Death and Self-Gratification


Long time, no write.

The problem with modern social media for me is that you can fire off whatever you want to say in a matter of seconds while on the train, behind the wheel, on the sofa or in bed within a couple of seconds, while writing a blog post not only requires a much more complicated app on my mobile phone, but also infinitely (well, at least to me) more time.  I am sure a mathematician would be able to prove this.

Today, nevertheless, it was time to get the old MacBook out, sit down and type something. Because, you know, death and masturbation. If the combination of these two subjects shocks or upsets you or inflicts any sort of conflicts within your religious beliefs, I am incredibly sorry but not able to do anything about it, though I would suggest that you stop reading, as both subjects will surface within a few paragraphs again.

A long, long time ago, in a time we old people call the mid-nineties, I was working in a laboratory at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, trying to prove that certain things happened to skin cells when you threw cytostatic drugs at them. Turned out, they do. To find solace from the daily routine of looking after your cell cultures and doing despicable things with very toxic drugs to them (turns out cell cultures don’t yet know about the concept of ‘Weekend’) I would visit a well known establishment called ‘The Barking Spider Tavern‘ that was just about near enough from my humble abode that I would find my home even in a mild state of inebriation. The amazing thing about the Barking Spider Tavern was not only their dedication to a good glass of beer (only place I knew you could get a bottle of Dortmunder Export in Ohio) but also to live music. There would be live music every night, but once every few weeks a chap called Gary Hall would hog the stage, just him with his acoustic guitar and the odd local who would provide backup vocals. As a German, I don’t really get Americana. To stand in front of a small crowd, singing songs about horses and trucks and that girl who dumped you invariably in a truck or on a horse never really resonated with me, but then I never had a horse or a truck. But this Gary chap was different: for one thing, he could really sing, he could really play guitar, and his repertoire was not limited to Horses, Trucks and ex-girlfriends. On the contrary, he was not only a good singer, he actually had a sense of humor, and his set would be sprinkled with laugh out loud funny songs. One of them, always played after midnight to protect the innocent, would be a merry little ditty about a chap who – after being separated from his girlfriend – would happily self – indulge in – to quote the song – ‘beating the meat’. This was delivered in such a joyous, happy way that even the grumpiest punter would happily sing along to ‘The Jackoff Song’ -that was its name – and so these evenings are still etched in my amygdala as the most joyous of my time in Cleveland, Ohio. After visiting the Barking Spider during a recent trip to Cleveland I was cock-a-hoop to find that Gary was still around and asked him via his facebook account about this particular track and – being the nice chap he is – he was kind enough to answer a few questions. Turns out that the song was actually by Ohio folk legend and song writer Tim Wallace who died last year of lymphoma in a hospice.

Which brings us to the ‘death’ part of this post. Tim Wallace’s death was not the usual ‘peaceful, surrounded by his family’ sort of thing, au contraire: for the two weeks preceding his death he was surrounded by a never ending procession of friends and musician who turned his last weeks on the planet into ‘Timstock’.  The photoseries on Cleveland’s Plain Dealer website just shows the exit from this mortal coil doesn’t necessarily have to be a solemn affair:

“The Friday before St. Patrick’s Day, Wallace seemed on the precipice of death,[…].  But when fellow musicians came to his bedside, bringing booze, guitars, banjos, songs and especially laughter and more than a few tears, the lifelong musician rallied. The “Timstock” parties lasted daily until midnight until this Saturday, when doctors and staff members at the hospice said he had taken the inevitable turn for the worse.”

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could all go like this? Surrounded by our friends, singing and listening to music to the end. While I am not yet planning any hospice related activities yet, I am acutely aware that very few of my friends can sing and even fewer can play an instrument. I might have to incentivise this, otherwise it’s just going to be me and a ghettoblaster with 5 hours of Matt Bianco tracks, and I am moderately sure that there will be inhouse rules against this sort of thing.

So here we are. Death and Masturbation. I bet you didn’t believe this would turn out to be such a nice post, ay?

Incidentally, you can order or download some of Gary’s albums via Wildcat Recordings‘ website here.

He also as a pretty cool youtube presence, a facebook page and a reverbnation site.

If you happen to be in the midwest, there will be a Tim Wallace tribute concert (which apparently will feature a rendition of the ‘The Jackoff Song’), so don’t miss it.

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