew. There it is. Okay, Okay, I know it’s wrong. But what should I do? Start over? Become a monk? Take a vow of silence? Again, words! I’d give up the words, if I could make furniture, be a lion tamer.

But whatever. I’ve still got my ice cream.

Story by Dan Bern based on "On a Plain" by Nirvana. Photo credit: stevendepolo / Foter / CC BY.

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