Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy

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Me, the Bee Gees, and Books in the Basement


1977 Billboard Music Awards

Lonely days, lonely nights. Where would I be without my omen?

I think that’s how it goes. Down here in the basement, the sound of tiny paws scurrying within the heating duct, spiders in the west ground-level window, unsold books, unsold paintings, unsold greeting cards, all the company a young boy needs. And, of course, Barry, Robin, and Maurice. (And Andy)

My newest book – “Dictation from the Backyard” arrives today on UPS, they promise, 50 copies destined for collector status at some point far down the road, every page numbered incorrectly, off by one (not the loneliest number), allowable by a formatter glitch and yours truly missing the obvious on three separate “proofing” opportunities. You now what — I’m blaming it all on the nights on Broadway. Anyway, all these paperbacks spilling out onto the living room floor sometime the next few hours, potential magnets for dust, leave me rocketing with sadness and I’ll start a joke, and I’m thinking about stalking customers — “Well I had to follow you though you did not want me to.” As in, tag, you’re it.


I’d take a room full of strangers, yeah, they’ll be another “Book Signing” up at Papccino’s if they’ll still have me, it’s where I read these very poems up at the open mikeMany of my poems are about Massachusetts, lights out or on. Like a mining disaster, if you catch my cave-in. And what about caving to the obvious and buy a friend’s book and give it away, say, the 14th, poems, maybe show how deep your love is, it’s possible and all the while participating in someone else’s journey in a helping way, which Thoreau (another Bay State boy) told us all there ain’t nothing better. Buying all these Words.

I was meditating then,
That summer,
In a chair
In a spare bedroom,
But I took to meditating while standing
In the imperfect silence
Of my afternoon meadow visits.
Stand up on the edge,
Undercover through bushes and trees
The crowd unaware,
I’m still,
I’m empty,
I’m large,
Suntanned skin tickled, tricked by the breeze off the nearby sea
Aware of sliding sweat
Gravity’s friend
Down my back.
Aware hot tires rolling over tar,
Aware the soft slap
Of runners’ shoes, behind,


Run to me.




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Bare Lilac Branches

Bare lilac branchesIt feels, when I turn out the lights behind the recliner, I am giving up minutes of sacred time in my day. Surely not the only sacred time — I’d be a non-observing, non-engaged fool to say that. But those sacred minutes, the ones I’ve had with coffee and eye glasses and my books, while everyone else sleeps, a quiet in the house not present otherwise. So, unless there is a particular call to hurry off into the day — and twice a week I drive my son early to where he needs to be — I wonder to myself why I don’t stretch out the recliner solitude, dawn lighting the morning out the living room windows, for every possible moment? Until I hear the sounds of waking, movement elsewhere in the house, bringing down the checkered flag on silence.

Bare lilac branches
Illuminated by a reading lamp
Through the winter window,
Seen out a pantry pane,
An otherwise dark morning world
Stand present
Even in this wind.
They wait for more.
The budding of opportunity,
To improve on last year’s

My best guess, simply, is because it’s time. I see myself rise from the chair, walk to the kitchen and rinse out the mug, come back and switch off the electric light — and I don’t intervene. I’m ready. Now I walk down the basement stairs to the old Cushman kitchen table — hauled so lovingly back and forth all those miles, all these years, wrapped on occasion in mover’s blankets — take a seat at the table on one of four straight back chairs I bought used at a church rummage sale upon my move to Portland nine years ago, and come here, where I come every morning, to the waiting notebook silent and still on the table which I open and upon taking the blue medium pen, write three pages. I do this every single morning, I have since May of 2011 when I stopped formal work, thereby leading me to believe that the notebook calls up to me, something like “It’s time.”

Rare, among the triad of pages, is there a profound word to be found — that’s not me. I’ll guess the act of the writing, the ritual, is enough, another action of sacred living. Even with the small sound of feet passing over the floor above me. Even with the now empty recliner.

Bare lilac branches
They remind me of me.
Out the pantry pane they appear
But there is that glimmering
In the night.

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Portrait of an Addict

Let me set the stageJAMC 6

Christmas morning, less than one month before my 68th birthday, I opened a small present from my wife Susan and found three CDs – one of which was something called “Darklands” by the group The Jesus and Mary Chain. I’d heard of that group, the name’s distinctive, but was not aware of ever having heard even one of their songs. At some point over the next couple of weeks I added it to my CD changer in the 2001 Taurus and played bits and pieces on trips between home and coffee shops or Trader Joe’s. It began to grab me.

Darklands was released back in 1987, when I was considerably younger and four years sober, and likely listening to a steady diet of Beatles, Beach Boys, Pretenders, Earth, Wind, and Fire, Springsteen, Thompson Twins, and Jefferson Starship, among others heavily tilted toward the 60s and 70s. With no thought ever for The Mary Chain. But some of the songs on the CD, in particular “April Skies” and “Happy When It Rains”, held me closer and closer and refused to let go.

So I went to Ebay and bought “Psychocandy. The Mary Chain’s debut LP (’85) and, I learned, a record considered by music aficionados the planet over as a breakthrough, game-changing creation. I remember playing it straight through on a trip up to North Portland and back one day, then calling my friend and music guru Gavin in Oakland and telling him that it was hard to listen to, it’s trademark squeals of feedback getting in the way of my pop-soaked mind. Gavin – who by the way had recommended Darklands to Susan in the first place, gave me the most beautiful explanation of why they used tJAMC 1he feedback – as armor against both public hostility and adoration, kind of a “Fuck off”, and that Psychocandy worked better in small doses. I’ll get back to that advice.

Soon I was back on Ebay dialing up and ordering “21 Singles”, a collection of singles released from their six studio albums (not counting B-side compilations, outtakes, BBC radio sessions). It arrived, I played it over and over, got mesmerized and knocked out by “Some Candy Talking”, “Blues From a Gun”, “Head On”, “Snakedriver”, “Just Like Honey” – all of it.

Professionally I was in the process of re-writing and editing, with my wife, what would be my second book, “Astoria Strange”, and doing no other writing, so I found myself at the computer day in and day out, forever on YouTube, listening to – exclusively save for the occasional Brian Wilson song – The Mary Chain, each of their albums through, song by song, over and over again, never getting enough of some songs, humming and singing them around the house and out on walks, The Mary Chain, The Mary Chain, more, I needed more. I ordered the biography “Barbed Wire Kisses” by Zoe Howe, and when it arrived I stopped reading (and doing) everything else and read it straight through.

The Jesus and Mary Chain are Jim and William Reid, brothers from East Kilbride, Scotland. Other musicians have played  and recorded with them through the time of their albums (’85-’98), some a little more than others. But like Donald Fagen and Walter Becker of Steely Dan, The Mary Chain is the Reid boys. They dropped out of high school, they stayed in their room for years playing and writing music, hiding out from the Neds (non-educated delinquents: see pre-Trump voters), recording early material on a porta-studio bought for them by their father. Eventually they played out, got recognized by people in the industry, fell in with the fledgling Creation Records, played hundreds of concerts that lasted 15 minutes or so, their backs to the audience, because, always, surely, nothing else mattered but the music.

I began playing the album “Honey’s Dead” on YouTube every day, ordered it on Ebay, and one day, while driving and listening from first track “Reverence” to final track “Frequency” I had the sudden thought, the moment of clarity, that Honey’s Dead was and is every bit the recording that is “Revolver” by The Beatles, considered as perhaps the best ever album recorded. That’s how good Honey’s Dead is.

I call Gavin on a somewhat regular basis and talk Mary Chain. On the sly I ordered the LP version of Honey’s Dead and had it mailed to him and we have gushed over what a creation it is. I have since purchased the sixth studio recording – “Munki” – and the B-side “Barbed Wire Kisses”. I told Gavin I had a plan to record a collection of my favorite songs, if I could puzzle out the technology of recording off YouTube, and there were 40 to 50 songs that were musts. He laughed, in recognition. Like a fellow addict would.

But, enough of me. Let me offer up just a very few of my favorites to date, songs I believe are as good an any ever recorded by anyone. After I’ve listed these I’ll no doubt wish I had listed seven others:

Happy When It Rains:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5x1F9ohRa4&list=PLjWqmPPqoIzeVdZ0yVk11LeDjfzVmSgQJ

Snakedriver:   www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncmCTvJoyDQ

Some Candy Talking:   www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTl3wdYEymw

Here Comes Alice:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmxfBgaPqhE 

Catchfire:   www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hLEZwxyQaE

Black:   www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6Nu3najgpk

Tumbledown:   www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbWYCVmW5Ww

Happy Place:   www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcPJu4uYuIU

So, I lied, I put eight instead of seven. I meant it when I said it. Honest. Tomorrow I’ll only put seven. Like, I’ll quit tomorrow. But, anyway, I had to add “Happy Place” because it’s so different, so happy, so poppy. They’re amazing, the Reids, the depth of their creativity, the brilliance and wonder of the span of musical style and spectrum. Gavin describes “Tumbledown” as “…demented hot rod music, like a James Dean death song at a surf bbq.” Must love that. And by the way, I love, love, Psychocandy. Other worldly wonder.

The picture up top, the one that says it all, is me – I’m there at the bottom – after 73 straight hours of Mary Chain listening, bathed in sweat on the floor, just one more, Susan, just let me hear “April Skies” one more time. Honest, Susan, I’ll be done then. I swear. Honest.

There are The Beach Boys. There are The Beatles. And there is The Jesus and Mary Chain. The three best musical groups of all-time.

Yes.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPPP3BXurHk