I’m Gonna Send You Back to Arkansas.

I saw Ray last night.

I wanted to see a least one movie other than Sideways before the Oscars. Being that the flick’s already out on DVD, there’s only one theater in Manhattan still playing it; the one in the sub-sub-basement of the Virgin Megastore in Times Square. How surreal, to exit from the hushed cavern of a movie theater into the bustle of shoppers, and then the bright lights and noise of Times Square.
There was a lot of stuff I liked about the movie. The old records, of course. The raw data of the biography stuff. Lip-synching puts me off in general; being a recovering addict, I always become unnecessarily consumed with the minutiae of the portrayal of addiction.
(Late at night, channel-surfing, I’m always looking for drug tales. My friend Wayne says, “Joe Montana’s retired, but what do you think is on his mind every day?”)
Pat Dillett, who produced Rockity Roll and “Move On,” took me to see Ray Charles a couple years ago. His wife works at the Natural History Museum; Ray Charles was playing a brief set at a benefit.
I was never a devot

I Don’t Have to Sell My Soul; He’s Already in Me.

I went to a party that Adidas threw in memory of Jam Master Jay last night.

I went because my very old friend Greg Galloway’s wife, Fiona, works with the company who set up the event. I spent the evening just chilling with Greg, catching up and talking about people we haven’t seen in a while. This all seemed very normal until, for instance, Li’l Kim passed through with her entourage–she is indeed li’l–barely up to my chest–and has a face so pointed and waxy-looking she might’ve been a doll.
There was a room set up as a meditation room, where apparently one was supposed to go and think good thoughts about JMJ; unfortunately it was filled with big, fake-fur covered beanbags labeled with their unfortunate product name: LOVE SACK. The room stayed empty, except at one point Bone Thugz-n-Harmony went in there to get high.
I felt a little uneasy about the Adidas connection–they seemed to be using this event, ostensibly to raise money for JMJ’s charity foundation, to unveil a line of limited-edition collectors’ shelltoe sneakers. They were themed after cities–Berlin, Buenos Aires, Boston, others–and musicians, among them Ian Brown, the former Stone Roses singer, and one of my all-time faves. (the Stone Roses, and the Madchester thing in general, were big in my mind’s ear when we recorded Haughty Melodic) He wandered the party with his pants sliding off his ass, looking like a slightly more gaunt and lined version of himself.
Greg had made a giant poster of JMJ on which celebrities put their autographs; it was to be auctioned for JMJ’s foundation. It seemed the less sizable the celeb, the bigger the signature was. The signatures of Starski and Grandmaster Caz, God love ‘em, were absolutely gigantic.
I walked up to the poster–right there in front of everybody, security milling about and people standing around chatting–and wrote my own name on there, right next to Lee Qui

In My Lens Was a Naked Canadian.

They’ve finally posted the naked pixx I shot!

Months ago, I photographed a SuicideGirl, Twwly, on my rooftop at dusk; a delightful experience. She was really nice to me, considering I’d never done this before.
Now it’s up! I’m so happy. I feel like a real photog. Not only that, but–as I believe I’ve mentioned on this blog before–in tandem with the Aquaman story I wrote for DC Comics’ Bizarro World book, I can now put both comics artist and pornographer on my resum


Roaming around Manhattan, having my photograph taken.

A bunch of people showed up at my door at 10 am yesterday; among them photographer Aaron Farrington, who’s taking the images that will be used inside my CD package. He was a lovely freak, an adorably nervous, intense, and absorbed guy from Charlottesville.
We had a white minivan (God’s comic response to “White Lexus,” maybe?) in which we cruised all over town, stopping and taking pictures when the scene was opportune. It was great fun. I warned Aaron that I had a tendency to put on what might be called a rapper’s glare in the presence of the lens, so he tried a number of things to make me laugh. At one point he riffed on something I said about existence, “You’re doomed,” he said, and, hilariously, that became what he said every time he wanted me to smile.
“Great–OK–could you turn your head a little to the left? And–OK–look at the camera. Great. Oh, and Mike, by the way–YOU’RE DOOMED.” And then I would bust out laughing.
There was a stylist on hand named Kumi, and every time my hair would get messed up somebody would say Kumi check! at which point Kumi would appear with a spray can of something or other. I realized in the course of the day that what I really need in life is a Kumi of the everyday, so that in a restaurant, or at the post office, or right here laying on my couch as I type this blog entry I could say Kumi check! and Kumi would materialize, with lip gloss.
We stopped just as the snow started to fall; by 10 pm I was home, watching the snow accumulate on the street outside, and the orange glow the streetlamps made on it. I fell asleep reading the Lonely Planet: Puerto Rico, fantasizing about the balmy colonial district of Ponce.

View of the Spree from Behind the Harp.

I had a rough gig last night; but, what a hoot the Spree were.

I could barely hear myself onstage last night; it was all treble, like a tin can, and my voice seemed to be emitting from a telephone twelve feet away from my ear. Anybody that was there last night, how did it sound in the house?
Canada Dan Chen, however, sounded amazing–so much fun to play with the guy. And Vin, my new drummer in this as-yet-theoretical band of mine, hung out backstage.
I watched the Spree’s show from behind Ricky, the harpist, who at one point turned around and solemnly draped a long ribbon of silver mylar around my neck. What a blast it was to watch them. The thing I loved most was the bass playing–those fat, nervy, Beatlesque lines. When it really got rocking, you could feel the floor wobble.
And naturally, what could be more advantageous for an arty photographer such as myself than a gang of zealous dancers in multicolored robes?

Relentless Positivity.

These Spree folks are so nice it’s unbelievable.

These gigs have been fun; in particular, the Spree’s road crew have been so helpful and accomodating–it’s like the relentless sunshine of the Spree’s show has infected every corner of their cadre.
First gig with Handsome Dan last night; I love the man. A guy yelled out “Crispix!”, superfluously, as we were taking the stage last night, and we improvised a song called Crispix. “Crispix! CRISPIX! YEAH!”
I felt slightly guilty about making Dan’s very first live song with me ever a hasty improvisation. Throwing him right into the lake. Welcome to the most dignified Mike Doughty organization, Dan.
Oh, people have been asking me about the mystery cover tune that I was so coy and insinuating about a few months ago; obviously, to those who are on the email list and got the Haughty Melodic track list yesterday, there’s no cover song on there.
We recorded covers of the Magnetic Fields’ “The Book of Love,” and Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler.” Both sounded great, and we had a notion to end the record with a cover tune, but we were struck by this one tune that previously we’d kind of written off, “Your Misfortune.” Dan and I demoed it the very first session we ever did, but shelved it. We dusted it off in the final days of the recording, in November, looking for a b-side or two to send to ATO. We realized it was really great and bumped the cover concept.
Both “Book” and “Gambler” will find lives outside the record, though–iTunes or European or Japanese bonus tracks or something–so they’re going to be available in some form.

Handsome Dan from Canada.

My veins are thick with cheesesteak.

I opened for the Polyphonic Spree in Philly last night–I hotfooted it back to Manhattan right after my set, but not before I tucked in to two cheesesteaks with extra Whiz from Jim’s. I asked from the stage how late Jim’s was open, and, true to Philly form, several folks shouted out GO TO PAT’S! GO TO PAT’S!
Tonight, it’s Brooklyn, with my new piano player, Dan Chen. He is an extremely handsome man, and a very sharp dresser–the sharpest dresser I’ve ever shared a stage with. Seriously. He’s also from Toronto. Of course, the most vital aspect of the new sideman induction process is figuring out a nickname. Handsome Dan? Canada Dan? Every girl’s crazy ’bout a sharp-dressed Dan?

The Dude Says: “Chill.”

Dan Wilson and I went out to Jackson Heights, Queens, for a pre-Valentine’s feast.

Dan Wilson, his wife Diane, and their daughter, the luminous boddhisattva Coco, came to New York for the MoMA and the Gates, and we and my nameless friend trekked out to Jackson Heights, to this place called the Delhi Palace, on 74th Street, to bask in the ecstasy of their lunch buffet.
There is a particular passive-aggressive New Yorker’s joy to the Delhi Palace, which is that it’s literally one door down from the Jackson Diner, a famed Indian food place which is the preferred joint for most Manhattanites who are to hip for 6th Street, and ride the 7 train out to Jackson Heights for Indian food. Delhi Palace whups the bejesus out of the Jackson Diner, and one passes by the Jackson Diner, chock full of Manhattanites, and laughs, HA! You fools! en route to the superior joint.
The food rendered me in such a state of numbed, exhausted bliss that my dining companions referred to me as being paneered, after the Indian cheese dish, which the Delhi Palace cooks up in such tremendous depth of flavor that it makes you feel dirty.
We all stopped by a religious goods store en route back to the elevated tracks. There were numerous depictions of this Sikh guru:
My nameless friend and I, who incidentally has Punjabi Sikh roots, refer to this guru as The Dude. His right palm is always held up in that serene gesture. Whenever we see his picture we say the same thing. “The Dude,” we say, “says: Chill.”

“Drunk Party Chick Lost Control Vs. Fucked in Glue.”

(The above being the subject line of a porn spam missive from one Ignorance J. Puckish.)
I’ve been thinking about Sekou Sundiata, my old poetry teacher at Lang.

When I went to school, all I was interested in was becoming a performer and a songwriter. There’s no school that offers a genuine curriculum in what I wanted to eventually do for a living, so I had to cobble together my own, moving to New York to play open mic nights, taking poetry and theater classes at Lang. I jerry-rigged my own sort of conservatory.
Sometimes I fantasize that if I hadn’t been so single-minded and obsessed with becoming a songwriter, I might have not had abysmal grades, and might have ended up at Brown or Vassar, and actually gotten myself a liberal arts education. Of course, I realize that there’s no gift an adolescent can have greater than a feeling of purpose, a place one is burning to get to, so I’m grateful for my luck.
And had I not ended up at Lang, I wouldn’t have studied with Sekou Sundiata, a guy who impacted my life immeasurably. He taught a poetry class called “The Shape and Nature of Things to Come.” I’ve applied what I learned from him to every part of my creative life. I was taking the D train home early this morning, and I thought up a list of the things he taught that have most resonated in my life.
You work for the poem, the poem doesn’t work for you. So you have to listen for what it wants to be. “You’re trying to build a house,” he said in a class once, “and sometimes the poem says, ‘I’m not a house, I’m a bird.'”
Learn to cut your poems unmercifully. Don’t protect them; don’t treat every line as if it were precious. It was positvely disorienting when you’d read a poem in class and he’d start saying cut this line, cut that line. And then, of course, instantly the entire class would jump in and start cutting your lines, too. Some were able to let go and give themselves over to this process; others fought tooth and nail for this or that superfluous word (and that was a fascinating lesson, too). Eventually, skins thickened, and we were better poets for it.
“Sometimes the poem is just a life-support system for one killer line,” Sekou said. “Cut that line out and find it a better home.”
Your poem has to be more interesting than what it purports to be about. The most meaningful learning experiences in the class came from the bad poems that got brought in, not the good ones. One time a guy brought in a spectacularly mediocre poem about Islam, and Sekou laid into him with the cut this line, cut that line. The guy, in defending his work, outlined a really fascinating story about muezzins and prophets, and Sekou said: “That’s great. Why don’t I hear that in the poem?”
Have killer titles. Poets tend to be timid about titles, often leaving their poems untitled. Sekou didn’t suffer this milquetoast position gladly. Titles are like a line of your poem writ large, often the most important, most visible part of the poem itself.
Have a style. Be conscious of your voice, and conscious of how you develop it. “Miles Davis said, ‘I like musicians who play a style,'” Sekou would quote, over and over again in class.
Over time, I’ve come to question this as a value. Certainly the stuff I wrote for Soul Coughing was redolent with conscious style, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten less concerned with it, in fact becoming wary of myself whenever I write something where I’m very conscious of my own style. Maybe it was a great place to start from, though, and all the creative success I’ve had over the years came from the seed of this conscious development of an early style.
Be the truest version of yourself you can be. This was the biggest lesson for me. I really wanted to be black, as a 19 year old. Like most 19 year old white suburbanites want to be. Sekou gently steered me away from that; I began to look for what was most intrinsically myself in myself–check out the heightened, barking whiteness of the voice on the early Soul Coughing recordings. “They call it soul because it comes from the deepest part of yourself,” Sekou said, repeatedly. “Soul is undeniable.”