Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary


March 2012

Watching TV by Candlelight

Rock and RollBot

Do you realize if it weren’t for Edison we’d be watching TV by candlelight?  Al Boliska”

He strikes a heroic pose

his bicorne hat cocked at a jaunty angle

he gazes out across the sodden fields of Waterloo

stands in that iconic hand-in-waistcoat gesture

Napoleon’s hand cradles his iPod Touch

dials in the 1812 Overture

on the Classic Works of Russian Composers play list


The streets of Vienna are slick with new fallen snow

he works late into the night

hunched over a desk in the mahogany paneled study

illuminated by soft light from a MacBook Pro laptop

Dr. Freud’s face is a mask of bewilderment

as he Googles the meaning of the idiom:

“Yo Mama!”


The ship’s pilot peers through the astrolabe

sailors cluster together, speak in hushed tones

about sea serpents & sailing off the edge of the earth

Cristoforo Columbo emerges from his cabin

announces the East Indies will have to wait

his search on Mapquest has revealed

they are headed for someplace called The Bahamas 


He picks up his fiddle

plays a tune that he can’t get out of his head

he’s just been told there’s trouble at Circus Maximus

“No reason to get get my toga in a twist” he thinks

“It’s only a little fire. How bad could it possibly be?”

Distracted, Nero sets the fiddle down & goes into the other room

to update his Facebook status.


How the tides of history might have turned

had Genghis Khan’s relentless advance

across the steppes been broadcast

on his twitterfeed & The Declaration of Independence

written on GoogleDocs

the Pony Express ~ going nowhere fast

had homesteading rights included

unlimited text messaging

The Lunch Lady Cookbook ~ Rock Stream Slam Sausages


The Lunch Lady Cookbook

Rock Stream Slam Sausages

Hey everyone! How ya’ doin’? This is The Lunch Laddy, Michael Maxwell, coming to you with another recipe for The Lunch Lady Cookbook. Since we’re in the middle of what Mother Jones Magazine calls “a mutant heatwave shattering all records” and that ain’t funny for all kinds of reasons, I thought I’d at least honor this premature blast of solar radiation with some traditional warm weather fare. The Lunch Lady Cookbook is proud to present to you: “Rock Stream Slam Sausages.” You’ll need the following ingredients:

1 pound fresh Italian Sausages (preferably HOT)

1 Sweet Vidalia Onion

1 Red Pepper

Fresh Sesame Rolls

1 Six Pack Pork Slap Pale Ale (TM Pork Slap Pale Ale)

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Wango Tango Habenero Hot Barb-B-Que Sauce (TM Dinosaur Barb-B-Q)

The staff at The Lunch Lady Cookbook is always on my case and all up in my grill to put a new spin on things, so I’m delivering this recipe in the form of a slam poem. The recipe (poem) should be read with a funky, up tempo bass and drum track. As always, this should be played by live musicians, if at all possible. However, if this is not practical, then may I suggest sampling James Brown’s Funky Drummer where he instructed drummer Clyde Stubblefield as follows: “You don’t have to do no soloing, brother, just keep what you got… Don’t turn it loose, ’cause it’s a mother.” Remember the immortal words of Mr. James Brown: “A man got his hair and teeth, he got it all!”

Cue the music and hit it!

Rock Stream Slam Sausages

“This is how we do it,” he said,

pouring olive oil in a pan and turning the burner up high

“Heat that oil up, and crank the music loud

but don’t let ‘er get too hot or she’ll smoke!

At least, that’s what SHE said

Meanwhile, slice some peppers up,

if you got ‘em. sweet onions, if you want ‘em,

then put ‘em in the pan when it’s good and hot,

Once they start fryin’, lay them sausages right down in there

Take care to turn ‘em, cuz you don’t wanna burn ‘em

Get some rosemary, basil and chives from the garden,

cut ‘em up and pile ‘em in, then put a lid on it

When the onions start to go brown and clear,

they’re carmelizin’, so you crack a beer,

whatever kind ya got, before she gets too hot,

pour a little in the pan, then drink the rest

Lower the heat and cover it quick. Let it all stew for a little bit,

‘till them sausages turn plump and pink

Take ‘em off the stove and set ‘em aside.

You can let ’em sit like that, while you go outside

take the dogs for a walk, see a man ‘bout a dog … whatever

Fire up the grill and get it smokin’ hot,

then you drop them sausages right on in there,

cover ‘em up and turn the flame down low, if you’re cookin’ with gas,

otherwise you gotta let it go, ‘til ya get them coals to glow

Be sure to cook ‘em slow

That’s when you start paintin’ on the barbeque sauce

Don’t be shy about it, slather it on nice and thick

Keep ‘em turnin’, cuz you don’t wanna burn ‘em

Down another cold one, take it easy and take your time,

maybe even have another one, cuz when that’s done,

they’re done, then you take ‘em off the grill

Before ya put it to the test, ya gotta let it rest

That’s the secret to grillin’ good meat

That meat been workin’ hard, my brother,

ya gotta let it rest.”

Slather with Wango Tango Sauce while they’re on the grill.

Wango Tango Sauce

Serve on sliced rolls that have been grilled until gently toasted.

Increase the heat with hot horseradish mustard.

Beer Pairing: Porkslap Pale Ale

Music Pairing: “Gimme Back My Wig” Hound Dog Taylor

“Muddy Waters”  The Chess Box

Porkslap Pale Ale

Book Journal ~ FINAL NOTES J P Reese


FINAL NOTES poems ~ J P Reese ~ Naked Mannequin, 2011

 I’m sitting in the midday sun on my deck, dogs at my feet, taking in the balmy spring air and listening to bird calls on what, technically, is the last day of winter. We are captivated by watching a group of birds noisily banish a red tailed hawk from their territory. After much flapping of wings and dueling from tree to tree, the hawk has retreated. Mourning doves call from the tumble down woods across the road. Spring breezes whoosh through the branches of tall pines. It’s a perfect day for quiet contemplation and reading the poetry of J P Reese. The book I have in my hand is Reese’s new chapbook entitled Final Notes. 

I’m not a literary critic nor do I aspire to be one. The Alice B. Toklas Book Journal doesn’t even have book reviews, as such. In fact, I prefer to call them Book Reports. I know it may sound juvenile, but I don’t care. It’s a way for me to share reflections about books I’ve read that have moved me in a positive way.

I grew up listening to albums, first on vinyl, then tapes and CDs and now as digital downloads. No matter what the format, they’re still specific collections of songs, often thematically linked and arranged by the artist to be played in a specific order. I grew up with this structure and I have become hard wired to it. Perhaps I find the chap book format so appealing because it operates on so many of these same principles. For me, J P Reese’s chap book, Final Notes has that kind of album vibe. To carry that metaphor just a bit further, many of my favorite albums were a collection of 12-15 songs, each one only a little over two minutes long. Final Notes is a collection of 16 poems, each one of them short, compact, stripped down to bare essentials and almost Zen-like in its simplicity. However, this is not to say that economy of motion, brevity and simplicity are traits that are necessarily synonymous with shallow or superficial, because, in this case, nothing could be further from the truth. Reese’s poems are full of of the kind of heart and soul that is reached only by plumbing the depths and mysteries of the human spirit. Reese draws the reader into the theme of any given piece with clear language and vivid imagery, but the depth of meaning comes from reading the poems again and again. To return to my music metaphor, it’s the same way a song grows on me. I really need to hear it over and over again.

Final Notes is a collection of poems about what it’s like to be alive in America in the 21st century. The poems are quiet meditations on the passage of time, relationships with domestic partners, love, loss, strength, and perseverance. Reese contemplates caring for aging parents “at the end of your life”, the shattering of the American dream against “the blind windows of Wall Street”, hopes and dreams for her children, a poignant profile of a psychically scarred soldier home from the war in Iraq which, for him, will never end, and a chilling, but beautiful refection on the day the Twin Towers fell that somehow reminds me of paper cranes of Hiroshima. For me, the shortest poem in the collection is the most cryptic, while at the same time, written in the most beautiful and lyrical language. Final Notes is a wonderful chap book of sparkling poems and I will return to it time and time again.

About the Author 

JP Reese is associate Poetry Editor for Connotation Press: an Online Artifact and Poetry Editor for THIS Literary Magazine. She teaches English at a small college on the North Texas prairie. Reese’s published works can be found at Entropy: A Measure of Uncertainty:

Concert Review ~ Greg Brown

Greg Brown at The Hangar Theater

Greg Brown at The Hangar Theater ~ Ithaca, N.Y. March 16, 2012

Dan Smalls Presents presented Greg Brown played at Ithaca’s Hangar Theater on Friday March 16. Hats off to Dan Smalls for bringing someone like Greg Brown to a venue like The Hangar.  It was the perfect venue for this concert; small, intimate, with great acoustics, and not a bad seat in the house. It’s the kind of venue that allowed Greg Brown to establish a personal rapport with an appreciative audience. Perfect fit – Slam Dunk – Total Home Run!

Greg Brown has been an icon on the singer-songwriter scene for a long, long time. He’s from Iowa, born there, grew up there, and even with the peripatetic life style of a troubadour, he still calls it home. My curiosity was piqued by this because I grew up in the midwest and spent a couple of formative years of my childhood in Iowa. I’d heard some of his music, the odd track here and there on various anthologies, and he was a regular on A Prairie Home Companion, but it wasn’t until his epic 2000 release, Convenant, that I got totally hooked. This is one of those rare collections on which every song is a perfect, sparkling jewel. I’ve almost worn out the grooves on this CD from playing it so much. Oh wait, CDs don’t have grooves, but you get the picture. After 12 years and a lot of other music, this still remains one of my favorite collections of anyone’s music. I’ve been waiting to see Greg Brown ever since Covenant came out, and his performance at The Hangar exceeded all my expectations. Part of the beauty was that nearly every song he played was new to me. His planned playlist did not stop him from spontaneously going down unexpected roads. He also played songs “that he wasn’t sure he could remember” and “that just popped into my head.” His cover of Merle Haggard’s Where Did America Go was so poignant, heartfelt and timely that it almost brought me to tears. I so admire that kind of authenticity, and I am honored that he felt comfortable enough with us to take those risks.

Greg Brown is tough to hang a label on. Is he a folk singer – a singer of Americana – a blues musician – a humorist – a story teller ? He is all of these and more. Although, one thing I know for sure, he’s not an opera singer. But I like that about him. His voice is deep, rich and sonorous; often dipping so low down into the bass range that it almost feels like he’s slipping off the edge of the planet, or at least off the edge of his chair, and taking you with him. His vocal style is so relaxed, loose and casual that it feels like he’s not even really trying to sing, almost approaching the notes with a loose approximation before finally zeroing in. But it works – damn it – it really works. His voice reminds me of the most comfortable pair of jeans you’ve ever worn, or a 20 year old Kentucky bourbon that slides down like velvet and warms you right down to where you live. And it’s not an affectation. It’s Greg Brown singing only the way Greg Brown can sing. He fully inhabits his voice and uses it as a true vehicle to tell the stories in his songs.

This is all supported by flawless, crisp guitar technique. An absolute virtuoso of finger picking technique mixed with rich, lustrous strumming, he frequently employs dropped note tunings to add a deep bottom end. Greg Brown is also one wicked good blues player. The first few songs were so deeply rooted in the blues it felt like my feet were stuck in Mississippi River mud. He sings songs and tells stories about people and places, Iowa farmers, long, quiet highways in the midwest that go on forever, love, loss, nature, raising children, dogs, sticky situations, aging and everyday life. Greg Brown is truly authentic and one of a kind. It was a great concert. I loved it, and I’ve already listened to Covenant twice today. If you listen to Pandora Radio, create a Greg Brown station. You won’t regret it. Another thing you won’t regret is going to a Dan Smalls Presents show at The Hangar Theater. If you go, look for me, I’ll be there!

The Things That I Used To Do

The Things That I Used To Do

Dangerous Toys, Urban Legends and Lost Innocence

“The things that I used to do, Lord, I don’t do no more….”

Guitar Slim

Guitar Slim

When I was 9, I was obsessed with the idea of acid, for some reason. Not the lysergic variety; that came a few years later; but the kind of acid that Vincent Price kept in a vat in the dungeon of his creepy mansion in House on Haunted Hill.

House on Haunted Hill

Someone told me that if I poured sulfuric acid on the ground, it would burn a hole through the earth and all the way to China. The very idea that I could dig a hole in my back yard in Wisconsin and eventually emerge in China was mind blowing. And so began my quest for acid. There was an urban legend that golf balls were constructed around a core of acid. It took some gnashing of teeth, pulling of hair and lots of trial and error, but I finally figured out how to clamp a golf ball in the vise of my Dad’s workbench in the basement and that a hacksaw, not my jack knife, was the right tool for the job. Imagine my disappointment when I finally broke through to the core, only to find that that it was not full of acid as I hoped, but consisted of harmless solid rubber tightly wrapped in rubber bands.

Golf Ball

Around that same time, after pestering my parents until they couldn’t stand it any more, I got a chemistry set for Christmas. I was thrilled to find that tannic acid was one of the supplied materials. The basement, which had been the scene of my ignominious failure with the golf ball, was now resurrected in all its glory as my laboratory. As I descended the cellar stairs, my mind was on fire with visions of beakers burbling over with frothing green liquid and explosive compounds more unstable than liquid nitroglycerin. Once again, my hopes were dashed when the most dramatic experiment in the kit only resulted in litmus paper changing color.

Chemistry Set

Those were more innocent times. We were expected to make our own fun. During summer vacations, we ran around like a half naked savages, disappearing on our bikes to spend entire days playing in unstructured and totally unsupervised ways. Our parents let us run wild and do stuff we would never dream of letting our own kids do. There were BB gun wars that involved the whole neighborhood. This was before kids used real guns for real wars and the term “drive-by” wasn’t even in the lexicon of American slang. We played on freight cars full of logs. Never mind the wood ticks. Our swimming hole was a lagoon full of leeches. It was worth the risk just to be able to go swimming. We hung out by the railroad tracks behind Dairy Queen and put Indian head nickels on the rails so they’d get squashed flat. We’d jump on the occasional passing freight train just to ride it for a few blocks. All this gave new meaning to the phrase: “Beat it kid. Why don’t ya go find some traffic to play in…” We spent a lot of time blowing up cans and tree stumps up with M-80s. Those things were no joke. Originally developed for the military as a simulator for live explosives, they were banned by the Child Protective Act of 1966 and then made illegal by the ATF.


Like I said, those were more innocent times. While this may read like the diary of a young terrorist, we were just kids being rough and rowdy and curious. In those days, most of these antics were regarded as basically harmless and addressed with a slap on the wrist. Now they would be viewed as terrorist acts and prosecuted as felonies. I really was a  good kid. But like any good kid, I could also be a real pain in the ass. I believe in karma. So it’s no surprise that I ended up spending 17 years of my career in public education in Middle Schools. Payback’s a bitch!

My Grandpa used to bring back the coolest presents for us from his trips to Mexico. One year it was bullwhips. I’m sure my Mom loved that one. Then it was cattle brands with our initials, and we started branding everything in sight. I still have the skull ring my uncle brought back from Tijuana. There was a shrunken head carved out of a coconut and a succession of sombreros and ponchos. That was before the Urban Sombrero on Seinfeld or Camarillo Brillo by Frank Zappa. “Is that a Mexican poncho? Or is that a Sears poncho? Hmmm…no foolin….”   (Frank Zappa – Camarillo Brillo)

Lash LaRue

Let’s not forget the stuffed baby alligators everyone used to bring home from Florida. Something that is so obviously inhumane and unspeakably cruel now, was absolutely de rigueur in mid-century suburban America. Everyone had to have one. This gave birth to one of my favorite urban legends of all times – the proverbial giant albino alligators living in sewer systems. This species of savage mutants evolved after people brought baby alligators home from Florida, realized they didn’t make very good family pets and flushed them down the toilet.

Stuffed Baby Alligator

All things are relative, but the world is a dangerous place and kids grow up a lot faster these days. Innocent curiosity still leads kids to stick their fingers in the fan and play with fire. The other day a 15 year old high school kid described to me how easy it was to jailbreak his iPhone. He showed me one of the features of an app that he had downloaded, that normally goes for the low, low price of $999.00 and enables the user to call a butler. Of course, what teen age boy couldn’t use the services of a butler? But seriously, this kid will either end up being the next Bill Gates or doing a stretch in a federal pen for hacking into the Pentagon.

Butler With Feather Duster

When I was his age I was still amusing myself by branding stuff with that cattle brand my Grandpa gave me. I hitch hiked all over two continents too, but I don’t pick up hitch hikers and I would probably walk 100 miles before sticking my thumb out on the open road now. Still I do think back to those magical presents Grandpa gave us. Since I’m not Indiana Jones, I probably wouldn’t have any use for a bull whip now, although I could see myself wearing a fedora.

Indiana Jones

Introducing The Lunch Lady Cookbook Rock Stream Red Beans and Rice


Lunch Lady Cookbook Introduction and Recipe I

Michael Maxwell here to introduce the newest category on Your Own Backyard. I am proud to present to you the first recipe in The Lunch Lady Cookbook. I am your host, The Lunch Laddy. 

Those of you who know me have heard me say that all good recipes should be built upon a solid foundation of bacon. While although I may have said that, I am no longer married to that rule, since all rules are made to be broken. However, suffice it to say, you may build any recipe you choose upon a solid foundation of bacon, but cheese or beer could be substituted just as easily. I feel it is incumbent on me to issue an advisory that not all of these recipes are for the faint of heart. In fact, many of them may need to be modified relative to your personal tastes or medical conditions, such as having only one artery left to clog. So please, adapt accordingly, drive safely and don’t go swimming for at least an hour after eating. (I think that is one of those old adages in the same category as catching pneumonia from getting your feet wet)

Also, although I am as carnivorous as Tyrannosaurus Rex, many of the recipes are vegetarian – as is the case with my first one – and if you choose not to top with cheese it is  (GASP!) Vegan! and so, without further adieu, I give you ~

Lunch Lady Rock Stream Red Beans and Rice


1 Cup Brown Rice

2 Cups Water

1 16 oz Can Red Kidney Beans (no salt added)

2 Cups Chopped Red, Yellow and Orange peppers

1 Cup Finely Copped Red Spanish Onion

3 Green Onions

2-3 Cloves Garlic

2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Freshly Ground Garlic Powder

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Freshly Ground Sea Salt

Red Pepper Flakes

Half Cup Shredded Cheddar

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Sour Cream

Combine rice and water, bring to boil, and simmer until done.

Lightly saute chopped veggies in olive oil. Add garlic last so it does not overcook.

Drain red beans. Combine rice, veggies and beans in 2 Qt Casserole.

Add seasonings to taste. Don’t go hog wild, but it’s gotta have some hair and teeth.

Cover with shredded cheddar. Bake at 350 in Covered Casserole for 45 minutes.

Serve with tortillas and top with healthy dollop of sour cream and salsa.

Suggested beer pairing ~ Great Lakes Brewery Edmund Fitzgerald Porter

(Because that’s what’s currently in my fridge)

Suggested Musical accompaniment ~ Live Musicians if you can afford them

otherwise  ~ Acoustic En Vivo  ~ Los Lobos ~ while cooking

Los Lobos ~ Acoustic En Vivo

~ Buena Vista Social Club ~ while eating

Buena Vista Social Club

Eat hearty Maties!

Book Report TIMBUKTU by Paul Auster

Timbuktu by Paul Auster

TIMBUKTU  by Paul Auster

I finished reading Paul Auster’s 1999 novella, Timbuktu a couple of days ago, and I have to say, it’s one of the most beautifully written and haunting books I’ve read in a long time. You might say it really got inside my head and under my skin. However, I think it’s more accurate to say that I really got inside the head and skin of the protagonist, a dog named Mr. Bones; through whom the story is told. Wait, I know what you’re thinking. You’re ready to hang it up right here and bail out, writing this all off as demented drivel from a sentimental dog lover rhapsodizing about one more tear jerking tale of an anthropomorphized mutt on a Homeric odyssey. Well, if that’s what you think, you’re wrong. It’s not Benji or Bobby the Wonder Dog or Lassie Come Home. It’s not that at all. I do admit that I am sentimental and I am a dog lover; and there is a dog and there is an odyssey. However, there is more to this story than that.

First of all, I think Paul Auster is a genius. His command of language and his ability to tell a story as a meditation on some of the major philosophical quandaries of life ranks right up there in the upper echelon of the Gods of Literature pantheon. I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy! Auster’s narrative prose alone is worth reading just to hear the music created by the lyrical flow of language. Timbuktu is thought provoking, emotionally engaging, sometimes cerebral, often visceral and always full of humor and pathos. It awakens all of your senses with descriptive passages that are tightly woven with lush imagery.

The story is told through the eyes of a dog named Mr. Bones, the loyal companion and soul mate of Willy G. Christmas, a homeless man who is also a brilliant, but deeply troubled poet-savant.  Mr. Bones conveys the story  through an internal monologue, describing their travails on a quixotic quest while recounting their earlier lives through a series of flashbacks. Auster’s ability to depict Mr. Bones as an intelligent sentient being, and his development of the various human characters in the book through clear prose are nothing short of breathtaking. The title of the book, Timbuktu,  comes from Willie’s concept of afterlife, which evolves into one of the over arching themes of the story.

To all of you professional literary critics out there, (if there are any) take it easy, this is kind of like open mike night and I’m just spit ballin’ here. In many ways, Timbuktu reminds me of The Road by Cormac McCarthy as it explores many of the same themes, and depicts a dark journey through gorgeously rendered cinematic imagery and lyrical descriptive narrative. For those of you who just can’t live without genre labels, here we go. I’m having difficulty assigning this to a single genre, but Timbuktu uses many of the devices of both “slip stream” and “magic realism” to tell the story. It contains many of the central themes of Auster’s writing, including constructing an understanding of the world through language, depiction of daily life, a writer as a central character, and a sense of imminent disaster. Throughout it all, the influences of  existentialism and transcendentalism are clearly apparent.

I don’t really want to say much more about the actual story because I think you should read this book, and I don’t want to give too much away and ruin it for you. I will say that I loved this book and that  it resonated with me on the heart level. I think it might have even made me a little smarter, and I’ll take all the help I can get. Let’s not forget that DOG is GOD spelled backwards. Paws & Claws Forever!

Todd Snider at The Haunt ~ Ithaca, N.Y.

Todd Snider at The Haunt  ~ Ithaca, N.Y.  ~ March 11, 2012

Todd Snider has, in his own words, “been drivin’ around the country for the past 15 years, playin’ and singin’ my songs to anyone who would listen.”  It seems that I’ve been wanting to see him play live for over half that long, but he never seemed to play anywhere nearby. So when promoter Dan Smalls booked him at The Haunt in Ithaca, N.Y. I ran to buy tickets like my pants were on fire. Never mind that the gig was on a Sunday night at a bar where I knew I’d be standing in the same spot for almost three hours. While that never used to bother me back in my more free wheeling days, it gave me cause to pause. I like to think I’ve mellowed and “age like wine” like the character from his song by the same name, and I wondered if I’d have the grit and stamina for it. Turns out I did, and then some. The Haunt couldn’t have been a better place to catch Todd Snider as he came through Ithaca with his three piece band on a spring-like Sunday night in early March. I thought back to all of the fabulous shows I had seen at the old Haunt in the alley on Green Street, and this turned out to be every bit as good as any one of those; hands down.

Portland based Ashleigh Flynn opened with a forty minute set that featured many of the songs from her most current release, American Dream. Accompanying herself on acoustic guitar and harmonica, she delivered a fast moving set that was lean and spare in its simplicity, yet lush and rich in content and presence. She writes extraordinary songs about ordinary people who live humble, but authentic lives. It’s Americana songwriting at its best, with stories that have the arc of a novel in a four minute song and leave you feeling like you actually know the characters.  She played a solid set and she’s definitely worth checking out.

I don’t know if Todd Snider has ever had his “smilin’ face on the cover of the Rollin’ Stone”, but he has been steadily gathering a dedicated following of hardcore fans who know he’s the real deal. The folks at The Haunt were no exception. People showed up expecting to see him play; and play, he did. Although his studio albums are collaborations with other musicians, I had the impression that he’s spent a large part of his touring career going solo. Even though I knew he was playing with a band this time out, I guess I expected him to play acoustic guitar and mix it up with periods of the storytelling for which he is so well known and much loved. Not gonna happen, but that’s OK. He launched into his set on electric guitar and didn’t put it down all night. His sound was ragged, snarly and gritty and solidly anchored by an East Nashville rhythm section on bass and drums. Overall, they played like a classic power trio. I expected it to be a high energy show, but I had no idea this guy could rock as hard as he does. Snider and the boys exploded out of the gate with a scorcher and rolled right on through with a blazing, nonstop 90 minute set that worked the crowd into a lather, rocked the house right off its foundation, and left my ears ringing just like the old days.

While he drew heavily from his latest release, Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables, he also played lots of old favorites, including several from his watershed 2004 release, East Nashville Skyline. As good as his songwriting is, he covers other artists’ songs with so much authentic heart and soul you’d swear they are his own. One of those was a gritty version of the Fred Eaglesmith classic, Alcohol and Pills that got everybody in the place singing along. After The Ballad of the Kingsmen from that same album, which is a story within a story that uses the Kingsmen classic as the centerpiece, he launched into a raucous cover of the actual song Louie Louie that sounded like the ultimate garage band on steroids. One of his encore numbers was a boisterous cover of the Chuck Berry classic, School Day, which had us all shouting out the refrain “Hail hail rock and roll” at the top of our lungs and pogo dancing.

Snider’s show was a nonstop thrill ride of songs for everyman. His work is a subversive celebration of the whole catastrophe, from the sublime to the ridiculous; a rebellious and irreverent reflection on modern culture and society. His poignant stories of marginal characters are filled with humane compassion, absurd hilarity, acerbic wit, and wry observations of human nature. To quote him from his own official website ( “I want to inspire people,” Snider says. “I want to inspire them to leave home, to do things traditionally considered wrong. If you listen to my record and vandalize your school, godspeed.”

If you get a chance to catch him on this tour, do it. You won’t be sorry. Before the night is over, you’ll be pogo dancing and singing along to every song.

Hail, Hail Rock & Roll!

Book Journal – “Aleph”


Alice B. Toklas Book Journal

Munich Underground

Hey all! Alice B. Tolas here. Just Kidding. It’s really, me, Michael G. Maxwell turning in an over due book report for my book journal, “Alice. B Toklas” inspired by writer Jules Archer –

I mentioned in an earlier post, that novels demand a singular sort of attention from my feeble, ADD-addled brain. Kidding about the ADD part. I think. Anyway – really more a case of a lack of discipline on my part. But it DID happen. I picked up a novel that immediately took me off the path of reading several books of Flash Fiction and Poetry. I peeked at a book my wife had recently finished, read the liner notes and a couple of pages and I was hooked.  I careened off the path upon upon which I had been traveling so comfortably, and steered off onto an uncharted course across the hinterlands.

The book is Aleph by Paulo Coelho. As a practicing Caustic, Mystic, Gnostic, I’m relatively certain that Mr. Coelho wrote this book specifically for me. It’s the story of a soul journey across dimensions and an epic voyage across space and time on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, from Moscow to Vladisvostok. (I know what you’re thinking. It sounds like that Seinfeld episode about an erotic movie named “Rochelle Rochelle – A Young Girl’s Strange, Erotic Journey from Milan to Minsk.” Well, maybe it might be a little bit like that. There are some erotic interludes and a few nipply moments. But titillating as that may be, it is mainly about the spiritual journey we each take to fulfill our own personal destiny, sacred life contract, and take care of karma, practice dharma and find excuses to weave the phrase “Shama Lama Ding Dong” into  conversation.

Anyway, it is a totally engaging book. It draws you into the lives of modern day pilgrims who are on epic journey on the Trans-Siberian Railroad and on the path to self realization.  There’s plenty of sexual tension, internal and external landscape, philosophy, existential angst, spiritual quest, steel wheels clacking on rails, vodka and Siberian shamans to keep the pages turning and to provoke thought, raise questions and inspire self examination. It’s about getting in the flow, living in the vortex and allowing Qi to flow through you, and being in the Aleph, where all things, past, present and future, are happening simultaneously, all at once, in the web of time and parallel dimensions and possible realities. Oh yeah- there’s a shit load of past life regression, and some very intense flashbacks to the Spanish Inquisition that gave me a profound and lasting case of the Willies. Seriously. But at least there’s vodka to keep me grounded. In the book, that is.

It’s a good book and it’s stayed with me long after finishing it. By the way, the language is beautiful, and that’s after being translated from Portuguese. I can only imagine that it is even richer in the mother tongue. I recommend it. Not necessarily learning Portuguese, but reading the book.

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