Victory Lap

VICTORY LAP
(for William Arthur Spencer)

You ran the victory lap
before you crossed the finishing line
The crowds of people all froze
A total stoppage of time

Not a single muscle move
And no eye dared meet thine
But you ran proudly out of there
With your chin thrust high

Was it sad cigarette butts

Ground into the glass of your mind
Was it those yellow and cracked fingers
Pressing pause and rewind

Was it despair
Forgetful melancholy,
Family curse
Or Southern pride
Code of honor
Chickens coming home to roost
Whatever happens ‘least you know you weren’t the only one….

You can’t be anything but your father’s son
Sometimes you think that it’s all over
But you are wrong
The ward doors fly open and you’re on the run
Cops lined up across the street
Tasers set to stun


You ran your victory lap
Before you crossed the finishing line
The crowds of people all froze
A total stoppage of time
Not a single muscle moved
No eye dared meet thine
And you ran proudly out of there
With your chin thrust high

How else to describe it?
It’s all comedy,
A dirty low-down
Blame it on some chemicals
in the water
Blame this one horse town

Your body’s fine son,
It’s your mind
That’s bent on betrayal
You set the pins up
Balance carefully
But your heart’s deceitful
Somehow that subtle breath of madness always knocks ’em down

You can’t be anything but your father’s son,
Sometimes you think that it’s all over
But you’re wrong
The cage flies open and you’re on the run

Cops line up across the street,
Tasers set to stun

You ran the victory lap
Before you crossed the finishing line
You ran the victory lap
Before you crossed the finishing line

A word about this song.

Here’s the sum total of what I know about William Arthur Spencer, a.k.a my father (including what I’ve only surmised from available evidence):

Out of the Air Force after serving somewhere (I think) in the frozen expanses of Canada, it appears that he probably rambled about the West Coast throughout the late ’60s. He attended classes, penned exhaustively researched and  brilliant letters to politicians and newspaper editors whose politics he disagreed with, and toiled intermittently in social work and mental health.

My mother was 13 years his junior, and Lord knows how they met (I was never told). Historical chronology proves, though, that he was 35 when my brother was born, and 38 when I appeared on the scene.

He had terrible afflictions both mental and physical. Certainly, he smoked several packs of Marlboros a day. But he was also so crippled by mysterious neurological maladies that he eventually had to rely on canes and walkers to get around.  Several strokes in his mid-forties reduced his speech intelligibility to nil.

On our infrequent visits, during a television commercial, he’d attempt a phrase  and I would try very hard to comprehend the long collection of slurred groans that would result. Most of my memories of him hail from this period.

But I’m told that as a younger man, he had incredible energy. In fact, you see, ha ha, rather too much energy (they explain nervously to me, eyes cast aside). Yup. There’s a dark side.

I have pieced together – from the brief second-hand accounts I’ve pried from people – that back then, he occasionally spiraled into cycles of sleepless manic behavior that could climax in raving psychosis, spending sprees and days of blackouts; afterward, when he wasn’t borderline catatonically depressed – a condition that came to characterize most of the last years of his life, hunched motionless, chain smoking in the gloom, in a cigarette-scarred vinyl easy chair six feet in front of a flickering television screen – he was irritable, or shooting pool with the boys down at the NiteHawk, or simply…gone. Rambling, few know where.

It is not surprising that my mother did not wish to revisit such memories and such times. Twice a year we would attempt a visit to the room where he lived out his days, twice a year for several years, until it became too much. And, in all that time, my mother rarely spoke of him, or of what their lives together had entailed, or of their secret history, or of what she still might feel for this man who slumped broken before her.

The result: I know far too little of my kin. It increasingly disturbs me how little. So, very soon I will embark on a project – a documentary, a quest to reclaim history for the descendents. Perhaps, or perhaps not, a portrait of mental illness. A  gathering all of the loose articles and dust-covered tracks of the virtual void in our family history that is my father.

But for now, while this remains in the planning stages, I’ll share the song I’ve written that I’ve dedicated to this particular void.

Gone to Stay (Original Song)

Gone to Stay

It was cold in Silver City

and I was choking on that gritty desert dust

So I drifted on to Vegas

Sat down at the tables til I went bust

 

Now I’m stuck in this town

Pourin’ whiskey down

Too drunk to move

Yeah, I’m just hangin’ round

Feet nailed to the ground

Just born to lose

 

So if you miss me honey

I’m sorry to say

That it looks like honey

I’m gone to stay

 

I know I did the leavin’

And I left you believin’ I’d be home soon

But something kept me travelin’

All my plans unraveling on the loom

 

When I last saw your face,

You had this look like you’d just given up

So I thought I’d give you space

And come back when I guessed you’d had enough

 

But if you miss me honey,

I’m sorry to say

that it looks like honey,

I’m gone to stay

 

Yeah ’cause I’m stuck in this town

Pourin’ whiskey down,

Too drunk to move

Yeah I’m just hangin’ round

Feet nailed to the ground

Just born to lose

 

So if you miss me honey

I’m sorry to say

that it looks like honey,

I’m gone to stay

Yeah if you miss me honey

I’m sorry to say

That it looks like honey,

I’m gone to stay…

 

(c )2004

Lyrics and Photography by Benjamin J Spencer

Music by Anastacia Libokmeto

12.16.2011 – Could These be the Dumbest Holiday Songs Ever? (Multimedia for TruTV.com Dumb as a Blog)

10 dumb songs that will make you hate the holidays

by Benjamin J Spencer
December 16, 2011 12:02 PM

SantaThe holidays are the season for giving.

Unfortunately, they are also the season for taking into your earholes those most stubborn of modern social engineering tools: Christmas songs.

These jaunty dirges are hammered into our brain every December, and they mostly sound like a civilization dying. The only way to escape them is to sequester yourself for a couple of months in a nuclear bunker.

We’re not talking about Ye Olde Yuletide Carols of yore. At the very least, those are at least still good for guzzling mead and cracking greedy old miser’s hard hearts.

No, we’re talking about a commercial trend crafted by 20th century record companies and their songwriting cronies to make some scratch off of a public increasingly desperate for a little holiday joy.

But the following 10 holiday classics go beyond cynical and enter the realm of the truly dumb.


1. Do They Know It’s Christmas? –
Band Aid

Could this be the dumbest holiday song ever? Let’s consult our “Earnest 1980s Charity Song” checklist. Lurid, bash-you-over-the-head lyrics? Check. The vocal talents of Boy George and Phil Collins? Got it. Deafening wash of tubular bells and synthesized drums? Done. This 1984 single was meant to highlight hunger in Ethiopia – where the lyrics claim “the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears” – and happily it raised over $100 million for famine relief there. But to today’s ears the lyrics represent heights of pampered rock star cluelessness only eclipsed by Band Aid’s next hit single: We are the World.


2. Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
– Elmo & Patsy

It’s time to permanently retire this novelty one-off about a terrible family tragedy. Unless you think there’s something inherently hilarious about a lonely alcoholic grandmother, neglected by her family on Christmas Eve, stumbling off alone into the woods only to be fatally mowed down by a hundred tons of venison on the hoof. Dear old Grandpa then celebrates her death on his recliner while the family contemplates raiding her gifts. Good old-fashioned fun, this “holiday classic”.

3. A Wonderful Christmas Time – Paul McCartney & Wings

The only explanation for what is surely the laziest, most dispirited, and ugliest-sounding Christmas song ever committed to tape: Sir Paul must have lost a bet with Ringo. Now the world should rise up and demand an explanation for why every soft-rock station in the country plays this joyless piece of crap at least once an hour throughout December.

4. I Believe in Father Christmas – Greg Lake

The holidays are here.  So just kick back by the fire with a flagon of eggnog, forget your troubles, flip on the old stereo – and treat yourself to an insufferably whiny, self-righteous political diatribe masquerading as a Christmas song. As if the finger-pointing at all us consumerist saps (and the onslaught of Moog synthesizers) weren’t enough, we also get Floyd-ish dark sarcasm and blood-curdling images of war and death.  Merry Christmas, baby-killers!

5. The Chipmunk Song – Alvin and the Chipmunks

This unaccountably popular holiday ditty was originally performed in 1958 by a pre-teen rodent boy band who were being exploited by a wily producer. Can you say animal abuse? But sell records – and “h-u-u-u-la  h-o-o-o-ps” – it surely did. A pop-punk update, featured on the recent Chipmunks animated movie, is even more annoying than the original, if possible.

6. Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley

The cheery holiday message of this song: forget about all that spirit of giving stuff and appreciating the company of friends and family. Instead, wallow in self-pity and mope about the girl who ran out on you. I can’t imagine why she’d want to leave such a bundle of joy.

7. A Spaceman Came Travelling – Chris de Burgh

This Nativity song for the New Age crowd re-imagines the angel Gabriel as a wise alien from another world who appears to Mary and her saintly tot on an interstellar mission of peace. In de Burgh’s version, which he supposedly penned after reading Erich Von Daniken’s UFO- religion staple Chariots of the Gods?, the star of Bethlehem is actually the alien’s ship hovering above the manger.  ‘Nuff said. De Burgh would go on to achieve 1980’s junior prom immortality with his top 40 Billboard hit Lady in Red.

8. Any and all recordings where dogs/cats meow/bark along to “Jingle Bells

This abomination needs to end, once and for all. If Congress is forced to amend the Bill of Rights to allow an exception to free speech protections, so be it.  Until that glorious day, please: I am begging you. Stop sampling dogs and cats and inserting their pitched yowls into Christmas songs.  You may think it is “cute.” You may even think it is “clever”. You are unequivocally wrong.

9. Santa, Baby – Eartha Kitt

As much fun as it is to watch Ms. Kitt growl these lyrics, let’s all remember that she is purring about Santa.  This nauseatingly graphic come-on to everyone’s favorite fat jolly old elf is possibly the creepiest, most lecherous popular Christmas song ever, reinforced by the original Catwoman’s coy vocals. Let’s just hope the narrator never got her claws into dear Santa – where is Mrs. Claus anyway? – and that she got some help for her sex addiction.

10. Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas) – John Denver

The late, great John Denver must have been (Rocky Mountain) high when he dropped this miserable honky-tonk track lamenting alcoholic dysfunction at the holidays. Of course, the golden-voiced Denver couldn’t have sounded melancholic if he tried, so the whole affair ends up a queasy mismatch between his sunny, swelling vocals and the unimaginably dark material. Nonetheless, the song inspired even more spirit-crushing covers by the likes of Alan Jackson and the Decemberists.

10.31.2011 – Conspiracy Roundup: Stealing Your Privacy (for truTV.com Conspiratorium)

Conspiracy Roundup: Stealing Your Privacy

Benjamin J Spencer
By Benjamin J Spencer
October 31, 2011 10:06AM

Herman-cain-4Global climate change: it’s just getting warmed up, apparently. Countries need to brace for millions upon millions of “climate refugees” in the next decade, according to a U.N. panel.

Is Herman Cain buying copies of his own autobiographical books, from his own publishing company, as part of his book tour, with donated campaign money? Feds say that’s not kosher.

Even after the Solyndra bankruptcy mini-scandal, billions in federal funds are going to questionable clean energy companies, according to this story…

Privacy-invading requests for your ZIP Code at the supermarket? Turns out, you don’t have to tell them what your zip code is (or just do what we do and make it up — stick it to same lame zip code.)

The Dept. of Justice proposed a change to Freedom Of Information Act law that would allow them to pretend documents that exist, you know, don’t exist.

And former Weatherman “terrorist” Bill Ayers spoke to Occupy Chicago protestors the other day. Uh oh…