Back Streets


Cold bare walls of yesteryear bring the chill of sad despair

Smokey bars

And Blues

Loans to lend

and old black men wishing they could start again

Wishing they had something left to lose

Arthur's got a steady gig
For forty years the same damn licks have kept him fed with booze and kicks

Somehow it's just no fun anymore

No one cares how well he plays
They say Arthur's seen his better days
And he has

"Charlie Parker was a friend of mine" he mutters to himself
And cries
Alone in his room

Alone in his gloom

"Man you can blow!" they used to say
And folks would come from miles away just to hear that young cat play

He played with the best
Stayed up for nights without any rest 'till the years somehow drifted away

A white vest with tobacco stains accents hair that's turned to grey
He remembers
All he wanted to do was play

Cherokee plays the banjo now and then
The old man makes the rounds
And sometimes he sits in
He's never had a heyday
He's seldom seen a payday
But his fingers are like lightning when he's stoned

Without a word he picks awhile
And then he's gone
Back to the street with a quarter for the locker that keeps that banjo warm

Nothin's too good for his little girl

Rain on his back
The street for a sack
Lord, he can find heaven in a bottle of jack

He remembers days when hippies walked the streets
He always had someplace to stay
At night, he had something to eat

Man, how he would play with those young bluegrass boys
Down on the corner
When life was a joy

Those street folks just aren't around anymore
Just the hard-assed druggies
And young ladies that some folks call "whores"

They're Cherokee's flowers in this city of death...
Some go for thighs
Some go for breasts
The old man just wants a backrub now and then

They laugh and call it charity
But there's not a one of them that doesn't love old Cherokee
After a night of hard labor, they love the man with the lightning fingers

Milan's got a bar downstreet
Eight bar stools
A stage
And an old palm tree
He got it on an easy lease

He says he's got all he needs
And he does;
All the booze that he can drink to play that steel guitar so sweet
It's just a crutch he couldn't beat
Or didn't care to

He's come a long way since those days in Nashville
Now he's got it made

No one tells him how to play

He's got his own band
They can't play worth a damn, but he's a star
Lord knows it took a whole career to get this far

Now he's the king of the corner bar

Nathan drops in now and then
Just to pass the time
Only he knows how he could blow when he was in his prime

He scrounges in his pockets and comes up with a few nickels and dimes
"It's on the house," says Milan, and pours him a glass of cheap wine

"Hey man, I'd like to hear you play"
"I..uh je-jest got no lip no mo'," he explains

He drinks his wine and stumbles away
Moving slowly on
Down the block
Past garbage cans
And other rot
Cursing the cain that helps him walk
Until he finally stops under a dirty sign that reads "Sam's Hock Shop"

He stares inside

And with a tear in his eye he says "Honey, I wish you could talk"

It's eleven o'clock

Do you know who your friends are?

There's lots of folks who'll claim that favor in this bar

A gift given with all the sincerity that six shots of whiskey takes !

"Friends for Life!"
which ends when dawn breaks in muddled confusion

Ah ..... but we love the illusion

All good intentions aside, truth is off for a ride in the ozone

Tank-top Freddie dances around
From girl to girl

He's the hit of the town when the sun goes down

Day-times he wonders .... sometimes ...

There's lots of lovers left to lose
And only a fool would weigh the cost of the booze against a few moments of pleasure

Sally's looking good tonight

But sometimes
when the lights hit her right

Her smile just can't cover up the fright in her eyes

She tells a good joke
And tries hard to disguise her sorrow

Just a few more drinks ... she won't have to think about tomorrow;
It's just another day

And hell .... no one would really understand, anyway

John just bought the bar a round!

Nothing ever gets this man down

Or so it appears

There's a well of pain locked up inside

Sometimes he just wants so hard to let go of his pride
and tell someone ...

But ... He just has another beer

He'll slide on through another year giving away lots of smiles and good cheer to all his friends

He is a friend

He's having fun alright but .... no .... he just can't stay;

Someone needs his smile tonight on another end of town

One or two folks thank him for the round, and the man with the first-aid smile is gone again

After all .... he's got a job to do

And besides

It keeps his mind off the pain

Ol' J.D. sits in the corner

He's got a heart that's so much warmer than most folks'll ever know

He takes life r e a l s l o w these days

His dues have all been paid a long time ago

There's a bit of a twinkle in this old man's eye, as he tells you stories of days gone by that he remembers "like yesterday"

No one can really say he lies

But .... somehow .... he forgot the guy he loaned that 50 to

And that was only yesterday

Jimmy's sitting at the bar


Just .... Drunk

He comes around a little every time a pretty girl walks in

He tries some bad lines and misses again

He's fried

His mind is like teflon;
He just kinda' slid out of it for awhile

Cocaine Eddy's in the bathroom again

Giving a toot to all his friends

He sure has a lot of friends

It's the 1980's
Where the boom-child war-baby now-I-me TV and LSD generation can turn on the "boob-tube" and watch the by-products of some illusion of sexual liberation
Where the hipsters of the do-your-own-thing philosophy blend into the fabric of modern day society
still looking to find themselves
And forgetting how to love
Commitments or none

Naked bodies wrestle in the night forgetting they can fly as their individual egos clip their wings of passion
They wake up dissatisfied
Never knowing why

Romantic passion still exists
On VCR's and stereo discs
Where emotions change with the flick of a wrist
And life is laden with fashion

Is this the revolution we were talking about
Where lovers turn at the slightest doubt
Where fires burn for only a moment, to be snuffed out by pride
Or jealousy
Or desire of some other fantasy

Hard times
Or a momentary lack of harmony and lovers are off to seek something greener

Have we become so idealistic that we think we must believe in perfection
Like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans
Riding into the sunset
Or have we become so apathetic that true love lies locked in a chest in the attic of past experience
to be pulled out occasionally and looked at
like some old relic
Or some half-forgotten myth

War still goes on today
You may not support it with the threat of your life or that of your brother
But it's fed with your tax dollars
As you work for your pay while the lords of cocaine threaten to rule a continent
Prodded by the mark of an affluent society we cannot forsake
But we can
Try to change

As fish die in our lakes
The air is getting worse
and mothers
More and more
are giving birth to fatherless children

Is this the revolution so bound up in Eastern spiritualism;
in loving one another and taking care of our brothers and sisters
Or is this the epitome of an apathetic, narcissistic society, wherein lies the death of an alter-culture
No better than the system it tried to evade
Could never stand in one place long enough to define itself

The beat goes on...

That system can no longer feed itself

Too much greed
Too little doubt

There's wolves at the door
Nothing is made in the USA anymore
It's made by neighbors who dare to wager for a smaller share of life's needs
To feed a nation of greed for a pittance

Nuclear waste piles up like a cancer amid "facts" and reasons and answers
The culmination of which can only lead to disaster

The beat goes on
as the tempo gets faster
And I dare to seek answers to difficult questions
But if no one will listen

I'll settle

For a lover

Who still has some passion
... an image of what exists

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