Forever October: A Musical Chronicle Way back when compact discs first appeared, it occurred to me it would now be possible to write soundtracks for books. But the idea didn’t catch on, I didn’t make the cover of TIME Magazine or become recognized as a visionary and subsequently fabulously well-to-do. Ah, well. However, thanks to advances in recording technology and the arrival of affordable self-publishing, that vision has become a reality. The first foray down this path was my book In Karanapore: A Fantasy, published earlier this year. The present (humble) literary offering might be called “a companion volume” to the soundtrack written for October: A Cautiously Cosmic Curiosity. It isn’t necessary to read this book to enjoy the soundtrack. But y’know, if you have a few bucks to spare … Forever October: A Musical Chronicle isn’t a dry, note-by-note account of how the recordings were made, there’s no technical jargon. Of necessity, there is a certain amount of the old blow-by-blow. But there are also enough tangents and asides to bring a sense of balance to the proceedings. I hope so, at any rate. I guess the best way to describe the work at hand is to say it documents a particular burst of creativity and serves as an introduction to the book that was responsible for it.
In Karanapore: A Fantasy As someone near and dear to me once advised, you have to remain open to possibilities. As such, it was possible Life as I’d known it was just a dream within a dream. It was equally possible this Life was all there was, all there could or would ever be. Or it could be like a layer of an onion, one of countless possibilities in a Universe filled with possibilities. But due to chronic health annoyances, the quality of my day-to-day life had become a slow, downward spiral with no end in sight. I’d long believed in the power of creative visualization. And if that’s what it would take to get out from behind this, then that’s what it would take. In which case, the idea of Karanapore - not an ideal place, but a better place - was not far-fetched, out there, or “too bloody cosmic for my own good.” All I had to do was get there ...
Good Enough for Barbecue: Stories from a Forgotten Texas There’s far more to living in Texas than you’ll ever see on television or in a movie. What passes for life in Dallas, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio has little to do with life in the rest of the State. Fort Worth will likely be the next city to succumb to the desire to be labeled “a world class city.” My characters live in a Texas that is rapidly becoming what used to be. They aren’t quaint, they don’t mouth cliches, and they don’t give a damn about the arts & music scenes in Austin or about Texas Monthly’s annual searches for the best chili/barbecue/chicken fried steak/whatever in the State. There is no place for my characters and their stories in today’s Texas, which is all the more reason to write about them before they disappear like the great buffalo herds and the Comanche warriors who hunted them
"I Can't Die Today (but next Tuesday's open)" WELCOME BACK TO THE billVerse! It’s a slim slice to be sure. But Bill was working on a deadline. Literally. Who or what he was talking to is never quite clear. God? The Angel of Death? The Grim Reaper? It’s impossible to say. But whatever was going to go down was going to go down next Tuesday. But as he continually points out, there’s work to be done, stuff that can’t wait. Loose ends to be tied off or trimmed away, a piece of music and a new book that have to be finished, all by next Tuesday.
"Love, Magdalene" You never know who’s going to knock on your door at 3 AM. Or be in the kitchen polishing off the last of your pistachio-almond ice cream. Or be sitting on your bedside, smelling of cinnamon and patchouli. In the not-so-distant past, my “it’s either way too early or way too late” visitors have included both Jesus and Judas. And, yes, there was a certain amount of heresy tossed about (disavowing Holy Writ certainly lights up that category). And now here we are, stepping back onto the Heresy Highway once more. In this installment, Jesus is indisposed, so he sends an envoy in his stead, one who smells of cinnamon and patchouli …
"Caroline's Book (A Sort-of Children's Story)" “Wake up and smell the corn dogs!” Call The Hallmark Channel! Or, better yet, Terry Gilliam. Caroline’s Book (A Sort-of Children’s Story) isn’t exactly warm and fuzzy, but it could be! It’s also not as visually arresting as it could be, but in the hands of the right person …. Look, here’s the deal: a young girl wakes up in the hospital but can’t remember why. A mysterious visitor arrives in time to warn her against eating hospital Jell-O, and then … Is it a dream? Is it is real? And what exactly does “Wake up and smell the corn dogs!” mean? There’s only one way to find out …
"The Romance of the Road & Fear is the Only Darkness" Baudelaire wrote: “I felt the wind of the wing of madness pass overhead.” I might say that has been my every day for as long as I can remember. But there's madness and then there's Madness, the latter of which is never to be taken lightly or portrayed as some sort of hyper-eccentricity (would Hollywood please take note). Briefly, "The Romance of The Road" is about escape. "Fear is the Only Darkness" is when there is no escape. Prospective purchasers and readers are advised that like The Magic Theater in "Steppenwolf", neither "The Romance of The Road" nor "Fear is the Only Darkness" is for everyone. You don’t have to be mad to understand or enjoy them, but it helps if you don’t come to them with preconceived notions of what makes a book a book.
"On William Street" When my friend Kathleen mentioned how much she used to enjoy talking with the neighbors during a backyard cook-out, it flipped the Writing Switch. And later that same weekend, my long-ago neighbor Bill mentioned throwing a football around in the street, that flipped the (Fail Safe) Writing Switch and it was all systems go. Time to write about the old neighborhood! Again. If you've ever wondered what life was like in an obscure corner of a Chicago suburb during that most turbulent and exciting time in the Nation's history known as The Sixties, this book's for you.
"Blue Norther" The norther is a “weather event” (ugh) that only occurs in the states of The Great Plains, of which Texas lies at the very bottom. It is the home stretch for the streams of cold, arctic air that come down through Canada, drawn to the warmer air of the Gulf of Mexico. It isn’t a tornado. It isn’t a storm front. It’s a wall of fast-moving, cold air, always accompanied by rain, sometimes by hail. It's here, and then it's gone. But it always leaves changes in its wake. Sometimes it marks the end of a season, sometimes of a way of life. With a norther, you just never know.
"Ain't Got No Home (Mostly Unpublished Bits & Pieces)" There's something for everyone here: a dream about Miles Davis, a movie review, a paean to Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant, a tale of a modern day Steppenwolf, a piece on a truly selfless love, the surprising remains of yet another romance that didn't pan out, AND MORE. It's easy. Anyone can do it. All you have to do is open a vein ...
"Denton Again: The Story in the Song" How long does it take to write a song? From the events that inspired "Denton Again" to its final form and first public performance in 1992, twenty years. Another ten years passed before it was recorded on his 31 minutes CD. A prolific songwriter known for working swiftly "when the Spirit hits," Bill Parker had no explanation for why this haunting tale of the search for a love unspoken took so long, other than "I needed to get it right."
"Haunted: Selected Lyrics of Bill Parker" A collection of song lyrics by songwriter/author Bill Parker, translated into Dutch by Johanna J. Bodde. As no two languages translate exactly word-for-word, the lyrics are also included in English in the second half of the book. Also included are introductions by both Bodde (in Dutch) and Parker (in English).
"The Antler Paradox ... and other stuff." I wanted to write about my friend and fellow Gold Coaster John "Harmonica Jack" Keslin, but I'm not a biographer and anyway I live in Europe these days while he still resides in the American Midwest. The Miracle of Modern Technology overcomes most communication barriers, but it can't replace sitting at the kitchen table long after midnight, sharing some cold beer, a couple packs of Lucky Strikes, and a plate of fried bologna sammiches. So, I did what I could (twelve pages of pure, literary gold) and wrapped it in a number of unrelated poems, anecdotes, and musings. All in all, it's short (67 pages), affordable ($4), accessible, and sports an intriguing cover photo. What else do you want, egg in your beer?
"Pahuska: A sort-of autobiography" After 38 books, I felt some sort of autobiography was called for. This is “some sort” of autobiography. Neither comprehensive in content nor precisely linear in structure, they won't be making a movie out of this one anytime soon. There aren't even any photographs. And as for who gets mentioned or who doesn’t, and in what context, are you sure you want to be associated with something like this? As Jerry Lee Lewis would say, “Think about it, darlin’ …”
" A Different Rabbit Hole" Welcome back to River Oaks! In the third book of The Stride Agency canon, it's been a quiet time in the Hallowed Halls, which is not to say everything's copacetic. There's a stranger in town, along with any number of loose ends, and Swami Rheeva is still missing ...
"Een kleine hond in de zon (Het Boogie Boek)" "A Little Dog in the Sun (The Boogie Book)" is a translation by Johanna J. Bodde of the earlier "Like A Little Dog in the Sun" and several selections from other works about the little dot-headed dog.
"A Question of Wiring: The Second Jackson Stride Mystery" For Danny McCluskey, walking through Gold Coast back then was like walking inside The Beatles’ song “Penny Lane.” All sunshine and blue skies with enough clouds to break the monotony of the Midwestern sky and to keep the imagination churning. But then a highway accident and a coma left him in a wheelchair and wiped out those Gold Coast memories. How to get those memories back? If you’re thinking, “It sounds like a job for The Stride Agency,” you’d be right. Once again, Jackson Stride and his sister Shirley - along with their unofficial operative, the venerable Swami Rheeva – take on a case no one in their right mind would touch in “A Question of Wiring.”
"The Long Ride Home" Josh Gibson called him “Sweet Pea.” The sportswriters called him “Comet.” In the final installment of The “Comet” Cole Trilogy, we meet The Man himself and learn about life in the old Negro Leagues, playing ball in Cuba at the dawn of Fidel Castro’s Revolution, and find a ballclub managed by a dog. (Previous volumes are Comet (A Story of North Central Texas) and across a sea of tickleweed.)
"across a sea of tickleweed" In this sequel to Comet (A story of North Central Texas), it's November 1989. The Dallas Cowboys, with new ownership and a new coach, have yet to win a game. Speed has replaced pot as the drug of choice among the proletariat, and winning the Texas State Lottery is the only hope several million Texans have for a better life. It's also been five years since the passing of former Negro League legend Lendell "Comet" Cole. For his friend Lee England, life hasn't been the same since.
"for the sake of one pure note" To search for one pure note did not consciously figure in my decision to buy a flute. It appeared the morning my humble efforts, inspired half a century earlier by a young Englishman named Chris Wood, first began to come together. It was reason enough to stick around a little longer.
"Bill's Beloofde Land" With selections drawn from several sources - tour journals, email, and earlier books - Johanna J. Bodde's "Bill's Beloofde Land" ("Bill's Promised Land"), represents the first translation of musician and author Bill Parker's work into Dutch. In the second half of the book, the selections appear in their original English.
"Letter to Boogie ... and other selections" "It may well be true that pets take on the characteristics of their owners. But I never saw myself as Boogie’s owner and certainly never viewed him as a pet. Even so, we shared a case of The Kid: each dawn brought a new day and a new world, which we faced and dealt with as best we could. We were Kameraden, we were compadres. If anything, we belonged to each other." With Letter to Boogie and other selections, musician/author Bill Parker tosses new dispatches from the billVerse through the transom.
"Shadows Adrift" In a scene straight out of “The Maltese Falcon” a young woman who finds herself in a most desperate predicament walks into the office of Jackson Stride, private investigator. He’s not Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, or even Nick Danger, but he’s the best River Oaks has to offer. Will he help her? Can he help her? With “Shadows Adrift” author Bill Parker returns to River Oaks – “the blurred, mirror-image” of his hometown - for The Strange Case of Miss Veronica Tamblin.
"The Third Day: Jesus & Judas in the 21st Century" On a suitably cold and stormy night, musician & author Bill Parker receives two late-night visitors: Jesus Christ and Judas Iscariot. With the aid of hot chocolate and peanut M&M’s, they set the record of what went down in Jesus’ last days straight.
"a fragile thing that can only exist where fragile things are loved" Author’s Caveat: If you have not read “After Halloween” – a work with a beginning and an ending which stands on its own - DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK which is, for lack of a better description, an “unintended supplement” to the earlier work, much as “I’m Glad you Didn’t Take It Personally” was to Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four.” In botanical terms, if "After Halloween" is an oak tree, "a fragile thing which can only exist where fragile things are loved" is mistletoe. In other words, as Colonel Pickering said of the New Small Talk in "Pygmalion," it’s not compulsory. With money getting tighter all the time, if you must choose between the two, give this one a pass. That said … Within months of publication of “After Halloween,” unforeseen if not entirely unpredictable Change struck the author’s forest sanctuary “on the other side of the A20 motorway,” and there wasn’t a thing he or his mysterious twinkly-eyed, saxophone-playing friend could do about it. No one likes to lose, but what do you do when you know you can’t win?
"Ghosts of The Calumet" I’ve been writing about the fictional town of River Oaks, Illinois – the “blurry, mirror-image” of my hometown - for quite a few years now. Ten years ago, the very first story ("The Save") featured a young boy at the dawn of the Space Age. But in the most recent offering ("Requiem for The Ace"), there’s a murder and a body dump. Things have certainly gotten dark in River Oaks. Can the tide be turned by a renegade late night disc jockey? Or a pretty bookstore clerk? How about an eccentric filmmaker? Or is it time to follow my long ago mentor's example, put on my Blues Hat and take it down the road?
"Two of Us (A Memoir of 1968)" There are debts that can never be repaid, not for love nor money. The most you can do is never act in a manner that would cause your benefactors to feel their love, faith, or charity has been misplaced. This is not a warm and fuzzy "coming of age" story. It's the tale of a walk down the Boulevard of Dreams in 1968, the year of "Hey Jude" and The Beatles' "White Album."
"After Halloween" "I bought a flute ..." Music on the wind opens a door. A "willing suspension of disbelief" allows you to step through it. And an unexpected meeting in a forest far from home brings a most unusual employment opportunity. But time is running out ...
"Gold Coast After Dark (Heresy on the Half-Shell)" With "Gold Coast After Dark (Heresy on the Half-Shell)" Bill Parker manages to bring Jesus Christ and his faithful sidekick Judas Iscariot into the 21st century via their own late night talk show, a one-act play, a guest spot on a podcast, and wraps it all up with a lengthy closing monologue and a couple of Italian beef sandwiches from Nick's Pizza.
"Meteor 42" Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't. And sometimes it just slips away. The sharp edge of Truth cuts both ways. When your every waking moment is played out over a ceaseless backdrop of memories interspersed with sudden drops into the drowsy state between darkness and dream, do the dreams become memories? Do they replace the memories? When you can't tell one from the other, what options are left to you? Do you keep the memories or go with the dreams?
"Sunset" Musician/author Bill Parker used to be told to use his head “for something other than a hat rack,” so he did. That it turned into a spookhouse wrapped in a thunderstorm was probably not what anyone had in mind, but there we are. This isn't an "I'm smarter than you" or even an "I'm so bloody cosmic" book. There are questions without answers, answers waiting on questions, a rant against Bicycle Geeks, and a lot of pushing back against what the author sees as a world filled with people whose actions are as predictable as the plot of a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie.
"Avis & Burke" Built on one of the six classic plot lines of Modern Literature (two kids meet in high school, fall in love, break up, and meet again years later, still in love), all "Avis & Burke" lacks is a soundtrack by Michael McDonald.
"Blues for Chang" "The Universe is all about Balance with a Capital B." Having written about his Mother in "Barbara June," with "Blues for Chang" musician/author Bill Parker picks up where the former left off: August 1972, and the beginning of his relationship with his Father.
"Gold Coast: Stories from a Suburban Shangri-La" Gold Coast, the southern side of a northern town, where the 'billies & the crackers met the Polacks & the Bohunks on the graveyard shift.Ignored by the City fathers to the furthest extent allowable by law during the most tumultuous and exciting decade of the 20th century, the neighborhood became a suburban Shangri-La to its collection of future solid citizens, misfits, and dreamers.Naturally, there are stories . . .
"Barbara June" A non-linear, non-chronological, and certainly non-comprehensive memoir of early life & times with my mother. No family secrets are revealed and there are no plans for "Barbara June ... the Musical." Sometimes you do something simply because it needs to be done.
"The Monkey Puzzle" A mysterious backpack shows up on the back porch, filled with old clothes and 40-year old letters that were never addressed, let alone mailed. A weary traveler steps off a Dutch train into a scene straight out of Alfred Hitchcock. The return of the dreaded Red Shift after an 8-year absence. Holding a death watch for one's mother and staring evil in the face. Finally, waiting for a seat on the Cosmic Shuttle. Fact? Fiction? I can't tell where one ends and the other begins anymore.
"Rode Hard & Put Up Wet: The Return of the Good Karma Cowboy" "Rode Hard & Put Up Wet - The Return of the Good Karma Cowboy" begins with sage advice from jazz legend Miles Davis ("Don't play the 'butter notes.'") and ends with a childhood memory of watching Hollywood classics on late night TV ("This is what nights in Europe are supposed to look like."). In between, musician & author Bill Parker discourses on the differences between rainy day cities and rainy night cities, relates his father's rather unorthodox plans for his wake & funeral, takes part in an exhaustive conversation with freelance mystic Swami Rheeva, slips in the by now obligatory David Crosby reference ("it gives one a sense of continuity"), explains the "sense of urgency" that drives his writing and music and comes to terms with the looming prospect of his sad but inevitable demise.
"October (A Cautiously Cosmic Curiosity)" Most people have a favorite food. I once knew a girl named Monica who had a favorite type of eraser. Of the 12 months that make up the Gregorian calendar, October is my favorite. It is also a state of being, the antithesis of the unOctober which exists by destroying the joys, hopes, and dreams of the careless and the unknowing.You can be an agent of unOctober and not know it. You can be a victim of unOctober yet be unaware of its existence. But if you can find your way to October, you just might make it … Loosely autobiographical, October (A Cautiously Cosmic Curiosity) blends fact and fiction to tell a tale of the quest for a refuge that can be neither seen nor touched, only sensed.
"The Heron King" Once an object of affection passes – a pet, a loved one, even a country or way of Life - the time comes when you must move on. You can only linger beside a grave for so long. The Heron King is about someone who reached that point and did something about it.
"Eight Truths: On being a musician." In this Life, there is what I Believe and what I Know. I can't speak with certainty on anything else. "Eight Truths" concerns itself with the eight tenets that are the basis of my musical philosophy, which can also be applied to day-to-day life. I believe in them as a Jesuit believes in the Catholic Church because I have seen the truth of them. In a letter written over thirty-five years ago and nearly a full decade after I’d set off to find my own path, my mentor Fred Keith clued me in on why we do what we do: “For people like us, it’s the only game in town.” It is The Eight Truths that make it so.
"The Self-Help Book (The only book you'll ever need!)" “Later, between bites of fried chicken, the Old Man said, ‘Willie, if we could find a way to combine all those books (Out On A Limb, Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Chariots of the Gods, I’m Okay You’re Okay) we’d be on Easy Street.’ 'In other words, you want me to write a book we’d try to pass off as a panacea for all mankind.' 'Either way sounds like money in the bank.' The last five words, intoned in his best imitation of George Stevens aka The Kingfish of Amos & Andy fame, concluded the evening’s discussion. (I can't guarantee the contents of this book will turn your life around and send you dancing down the sunny side of the street. In fact, it is entirely possible it won't help you in any way, whatsoever. Doesn’t obviate the truth of my contention that it’s the only book you’ll ever need …)
"Comet: A Story of North Central Texas" In the 1980's, Texas was run by Reagan Republicans who looked to take the Lone Star State back to the 1950's and by a powerful real estate and land development alliance whose apparent goal was to turn every square foot of land between the Red River and the Rio Grande into high-yield commercial property. Things were booming in the boardrooms of Dallas, Austin, and Houston. But in the towns scattered along the old Texas State Highway system, people watched as more and more land was swallowed up with each passing year and wondered how long it would be before a certified letter arrived with a low-ball offer for the patch of ground they called home. "Comet - A Story of North Central Texas," the tale of an unexpected and unlikely friendship between a former Negro League baseball player and a self-described "broke-dick cable splicer who ain't got no nothin'," takes place away from the glitz and glamor of natural high rollers and the nouveau riche, in the not-as-wide-open-as-they-used-to-be spaces on the map.
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