Songs of Will T. Massey — “Peace Train”

Will’s 2008 CD, Wayward Lady U.S.A., offered songs he’d written in protest against the war in Iraq. As a pacifist, he felt compelled to share these songs even at the risk of angering or losing some fans.

At the same time, his widowed father had  remarried, gaining a step-daughter in the process. A step-daughter serving in the military and thus deployed in the war zone. This song manages to merge Will’s deep-rooted desire for a world of peace with the mixed feelings when a family member is sent off to war.


She said good-bye to her baby on the tracks,
Her only girl shipping out to Iraq
She hears the news of an imminent attack
In a prayer for her baby to come back.
The bathroom mirror shows her hair has new gray,
The soldier’s daughter found a new word to say.
It’s “BANG-BANG” and it makes her grandma cry.
She hears the echo of her daughter’s good-bye

There’s a peace train — coming…
There’s a peace train — coming…
There’s a peace train — coming…

The soldier’s daughter hates her grandmother’s tears.
She wipes one dry and finds her mother’s picture near.
The soldier shudders as a foreign missile falls
With death so close she envisions an end to it all.
There’s no need to fight for oil greedily.
The world shares its treasures evenly.
The people rule and have peace among themselves.
There aren’t armies causing families farewells.

There’s a peace train — coming…
There’s a peace train — coming…
There’s a peace train — coming…

One family —
We’re all going to rise
To a place where God is on our side.
Some morning soon,
One war will cease
And we’ll take the tracks
Towards a world at peace…

The soldier’s wounded and is carried from the scene.
In a dance class, her child performs a routine.
As the soldiers make it safely to the base,
Grandma stands and applauds her grandchild’s grace.
Home, she pours a drink for time that’s wearing on,
She wonders if her girl is already gone.
She takes her whiskey to the cell phone’s display.
The war’s over and she hears her daughter say:

“There’s a peace train — coming…
There’s a peace train — coming…
There’s a peace train — coming…


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Today is World Schizophrenia Day

Over 20 million people worldwide suffer from schizophrenia.

Historic examples of people with schizophrenia have included Vincent Van Gogh, Zelda Fitzgerald, Veronica Lake, and Vaslav Nijinsky.

Several famous 60s musicians such as Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), Skip Spence (Moby Grape), Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac), and Syd Barret (Pink Floyd) also suffered from schizophrenia.

I first directly encountered schizophrenia when I started working at the Ranch Treatment Center. That disabused me of any notions of “split personality.” Instead, I met people —”residents” was the term we used back then —struggling against unseen forces, aided/sedated by psychoactive medications for the most part. 

Sometimes, their skew on reality was humorous. One of our residents with schizophrenia, TJ, was pacing the dayroom floor when I urged him to sit down. He responded, “I keep trying to but this chair gets in the way!” At other times, though, TJ exhibited dangerous, explosive behavior, screaming cursing and throwing chairs. 

My first experience with schizophrenia outside the confines of a psychiatric facility was meeting Roky Erickson, founding member of the 13th Floor Elevators. In the late 70s, after his release from the state mental hospital system, we would go see him play at Raul’s with the Explosives unleashing tales of horror rock in fierce pounding jagged rhythms. He spoke of aliens and thinking he might be one, but he was still holding it together then.

Such was not the case when I saw in a grocery store in the 80s. Wearing jarringly mismatched, loud clothing, hair beyond disheveled, a crazy bedeviled look in his eyes as he looked around frantically. “Hi, Roky,” I said and he looked at me and called out “Where is (—)?”  I don’t even recall what he was looking for, just that haunted look of his. I suggested Aisle 4  and he ran off to look.

A few years later, I saw him in a different grocery store after he had gotten into treatment: well-groomed long hair with neat, appropriate clothing. He was standing patiently in line, a few items in his grocery cart, his hands by his side as he waited. The change was remarkable. Roky would go on to survive and thrive and return to his roots in music, thrilling fans up until his death in 2019.

Not all who suffer from schizophrenia fare so well. When I married Sara, I met her brother, Mike, who had been in and out of treatment and institutions for his schizophrenia for years, often completely estranged from the entire family. When he attended our small wedding, he mostly stayed in a side room and we would visit with him separately. I recognized the anxiety nearly bordering on panic behind his eyes. I feel like I did connect with him but he seemed almost a ghost.

That’s certainly what my cousin, Will T. Massey, looked like in Dec 2004 when he showed up on our doorstep to ask for help getting help. He was gaunt and gray and I might not have recognized him in a crowd. He had scribbled a plea for help on a folded newspaper.

Not in the margins — straight over the newsprint covering both sides.

Schizophrenia is unkind when it surfaces. Usually it’s through a psychotic break and all too often involves law enforcement and psychiatric hospitalization. Will had several separate incidents in his struggles with schizophrenia. I don’t know the details but his first incident occurred in Seattle and resulted in forced hospitalization, He signed himself out quickly and headed home to San Angelo. Shortly after his arrival, however, his alarming behavior prompted his family to have him committed again — and again Will signed himself out. He refused the diagnosis of “schizophrenia” and any treatment for many years as his career and his life slowly unraveled. I had lost touch with him entirely before that day he showed up on our porch.

Sara’s brother, Mike, eventually succumbed to his schizophrenia. Though ruled a “suicide,” I view it as “death by schizophrenia.” I don’t think he truly acted of his own volition. When you’re “hearing voices,” they rarely have helpful or benign suggestions. “Kill yourself” becomes a constant chorus some cannot overcome. Sara was told Mike had died “old for a schizophrenic” in his 40s.

That used to be conventional wisdom but Will received very promising treatment a decade later. One doctor even speculated about having available remedies within Will’s lifetime. With the help of a loving partner, Valerie, as well as therapy and medication, he recorded multiple new CDs, toured Italy twice, and enjoyed a decade or more of good health.

Sometime after he left Austin in 2014, though, Will’s mental state began to deteriorate again. Being around him that last year was heartbreaking as he completed recording “The Weathering.” He played a few gigs that spring but by summer, I could see him steadily slipping away and his paranoia increasing, even eying me suspiciously a time or two.

Like many people with schizophrenia, Will is probably out there today. I may never see him again. Please keep him in your thoughts — today and every day..

Along with the millions of others who likewise experience this strange twisting of the human psyche we call schizophrenia.

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Songs of Will T. Massey — “Cry Home”

Will left Austin in 2014, retreating to an isolated ranch outside of San Angelo. Though removed from the lively Austin music scene, he kept writing and performing.

This was one of the songs he recorded on his iPhone and emailed out to a few people. He joked about compiling them into an album (to be called “iPhone,” of course), but mostly these recordings allowed Will to share new songs with select friends as he wrote them. The recordings acted more as demo tapes to elicit feedback. and workshop the song, than anything else.

Will drifts through a dream in this song, his imagery alternately concrete and unreal — like a dream. Like many of his songs, Will has embedded hints of his struggles with schizophrenia in here, featuring a homeless fantasy lover, an echo of a story he once told me of his days living in the shadows.

“Cry Home” — iPhone — Will T. Massey

I dreamt I was alone
At a dark, dusty country fair.
I met a girl
With short, straight, light blonde hair.
And she was old
But she was younger than me.
I checked my wallet
And God slipped in a ten to see.

Well, we bought some trailer food
But we didn’t eat it up.
We just strolled awhile talking
Ann Richards in Europe…
Well, she had a blanket garb
Falling off her shoulders
We started kissing in a tumble
To the dust where I could hold her.
Well, I knew that she was homeless.
I could feel it in her face.
Then she was becoming younger,
She had a warm embrace.

Cry home, cry home —
We’re all here alone.
No one will ever understand
You or your life.
I see her now without bones,
Cry home, cry home —
Baby, pleasure is the reason
I suffer this life.

She said, “Cry home with me awhile.”
And I wasn’t a bit surprised
When she showed me she was an alien
From brilliant, distant skies.
And then she had a perfect appearance
And my eye fell to her breasts,
She was gorgeous like a silver dollar
In the pocket of a vest.
Sadly, the dream was ending
In a long and lustful kiss.
I wanted to keep her around awhile
So I started writing this…

Cry home, cry home —
We’re all here alone.
No one will ever understand
You or your life.
I see her now without bones
Cry home, cry home —
Baby, pleasure is the reason
I suffer this life.


Please keep Will in your thoughts this Mental Health Awareness Month.

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month #breakthestigma

When we say “mental health” many people think mental health problems or mental health issues. Hence, there remains a stigma about even talking about mental health.

Well, mental health can also refer to wellness. We all have “mental health” but as with physical health, we tend to notice illness more than wellness. Nor is it a simple on-off switch where you are either mentally well or mentally ill. In fact, most people enjoy relatively good mental health. 

I spent close to 20 years working with people who experienced mental health difficulties. In working with people labeled with psychiatric diagnoses, however, I learned the mentally ill are fundamentally no different than us. Societies segregate the worst cases, locking up the “lunatics” and “imbeciles” (once common, now archaic clinical terms).

We reversed the old saying: out of mind, out of sight — literally. 

My wok taught a lot about about various conditions and diagnoses. Years before most people had heard of autism, I learned about the concept of a spectrum of autism and found it very enlightening — and on point. Various individuals display various symptoms to differing degrees. 

We all encounter depressing circumstances but not everyone experiences clinical depression. We all experience anxiety facing certain situations but not everyone gets paralyzed by anxiety attacks. We all have internal monologues but not everyone hears “voices” like someone with schizophrenia might. 

Yes, we all have mental health. From mental illness to mental wellness, we exist on a mental health spectrum. Moreover, where we fall on that spectrum remains dynamic throughout our life. It can change minute-to-minute, day-to-day, or over a long stretch of time.

We could all use some form of help, or therapy, whether we get it from a licensed healthcare professional, our friends & family, clergy & gurus, or self-administered practices such as meditation, mindfulness, or cognitive-behavioral self-talk.  

Me, I was lucky. My work at the Brown Schools basically provided me 15 years of free therapy. I didn’t even have to probe my deepest, darkest secrets through psychotherapy. I absorbed my therapeutic lessons through osmosis via immersion in the treatments milieu. Surround yourself with people focused on mental health, and, well, you see mental health everywhere. And you start to see opportunities for working on mental wellness.

If we use our spectrum imagery, in fact, we can shift from illness to wellness by shifting from “I” to “we.”  We all get by with a little help from our friends. 

Here’s to your mental health, my friends!


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Happy 90th Birthday, Willie!

Confession: I’ve never really been that big of a Willie Nelson fan.

Still, Willie’s more than just a great singer/songwriter/musician — he’s an icon. He’s a legend. And at 90 years old (or is it “young”?), he’s one of our oldest living legends. And despite years of premature rumors of his demise, Willie yet survives — and thrives!

I woke up still not dead again today.
The internet said I had passed away.
If I died I wasn’t dead to stay,
And I woke up still not dead again today.


My earliest impressions of Willie came from hearing a few tunes his on the radio in the early days of “progressive country” — or “cosmic cowboy” or “outlaw country,” or whatever you wanna call it. Whatever it was, folks like Willie and Jerry Jeff Walker and B.W. Stevenson and Michael (Martin) Murphy and Commander Cody caught our ears and grabbed our attention.

July 4, 1973 — supposedly I saw these guys

I first saw Willie at his very first 4th of July picnic out at Dripping Springs. Not that I remember seeing him from that day. We got there late and left early after sweltering in the sun so far from the stage we could hardly hear.

It was hot and dusty— and fun. Beyond that, I recall very little.

So, I didn’t really get a good taste of Willie until that fall. A day-long benefit concert for the People’s Free Clinic offered the typical line-up of local bands (I’ve forgotten who) with Jerry Jeff Walker and Willie Nelson headlining.  Hot off hitting the historic Luckenbach recording of Viva Terlingua!, I hungered for another heaping helping of Jerry Jeff Walker.

Willie was just a bonus.

It was a festival, so of course it ran late all day. Each set change delayed the next act in turn. Our lovely autumn afternoon started to chill down quite a bit once the sun set. By the time Jerry Jeff took the stage at 1:30am, most of the crowd was gone and a few small fires flickered here & there among the remaining audience. still, Jerry Jeff played a rousing set for well over an hour, meaning Willie didn’t even hit the stage till sometime about 3am.

He immediately kicked it off in high gear, starting with “Whiskey River” (of course) and quickly rolling from one song to the next — no patter, just free-flowing, fine-ass music. This time, I was close enough to not only hear him, but see him as well. He highlighted several new songs from Shotgun Willie, his first album since moving back home to Texas. Songs like “Devil in a Sleeping Bag” and the perennial favorite, “Me & Paul.”

Willie played till nearly 4:30 before announcing, “Y’all gotta let an old man get some rest,” explaining he was headed to Muscle Shoals in the morning to record his next album (Phases & Stages).

That was 50 years ago!

1985 4th of July Picnic poster

That first 4th of July picnic wasn’t my last — but it almost was. After my second picnic (1975) I decided it’s almost always too damned hot to party all day outdoors in Texas on the 4th of July.

Still, I have gone to a couple more since then.  I shared my personal 4th of July picnic experiences here, including the day-long drenching in 1985 as well as the cluster-fuck traffic at the 2003 picnic when the Dead joined the line-up.

As is his wont, Willie joined the Dead on stage. You can hear his distinctive guitar, “Trigger,” on recordings of that show.

Recently, Willie’s songs offer the wisdom of an elder when speaking of topics like grief (“It’s Not Something You Get Over“). But he still retains his humor, as displayed “Still Not Dead,” (see above). He has even advised us of his personal post-mortem request, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.”

If we last that long, Willie!

It will take two full days of shows for Willie’s “Long Story Short” celebrating his 90th birthday at the Hollywood Bowl.

Willie’s got a lot of friends coming over to play.

There’s enough performers listed in that line-up that even with a schedule spread out over 2 days, each performer likely gets only 1, maybe 2 songs. No telling who else might show up.

Most likely, Willie will sit in with everyone.

Meanwhile, today and every day, Willie’s advice for a long life:

Live every day like it was your last one —
And some day you’re gonna be right.

Happy Birthday, Willie!

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Sing a Song of Skip Spence

Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, and Moby Grape all helped weave the tapestry that became known as the “San Francisco sound” in the 60s. Alex “Skip” Spence (known to friends and fans as Skippy) was a common thread running through thoese 3 breakout bands.

While still a guitarist in an early line-up of Quicksilver Messenger Service, Skippy got recruited to play drums for Jefferson Airplane and played on their 1966 debut album. Booted from the band for taking an unannounced vacation to Mexico, he next formed Moby Grape at the behest of manager Matthew Katz.

Moby Graoe — 1st album cover

1st pressing — with infamous finger intact

Moby Grape’s debut album seared the ears of folks like me with blazing triple guitar cross-talk and richly layered harmonies. With the first pressing of the album cover famously featuring drummer Don Stevenson flipping everyone off. A quick second pressing airbrushed that away.

Bought by my brother as soon it came out, I got to know the album well, especially when Scott’s garage band learned some of the tunes, like “Hey, Grandma” and “8:05.”

We eagerly awaited more from Moby Grape. It didn’t take long before we got a double dose of great Grape, both Wow!, a studio album and Grape Jam, live recordings of impromptu studio jams. Once again, both discs blew me away.

Little did I know at the time about the band’s travails making this record.

Recording in New York City at producer David Rubinson’s request, the band failed to capture the same magic they’d cultivated in California, rarely working together in the studio as a band. Living in hotel rooms for months at a time wore them all down as well. Peter Lewis quit at one point to return to California. Jerry Miller described seeing Skippy’s mental health deteriorating:

Skippy changed radically when we were in New York. There were some people there that were into harder drugs and a harder lifestyle, and some very weird shit. And so he kind of flew off with those people. Skippy kind of disappeared for a little while.

Skippy later showed up at the hotel and tried to chop drummer Don Stevenson’s door down with a fire ax, likewise threatening to kill Jerry Miller and Don Rubinson. Hauled off to NYC’s notorious jail, the Tombs, he ended up in Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric ward for 60 days.

"Oar" Skip Spence album coverUpon his release, he headed to Nashville and recorded his iconic solo album, Oar.

Legend has him riding away from NYC on a chopper in his hospital gown. Production notes confirm that he recorded the entirety of Oar in just 7 days in December 1968, playing all instruments.

Skippy had intended the tapes to serve as a demo for an album but producer David Rubinson released the raw recordings on May 19, 1969. With little fanfare and no promotional push from Columbia Records, it flopped. Critics at the time mostly hated it but it has since grown to cult status.

Skippy, meanwhile, fell further apart, between his now-diagnosed schizophrenia and heavy drug use, especially heroin and LSD (which had precipitated the fire ax incident). Moby Grape soldiered on, releasing Moby Grape ’69 as a quartet, but including “Seeing,” also known as “Skip’s Song.”

Side note: Schizophrenia is a cruel companion living inside your head and not only did Skip Spence suffer from schizophrenia but so did bandmate Bob Moseley. Absolutely astounding that such a powerful seminal band as Moby Grape featured 2 people with schizophrenia.

Skip Spence lived until 1999, often a ward of the state or destitute and homeless. Periodically, band members, particularly Peter Lewis, would seek him out to help a little. His final appearance with Moby Grape bandmates happened in 1996 in Santa Cruz.

Various artists such as  Robert Plant, Tom Waits, and Beck revisited the haunting tunes Skip had written back in the psychiatric ward, recording More Oar: A tribute to the Skip Spence Album in 1999. Though it was released after his death, Skippy did have the chance to hear the recordings before he died.

For what would have been Skip Spence’s 77th birthday, I’ve been listening to some of his tunes today. Here’s a small selection to get you started down a similar rabbit hole:

“My Best Friend” (Jefferson Airplane)

Recorded after Skippy left Jefferson Airplane
but included on “Surrealistic Pillow”


How was Moby Grape connected to Nebraska? They weren’t!
Skippy meant this as “OM_Aha!” — a mantra followed by enlightenment.

Motorcycle Irene

One of Skip’s songs from “Wow!”
He also included the very strange “Just Like Gene Autry: A Foxtrot” —
to be played back at 78 rpm. I’ll spare you that one (linked).

Seeing (Skip’s Song)

Moby Grape continued to involve Skippy whenever they could
post-“fire ax incident,”  so included this tune he’d written on
Moby Grape ’69

Chinese Song

Not exactly a sing-along but Skip’s contribution
to 1971’s 20 Granite Creek

Little Hands

The opening tune from “Oar”:
“Little hands clapping, children are laughing —
Little hands clapping all over the world.”

Burdened by schizophrenia and years of poor health due to drug addiction and alcoholism, Skippy died just 2 days before his 53rd birthday — he’s been gone now 24 years.

Next spring, the first biography to be written about him, “Weighted Down — the Complicated Story of Skip Spence“will be published.  I can’t wait to learn more about this old musical hero of mine. So much incredible music he gave us and still I know so little about his later life. Such is the way with our artists & musicians, I suppose, performing a role, paying their part — and revealing the innermost heart we all share.

So sing a song of Skip Spence — with a pocketful of wry.

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EXTRA! EXTRA! Newspapers Dying!

“Read all about it!”
Ooops! too late — already gone.

A recent digital headline screamed at me that the Texas Observer was dying. Shock waves rocked me as I thought about the Observer and what a newspaper’s death represents.

See, I’m a long-time fan of newspapers. I loved that my mom earned her college degree in journalism in the late 40s. I grew up in Houston in the 60s when it had 2 daily newspapers, morning (Houston Post) and afternoon (Houston Chronicle). We subscribed to the Post. Always preferred a morning newspaper to an afternoon one.

In the mid-90s, the Hearst Corporation, owners of the Chronicle, bought out the Post, becoming Houston’s only daily newspaper (published in the morning). Always preferred having 2 newspapers competing rather than local media consolidation.

Anyway, by high school, I had started writing letters to the editor — and got a number of them published! Seduced by the beauty of the byline, I joined the high school newspaper staff, writing humor, satire, and political articles, even winning an award or two along the way.

While bouncing around after my college days, I tried my hand at journalism again briefly. I wrote a couple of political analysis pieces for Berkeley’s Daily Californian — for no pay. Returning to Austin, I wrote theater reviews for the Austin Sun. But only two got published. The editor turned down my third review (another positive one), saying, “You can’t like everything.” But I had. I took my $12 paycheck & gave up. Guess I’m more of a fan than a critic.

I actually tried writing for the Texas Observer in the late 70s when Jim Hightower was editor. Upon learning my uncle was in the legislature, he asked about working that as an inside angle. Given I didn’t like my uncle’s politics and wasn’t really close to him, I said no and that pretty much ended the interview. Guess I’m more a writer than a reporter.

Still, I am an avid reader of newspapers. Not so much the printed versions any more, but news of the Observer’s impending demise had me worried. I had also just read about a documentary film about the March closing of the Canadian Record, an award-wining local newspaper in the Texas Panhandle. Another recent article lamented the widespread loss of rural newspapers, explaining:

“They direct our attention closer to home. As such, we have reason to think in terms of the people we know, and we focus on the issues that influence us and that we can influence…In short, local papers help us have a healthy relationship with collective life.”

It turns out the reports of the death of the Texas Observer were greatly exaggerated, to borrow Mark Twain’s phrasing. In truth, the publishers were simply planning a temporary “hiatus” rather than a permanent shutdown. A quick crowdfunding drive raised enough cash to keep the publication moving forward, as noted by that same former editor, Jim Hightower:

Despite one alarmist, misleading article, the Observer is not dead. And, in the spirit of Willie’s song (“Woke Up Still Not Dead Again Today“), even if it had “died” this week, it wouldn’t be “dead to stay,” because it’s not just a publication – it’s both an idea and a political necessity.”

Good to hear the fighting spirit of independent journalism stays alive deep in the heart of Texas.

Additionally, I’m happy not to live in a news desert here in rural southern Colorado. Not only do we have our local daily, the Canon City Daily Record, but Kevin Mahmalji, a staunch advocate for rural areas and rural newspapers, has recently launched the Florence Reporter, focused on our neighbor town of Florence.

“As a small, independently owned print newspaper for a rural community our goal is to provide the good people of Florence and Eastern Fremont County with fair and unbiased reporting on local government while lifting up all the things that make our region of Colorado special and unique…”

You know, with the renewed vigor of the Texas Observer and two local newspapers, I feel downright rich — in terms of local journalism.

EXTRA! EXTRA! Read all about it — Local Newspapers Live!

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Songs of Will T. Massey — “Later to Live”

Will T. Massey--Letters in the Wind CD coverOne of several songs that Will recorded for  2 different CDs, releasing this and 4 other tunes on both “Acoustic Session” (released April 2005) and “Letters in the Wind” (released January 2006).

I had forgotten how many overlaps those two recordings included.

The first record was primarily to get Will back into a recording studio to record some songs in a simplified, stripped-down fashion for quick release.

The later album, “Letters in the Wind,” was masterfully produced by Stephen Doster, and built Will’s songs up from those first sparse renditions into beautiful orchestrations that really bring Will’s lyrics to life. That’s the version I have included here.

Somewhere after I’ve sung a last song,
A lover will come along,
Not knowing my voice, hearing traces
Of tears fallen down millions of faces.

Whatever your name might be —
Living, missing you,
Sometimes by the sea,
Wishing I could be kissing you —
Suicidally, I’d forgive you later to live.

Softened shoe heels were well worn
Traversing roads to where you were yet to be born.
I usually had work waiting,
Occasionally congratulating

Whatever your name might be —
Living, missing you,
Sometimes by the sea,
Wishing I could be kissing you —
Suicidally, I’d forgive you later to live.

Kind, the tides have washed away my lonely footprints
Too many times for me
Not to know destiny befriended lonesome ways without you.
And for not being there, I’m sorry, lover,
I had myself to find.
Kind, the tides will wash away your lonely footprints,
Beautifully true

See me fade away like old paint.
I know acknowledgment dreams don’t taint.
Other eyes will still another’s, hers and or his,
Lonesome as living unalone is.

Whatever your name might be —
Living, missing you,
Sometimes by the sea,
Wishing I could be kissing you —
Suicidally, I’d forgive you later to live.


Will also recorded 2 prior versions of this song on a tiny cassette recorder during the years he was not publicly performing, lost in the shadows of his schizophrenia. The earlier versions are basically the same but contain interesting minor lyrical variations.

In his initial version, one chorus line changed each time the chorus repeated:
“Sometimes, I’d run by the sea…”
“Sometimes, I’d walk by the sea…” and
“Sometimes, I’d stand by the sea…”

Additionally, this couplet originally completed the second verse:
“An ever-present absence in my life
You’re the one who should have been my wife.”

The version on “Letters in the Wind” obviously reflects Will’s final chosen lyrics for this song. I just find some of the fragments he changed along the way fascinating.

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Play the game sweeping the internet — Whack-a-Troll!

Love Lasts Forever: Episode 3 - Bitches Over Dramas

Tired of the increasing ubiquity of ads everywhere you look? We’ve come to expect that from newspapers, billboards, and radio and TV — but now, we get these attention hogs clogging our e-mailboxes, text message servers, and voicemails. Not to mention filling our social media feeds. Some days, it seems as if there are more ads than social media in the feed — perhaps it’s true!

Anyway, it’s especially annoying when ads masquerade as something other than an ad, be it the not-so-free “giveaways” or click-bait headlines trolling for your attention.

So, I decided to turn it into a game: Whack-a-Troll. Whenever I get fed up with the force-fed ads choking my newsfeed (happens frequently, folks!), I start using Facebook’s “Hide ad” feature.

Once the ad is hidden, I get to designate a reason why I want it hidden— from a limited range of responses. I like to vary my reasons, but rely heavily on “Irrelevant” and “Repetitive” — because ALL of their ads are repetitive and irrelevant! If it’s a liquor or gambling-related ad, I might choose “Sensitive topic.” Or if it’s health or medication-related, I often click “Knows too much.” Not that my reason for hiding it has much of anything to do with the ad content — it’s the ad, dammit! The mere presence of the ad. So, hide all from that sponsor — every time, okay?

Whack every ad you see for 5, 10, or 15 minutes and see how much fun this game delivers!

Does it work? It’s a game! It works when I feel better after playing it than I do grumbling past the crapola choking my feed. Do I see fewer ads after a few rounds of smacking them down? Maybe — who knows? I do know that I gain a sense of satisfaction after whacking several ads into temporary invisibility.

And I call that WINNING

It’s fun! it’s free! It’s easy to play — and best of all: NO ADS!

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50 Years On & Off the Wall in Austin

“We thought it might last maybe five or ten years…With Austin changing so much it’s like, why keep this hippie mural up here? It is kind of amazing.”

Kerry Awn, muralist


 Celebrate the 50th anniversary of Austin’s 23rd Street mural tomorrow!

If you’re in Austin, you get 2 opportunities: a noon dedication ceremony at the mural (with group photo opportunity!) and an evening performance from the Uranium Savages — “The Band Too Dumb to Die!” — at TexPopATX at 7:09 (but, of course).

The People’s Renaissance Market

“…the longest continuously operated open-air arts and crafts market in the country”

In the early 70’s, businesses along Guadalupe Street by the University (known as the Drag), were grousing about sidewalk vendors clogging access to their stores. Matters came to a head at a City Council meeting to discuss banning vendors from the sidewalks along the Drag.

I was among those who showed up to protest the proposed vendor ban, attending my first Austin City Council meeting. The Council came up with a compromise, voting to ban vending on the Drag sidewalks but creating the open-air People’s Renaissance Market along 23rd Street just off Guadalupe, giving vendors a designated area to sell their wares.

Vendors would be required to purchase a license and I bought one of those first vendor licenses, hoping to sell handmade candles. After a single day sweltering in the sun and watching my only candles melting, I gave my license to Jim Nelson, who put it to good use as he launched his career as an artist.

The market remains in operation today.

The Mural

Austintatious Art Squad: Kerry Awn, Tommy B., Rick TurnerThe Austintatious Art Squad — Kerry Awn, Rick Turner and Tommy B. — created the original design of the mural and convinced the University Co-Op (owners of the building) to let them do it — for free. All they asked for was paint.

And so it began.

It’s a sweeping, surrealistic panorama filled with dozens of tiny details, including many very real people famous or infamous around the Drag and Austin. Historical figures such as the giant Stephen F. Austin and postage-stamp portrait of former Governor Dick Coke share wall space with architectural features including the UT Tower (of course) and the Texas State Capitol. Caricatures of well-known Drag denizens, such as the “Smile Guy,” dot the landscape, offering little mysteries for viewers wondering who they were.

Wonder no more, friends! The newest rendition of the mural is a online version with embedded hot-spots to link text and videos to some of the imagery found in the mural itself. Videos include explanations of how the armadillo came to symbolize Austin and the musical backgrounds of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Johnny Winter. Background articles on the Elisabet Ney Museum and provide additional details regarding some of what is shown.

Periodically, the mural has needed repair, due to wear & tear and occasional vandalism. A crowd-sourced effort funded restoration work reuniting the 3 original artists after taggers defaced the wall some years back. It has been recently updated again.

As per the new, online interactive version: “Recent additions include artist Micael Priest, who painted some of the mural itself, Ann Richards, Lady Bird Johnson, Henry Gonzales, and the Hawaiian Prince Jimmy Hughes.”

The original streaker from the 70s (a brief cultural phenomena) has been transformed to Matthew McConaughey’s legendary bust while playing bongos naked. Recent buildings such as the so-called “Jenga Tower” now join the Tower and the Capitol.

The Smile Guy

“No one knew his name, he just stood in front of the Co-op and shouted ”Smile! Smile!’ All day long. It was with a weird mixture of good cheer and menace.”

Okay, so the “Smile Guy” gets his own hotspot. He carried a huge bucket to beg money for the People’s Free Clinic (later the People’s Community Clinic), all the while shouting loudly at passers-by, exhorting them to “SMILE!” sometimes adding, “It doesn’t cost ya a dime!”

The Austintatious artists remember him but don’t know his name. Well, I seem to recall it was Bill and I think he owned a bookstore called “Grackle Books.” I can’t verify either of those but I do recall catching a ride home from him late one night after work at the ice cream store. We stopped at a closed gas station at the corner of 38th & Speedway so he could get some gas — by lifting each hose to drain the last few drops out of it into his tank.

Ah, the glory days of quality scrounging are gone — along with the Smile Guy, I guess.

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