lyrics to go (part 3 of 7) “oldham era”

I’m a product of my environment
Things that occur
Events take place
That will wipe the smile
Right off your face!
Not my fault, but then again
Schools and teachers were never my freinds
I don’t need an education
I just need a new vocation!
Freeway traffic smog
Movie theatres
Lines of people, beliefs
What the hell am i supposed to think?

“been left of center ever since, uh, i been left centerfield

winter still remind me of my pop’s passin’ (1)

a mass of them pray and suddenly stop askin’ (2)

admin say ‘ma’am, your son is not passin” (3)

excel at self-expression, my impression felt (4)

sizable welt left on my question, mark the section of the bible belt (5)

rally roots established in a baptist church

first act of ‘ism’ was against that forbidden thirst (6)

thought it odd – all the men in my biological bottle fed

god in the women, the devil cause of my father’s death (7)

fresh clay, shaped the way they want me up in sunday school

formin’ resume the morn of monday, too ( 8 )

pioneers of integration with no relation to race, from the

earliest days they merged clergy and state

serve as deacon do a teacher; principal as a pastor

every lesson prepped for the test in the hereafter (9)

best to have the fear of the master in your heart of hearts

i tried reasoning and seen things fall apart

carved outta henry – how befitting, ‘give me liberty’ (10)

or else an alternative to dwellin’ with the merciless

the line drawn around the county i have found to be

confining – aint no bounties in the boundary

we ’bout to secede…

a colonel by default, i never fought for the continentals

though my war of independence bore some resemblance (11)

they trynna make me do like them – move right then (12)

attune my mentals, broke pencil – spoke through my pen

kinetically set it, gesture affect a ripple

imprudent, for this student body is ill and crippled (13)

i’ll walk on ’em, in partin’ ‘yall gon’ miss me when i’m gone’

now long forgotten, they pawned my saga for a song (14)

the alarm is armed – guards on watch, not one’ll abscond the box again (15)

the common anomaly of protestants (16)

i lost to the sovereign, the dominant still holdin’ office (17)

glowin’ over that oldham era’s a golden aura ( 18 )

growin’ under that old america’s something strange

bubblin’ to break-point range – awaken, take the reins! (19)

oh, there he goes again – broken and soberin’

his story told all over, the walls closin’ in (20)

the line drawn around the county i have found to be

confining, aint no bounties in the boundary

we ’bout to secede…

i’ve gone across the country, what you want from me

to die of hunger for the punditry?

you’ll never succeed…

nah, you’ll never succeed.”

(1) – to be perfectly honest (assuming it’s not too late), i know very little about the details surrounding my father’s suicide. i was too young to pose questions when it happened, and by the time my curiosity developed i felt it inappropriate to broach the subject. among the few memories i’ve kept from that time is one of a bitter chill and gray skies; cold winter death.

(2) – my kindergarten teacher’s name was mrs. watkins. she was a tall, middle-aged woman with short, dark hair. her voice was authoritative, but calming when she spoke with that soft, slow, southern drawl, and if she opened her mouth wide enough, she’d reveal a beautiful display of a dentist’s work in gold. she was like an angel to me, coddling me and catering to my every need. at the time, i had no idea she felt pity on me, but i understand it now. she was one of many.

(3) – like mrs. watkins, dozens of subsequent teachers seemed to care less and less about my personal wellbeing over the years. when the administration gave up on me, i gave up on school.

(4) – voted “most individual” by OCHS’s class of ’93, then expelled by the school for performing a rap about the principal at the homecoming dance.

(5) – maybe questioning god’s existence was my way of exploring the non-existence of my own father. in any case, the hellfire and brimstone set don’t take too kind to heathens.

(6) – oldham county was “dry” in all the years i lived there, meaning the sale of alcoholic beverages was prohibited, period. every few years, a petition was organized to repeal the law, and my family’s church became campaign headquarters in the fight against change. i still love me a good rally.

(7) – pastor says drinking is a sin, and the sinners are going to hell. things looked grim for my grandfather, uncles, and most especially my father. perhaps abstinence from alcohol on the part of the women was a counterbalance to the excessive drinking by the men, or maybe it’s further evidence of patriarchy in the south, but i rarely, if ever, saw a lady in my family with a drink. that observation served to polarize the distinction between woman and man, between good and evil, respectively.

( 8 ) – this week’s lesson plan comes from the good book.

(9) – all pretty self-explanatory, really

(10) – oldham county was formally established in 1823 from portions of 3 surrounding counties, one of them being henry, so named for patrick henry, the american revolutionary most famous for the line “give me liberty, or give me death.”

(11) – the colonel was my high school mascot, chosen in honor of col. william oldham, a veteran of the continental soldiers in the revolutionary war. though i truly cannot imagine experiencing first-hand the horrors of the battlefield, i do know what it’s like to wage war against a tyrannical regime.

(12) – can you say “red state?”

(13) – subsequent to my punishment for the episode at the homecoming dance, i felt i was ready to lead a revolt against the board of education. i came to realize that leadership is a quality, not an emotion.

(14) – i often times refer to my departure from OCHS as an expulsion, when in fact i did choose to leave the school. following the rap (which i still have and promise to post one day) the administration placed me on severe probation, and knowing i couldn’t possibly enjoy my senior year on lockdown, i bounced. i had a feeling my presence would be missed, but you remember high school; drama has a short lifespan.

(15) – the principal was in her inaugural year when she decided to make an example out of me. she made life miserable for a whole lotta young folks that year, vowing to not let another one swim against the current. to this day, my parents feel as though they should have fought harder in opposition to her uncompromising rule against free speech, but we all had the last laugh when she “resigned” in ’97 citing complications with her health. i hope she’s all better now.

(16) – you appreciate the irony, right?

(17) – sure, martha sammons resigned from her post as principal, but the school and its entire district remains under the thumb of an oppressive government. you win some, you lose some.

( 18 ) – “no, they won’t name no buildings after me,” (c) badu – but the spirit still lives.

(19) – it’s the rally cry for who got next! it’s the passing of the torch! it’s the final hour!

(20) – it’s the same zealous rhetoric i spent my formative youth trying to escape. that’s deep.

says officer james brown of a murder/suicide in the place i was born and raised: “this is an isolated incident… it’s not indicative of the community we live in or the people of this community…” really, though?


lyrics to go (part 2 of 7) “watership down”

…I said to myself, ‘I do believe in God.’ But I have the right to protest against His ways. I have the right to be angry. And so, I do it a lot, very often, and I wouldn’t change a word of my discourse to God, my appeals to God, against God. Because I came to a certain formulation saying a man can be religious or can come from a religious background, with God or against God but not without God. So I cannot live without God.”

— Elie Wiesel

“…To fallen comrades, all i have to offer is this

word of insignificance, y’all really been missed (1)

some soldiers never enlist, but find themselves

engaged in conflict where it’s life’s stakes, regardless (2)

aint nothin’ promised from the minute we started

still it’s hard feelin’ you wasn’t robbed of any part

every bar penned in your memory’s honor, my intercession

i struggle to keep the faith, i’m bereft of possession

what’s left then, of this pathetic relic i stepped in?

the cut through the core may have severed my last connection (3)

i’m expectin’ a sign of acceptance, tethered to the axiom (4)

inadequate reception, i reckon it’s from the valium (5)

a stepson of the pallium challenge and test one (6)

nebulous response said ‘it’s better not to question’ (7)

in rejection of your slant, i’m demanding an explanation

where’s the justice or the justification in takin’ nathan? ( 8 )

brother you listenin’? send the exposition

i’m sick of pretending there’s any intent to my existence (9)

i’mma lie beneath the woodbine, lookin’ for a sign

if you could find [one] – right about now’d be a good time

CHORUS: i had a dream this morning

that the rain came pourin’ better vacate the warren, and i…

i’ve never seen such mournin’

in the wake of a storm better wake up the warden, and i…

beg you to heed this warnin’

for the sake of the pure and i’mma wait here for ’em

we gotta leave these quarters

and escape what’s in store, either face fate or break, y’all (10)

a straggling of peers in the academy

are lookin’ at me like ‘you said to move, start travelling’ (11)

a captain with no navigating skills in the galley

fightin’ to flee the feral at the peril of the menagerie (12)

within the waves [i] start waverin’

where’s this revelation when the frame comes cavin’ in? (13)

grave thoughts – where they ’bout to put mine? if you

overlook a crime, right about now’d be a good time…

it’s a long reach into vast space

lately i been slashed, maybe you could meet me halfway (14)

days passed since i got the cache tatted (15)

i’m a fast player with the match and paper in the ashtray (16)

told when i asked that the pathway is wide, though

accommodatin’ all cats attracted to the fire’s glow (17)

tough as it was i let my pride go – something said to ( 18 )

trust, but it’s nothing left inside to revive, over (19)

thin books of laws we found cause for discord

and distort every bit of wisdom it gives forth

quick to stir it up and settle shit with a fist, lord

they’d be afraid of death if they had something to live for (20)

the orb in the distance shone for the lone canoness

grantin’ ’em amnesty for tamperin’ with the manifest (21)

my mannerism a prism and should shine, light it if you would

be so kind, right now’d be a good time


i’m tryin’ not to feel responsible

for complicating things in relation to the chronicle

you’re free to walk away, for you to stay seems improbable

if i led you astray i pray to suffer the unconscionable

but if [there’s] truth therein, drop the

anchor deep and save me, thankfully your bravery

withstood mine, shook in the waves, but it looks fine

give praise – right about now’d be a good time.” (22)

(1) – this song was written several days after the tragic passing of a dedicated massline street-teamer, nate loyola. his death came at a time when my faith in god was extraordinarily delicate; the period of psycho-spiritual chaos that ensued reminded me of a scene from the classic richard adams novel.

(2) – much like the late, great j. dilla, nate fell victim to a rare illness which doctors were unable to combat. so often we sympathize with parents who lose sons and daughters in futile warfare, but even the smallest part of us acknowledges the risk inherent in military service. it takes a different type of compassion to understand the grieving process behind an unexpected death; when there is no enemy to blame, one tends to point the finger at god.

(3) – a fair amount of doubt in the divine came just after i underwent surgery for crohn’s disease. literally cut through the core, i was left weakened, debilitated and demoralized for quite some time (coincidentally, my father had surgery for a hernia shortly before committing suicide). i felt that my physical condition was a direct reflection of my spirit – both were essentially useless.

(4) – in this regard, i can relate to the elie wiesels of the world.

(5) – xanax and percocet, technically, but you get the point: the heart’s not open when the mind is closed.

(6) – when my mother remarried, our family dynamic changed drastically; i went from being “man of the house” to youngest of 5 kids overnight. one of the hardest labels for me to accept was that of “stepson,” despite the earnest efforts of my new father figure. i used to imagine how christ must have felt about joseph, and wondered if he ever said to the old man “you’re not my real dad.” what a terrible, terrible thing to say.

(7) – i had many sunday school teachers, all with one train of thought.

( 8 ) – some questions are far too complicated to be issued a patent response.

(9) – a direct plea to nate; not the first or the last time i’ve asked for assistance/confirmation from beyond.

(10) – a quick wiki on watership down and the chorus starts to make a little sense.

(11) – feelin’ like fiver. it’s nobody’s fault but mine.

(12) – you’re just gonna have to let that one sink in.

(13) – intuitive at all the wrong moments.

(14) – another reference to the surgical resectioning. click and read if you please, but let me assure you that perusing the overview provides very little insight into the physical demands of this procedure. i was forced out of bed by a contentious nurse on the first day of recovery. she was encouraging, but refused to help me limp along the hallway of the 5th floor at providence; i covered roughly fifteen feet. it occurred to me as i settled back into bed: there must be a spiritual equivalent to physical therapy; my soul is in such pain.

(15) – funny thing about tattoos – you get them to serve as a constant reminder of one moment in time, but the memory fades long before the ink, and soon enough the adornment becomes as innocuous as a natural, god-given beauty mark. i’m no more a baha’i with the tattoo than i would be without it, though it does occasionally remind me of more ardent days.

(16) – clean and sober for some time now, but it hasn’t always been that way (neither does it come easy).

(17) – some folks argue whether or not the baha’i faith is for everyone; i think the guidance is clear.

( 18 ) – leaving the church was kind of a big deal, and i admit i rushed into the faith just to expedite that process of separation. i think pride often times comes between man and god when the former is faced with the opportunity to adopt a doctrine; many of us prefer to be “spiritual” as opposed to “religious” beings. i was not all that different, so after declaring myself a member of the baha’i faith i reveled in its exclusivity (by nature of its relative obscurity, not its tenets). pride is a wicked beast.

(19) – it’s like exhuming a corpse to perform CPR. who does that?

(20) – a whole lot happenin’ in those 4 bars, right there. do the knowledge.

(21) – hell’s not big enough to house ronald reagan AND all the russians. evil doers get a pass.

(22) – there’s a downside to sharing your religious convictions with others – every once in a while someone decides they feel the same way, and they choose to join you on your path toward enlightenment. i do enjoy company – that’s not the issue. the problem is when you start contemplating whether or not you’re on the right path; at that point you start to wonder if you’ll be held accountable for inadvertently steering others in the wrong direction. guilt is an utterly useless emotion, and it has caused me much consternation. i found that once i favored the community-based over the individualistic approach to faith i fared much better.  good look, kirbs.

for those who’ve ever lost someone, then lost themselves:

lyrics to go (part 1 of 7) “his eminence”

hella folks been askin’ me about lyrics and liner notes for the EP. my plan, initially, was to incorporate them into the newly redesigned website; a plan that was first drawn up for tobacco road, and somewhat kinda sorta put on hold when the idea of an interim project started gaining momentum.

Now that black patch war is here, i figure i have an obligation to provide listeners with the tools necessary to dissect and digest the verbal content. this post will serve as the first in a consecutive series, where i’ll mix lyrics and liner notes together with hyperlinked nuggets of trivial information for the truest of Common Market Fanboy Stanley Cup Champions.

First up is “his eminence,” chosen due to much of the confusion i’ve overheard and read regarding the subject matter. granted, it IS on some proof-level insidery shit, so i aint even mad at ya, grynch. maybe this will help.

foreword: i lost my pops to suicide when i was six. his name was jimmy.

“…politickin’ with the big boys… prince of eminence

small town royalty… salute the procession.

jimmy had a six-string, jimmy had a drum (1)

jimmy had a six-pack, jimmy had a gun (2)

jimmy had a problem and jimmy had to run

and since, i’ve resented that jimmy ever had a son

where you been, jimmy? you know alotta things changed after you left (3)

on who rests blame? we’re all clueless (4)

effects of undue stress caused a few to lose breath

and question, ‘after you, who’s next?’

the true test of how strong the bond’s tied

comes right around the time the patriarch dies (5)

how many McKinney’s left? you can count ’em on one hand

your legacy’s as petty as you – understand? (6)

it’s a cold world & i’ve seen a grip of cats freeze

at times you had me thinkin’ i’m sick with that disease (7)

contemplatin’ my fate, .38 ways to face it

put the metal in my mouth at nineteen, just to taste it ( 8 )

the flavor of black powder requires an acquired palette

look at me preachin’ to the choir about it, i doubt it

ever even crossed your mind, tryin’ to shoulder

the weight of raisin’ a daughter demands a harder spine (9)

stunned, shocked, what one shot could do to the fam

the bough breaks, nowadays i call your mother ‘ruthann’ (10)

she hardly know me, slowly we drifted through the breeze

recently i visited to introduce my seed (11)

trouble breathin’, oxygen helps mask the wheezin’

ashtray in the kitchen overflowin’ with the reason (12)

‘them’s johnny’s.’ he passed through when we was leavin’

lookin’ like he seen a ghost in my frame – he started weepin'(13)

we talked for hours; told him ‘you gotta let go.’

imagine in twenty years how many others said so

i can’t connect with him, so i stop – he’s not ready

lost touch with reality + josh and debbie (14)

it’s a heavy burden [he] struggles to find steady work

and he hasn’t played the drums since y’all was last rehearsin’ (15)

i heard your moms gave him the house, it caused conflict

with cheryl and becky especially when he lost it (16)

it’s pitiful, your little brother is literally

trapped in a void and that bad choice was pivotal

damn, you got him stuck in a rut, i’m singin’

‘johnny was a good man…’ but you fucked that up (17)

aiyo it’s complicated commiseratin’ with the complacent

the blank stare on his face remains vacant

what a disgrace, he wastes every day he lives

and i still can’t decide if that’s your fault or his…” ( 18 )

(1) – pa dukes was an accomplished musician. well, accomplished may be overstating it a bit; his band whitehorse never really played outside of the tri-county area, but dude could certainly manhandle a host of instruments, including the guitar, drums and piano. i have a couple of old reel-to-reel tapes of him messin’ around with original compositions (though they sound an awful lot like some classic jackson browne). my favorite of them all showcases his vocal percussion skills – yeah, pops was beatboxin’ in ’72.

(2) – no doubt about it, my father was an alcoholic. of the handful of possessions he inadvertently left me, i distinctly remember a PBR trucker’s cap; i wore it for years entirely oblivious to the irony. he was also a gun owner, and that was his weapon of choice when he entered into his final battle.

(3) – perhaps the most significant change, for me as a kindergarten-aged boy, was instantly becoming the “man of the house.” the shift in perspective, if not in real responsibility, would have a profound effect on my attitude toward women for years and years to come.

(4) – the fucked up thing about suicide survivors (friends & family of the victim) is that they tend to hold everyone, to varying degrees, accountable for the death of their loved one; everyone, that is, except for the deceased.

(5) – this statement is in no way intended to discredit the ability of a mother to hold the family together. on the contrary, my mother did an extraordinary job of keeping us rock-solid through a couple of very turbulent years. my point is that after my father’s death, i fell completely out of communication with his side of the family (reason: see #4), and as a result…

(6) – … i changed my last name. not a whole hell of a lot of folks know this about me, but i was born Ryan James McKinney. when my daughter was born, i made a promise to myself to do better as a father, so i left “his” name in the past, where it belonged. incidentally, abeo means “her birth brings happiness.”

(7) – depression. i don’t know that my father was ever clinically diagnosed, but i’ve heard it from those who know better than any doctor; jimmy had them demons. note: the painting at the header is by van gogh, himself a victim of suicide.

( 8 ) – as a teenager, i was absolutely fascinated with the idea of suicide, particularly by gun-to-the-head. primarily driven by mindless chatter from know-it-all fucktards who said things like “suicide is the EASY way out,” i put a loaded revolver in my mouth and just tried to imagine what sort of balls it must take to pull the trigger. fuck all your “real talk.”

(9) – a reference to my sister and my daughter at once. jamie’s more than six years older than me, which means she was almost exactly madison’s age when my pops dies. i honestly cannot fathom how difficult my father’s death must have been for her.

(10) – you gotta know things are fallin’ apart when you start callin’ your grandma by her first name.

(11) – december 23, 2005. i stopped by my grandmother’s house (same house my dad grew up in) for the first time in more than 15 years for the purpose of introducing my wife and daughter. it was an ugly, saddening sight, as described in the lines that follow.

(12) – the house was dilapidated. when we first arrived, i made my way through the waist-high weeds to the door we used as kids to get straight to the kool-aid in the kitchen after playing tag on a hot summer day, only to find it boarded up from the inside. once we gained access through the half-rotted front door, the scene on the interior was worse. my grandmother was frail and feeble, requiring oxygen to carry on any semblance of a conversation. evidently the strict admonition against smoking was no deterrent for my uncle johnny, who, at 50+ was still living at home rent-free.

(13) – long-winded as these blogs seem, i couldn’t possibly muster the words or the energy to break down my uncle johnny for you. johnny was my dad’s little brother, and like any good sibling, positively adored his mentor. he went certifiably batshit-loony when daddy died; i’ll sum him up in a single anecdote: one cold christmas eve, the bulk of my extended family was enjoying a holiday dinner at my maternal grandmother’s house when a rather unexpected and furious knock at the back door disrupted the festivities. my uncle johnny had gotten himself a little liquored up and turned hyper-brolic; wielding a fully-loaded .357, he threatened to avenge his brother’s death by taking out my mother (who has 2 very capable brothers of her own – in short, johnny got checked on that shit). anyway, back to my paternal grandmother’s house – soon as she saw me, she called johnny (on the rotary phone, i swear to god). he was there within minutes, slightly intoxicated, and terribly overwhelmed. i am my father’s son, after all.

(14) – as you may have guessed, johnny couldn’t manage to maintain his marriage; she got custody.

(15) – if there was one thing in the world my uncle could do better than my father it was play them drums.

(16) – sure, real estate is dirt cheap in eminence, KY, but a house is a house, goddammit. and when you’re talkin’ about the family estate, albeit decrepit and worthless, it causes some sibling rivalry when it’s gifted to the youngest son – especially when he’s jobless and nutty in the noggin.

(17) – marley reference, for you thicker ones.

( 18 ) – basically.

several months after that visit, my grandmother passed away from severe complications with her health, largely due, i’m sure, to prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke. about a year later, johnny was found dead in an apartment rented by a former girlfriend; a bottle of pills was found near the bed.

for jimmy, johnny and many others: