Daily writing prompt
What’s your favorite time of day?

Once upon a time, I’d hit the sack around when most people left home for work. I wasn’t a night shifter the way ordinary people were. I was a performer and rarely got home before sunrise. Sets would end, and I might head to an after-hours party to listen to jazz or another folksinger play. It was part of a daily sojourn through a lifestyle most people will never understand. Come to think of it, I’m somewhat fuzzy on the details, too; that was a long, weary time ago.

Eventually, I decided that accepting trinkets exchangeable for more food and housing was a better life plan than spending all my time in coffeehouses and clubs. So an adjusted AM time, around seven, is my favorite time to arise, have coffee, cogitate my verititabilities, plan the day, and scribble a post.

My nineteen-year-old self would view me as some grey-haired ancestor, a fate to be avoided, a terminally dull creature, not hip, while I look back on a life full of chapters and see him: a rough but promising beginning.

All-Night Diner

Daily writing prompt
Describe your life in an alternate universe.

I went to the airport last night. Well, it has to be the first time in about eighteen years. I prefer to drive if it’s on the East Coast and I haven’t been elsewhere in a long time. A drive of fifteen hours is about my limit. So I can get some oh dark thirty driving in on these excursions.
You know, two AM and the mind starts wandering, listening to some live shock jock on the high end of the radio dial. The rest area caffeine is alive and well in your veins, and the creepy crawlie tendrils of memory come out to romp because you’re alone on a dark highway, and your mind begins to play with reality. 

It wouldn’t be necessary for me to describe it if you’ve been there, but I understand that a segment of the population flies all in one straight line and never looks left or to the right to check the flight pattern. Lucky you.

So one night, I’m on my way back from Philly, I’ve just crossed into Connecticut, and as I pass some little drive-past town, I remember stopping there one night in the sixties. There was a dynamite all-night diner there. It was the sort of place that served breakfast at midnight for late-night excursionists and truckers. I was on my way back to Boston and had been let off my last ride there with advice that I could find my next if I asked around. I got the ninety-nine-cent breakfast special with an endless cup of coffee. Someone asked if I could play the guitar or if it was a machine gun, so I pulled the guitar out and gave them a song. This was followed by about five more with breakfast on the house and about five dollars in tips for the music. An older guy with a horn in a case offered me a ride to the Boston area, and soon we were on the way.

About an hour into the drive, the horn player offered me advice. ” I know you don’t want to, but start thinking about what traveling from gig to gig will be like when your hair gets grey like mine. You’ve never made it to the top tiers, commanded big money, or been recorded. You live in a wreck of a studio apartment with your cat, and the wife moved out because you can’t keep a job.” He went on in tone for a while before lapsing into silence. Eventually, he let me off at a streetcar stop, and I watched the sunrise, waiting for a ride into town. Being about twenty, I paid little attention to what he said.

About 1969, I began to separate myself from counterculture lifestyles. Several friends had already departed life from alcohol and drug abuse, and I knew several performers who fit all too well into the type cast the horn player suggested. A violent incident almost cost me my life, and I began reconsidering my path. But what if?

And that was the alternate reality my mind began to spin out as I drove into Massachusetts, heading home. I had continued to make bad choices, my hair was grey as it is, but the nicotine stains still graced my fingers. I had moved on from folk music to calling myself a singer/songwriter. A self-produced CD of my material occupied boxes in the car’s trunk; for sale at whatever venue I was playing at. A long-term relationship had eluded me; it’s hard when you never know your schedule. But the new songs were solid, and I could finally see the future clear before me.
About then, I saw the other car pull alongside, and I looked toward that driver and saw the resemblance. I almost spun off the road then but continued to the little rest area ahead. I pulled over and almost forced myself to take a break and sleep for a few hours.

When I first woke up, I had a moment of uncertainty. Which one of us was I? No nicotine stains, no guitar in the back, and clear memories of the wife and home I was returning to. I wondered if that other Lou was doing the same else when. He might also be shuddering. His alter ego had surrendered his art for a bit of economic stability, given up unusual friends for a sort of middle-class stasis. He, too, might check to see if the old beat-up guitar was in the back. We had parted ways somewhere on the road years before and continued down non-parallel tracks. But there was a sort of kinship between us still. The beat-up guitar still had a place of honor in the house, scribbles of songs still populated the desk occasionally, and whenever I was asked to bring the guitar, I felt that old feeling as I did in my coffeehouse days. I’d pluck out the music with the same alacrity I had that night in the all-night diner.


Daily writing prompt
What’s the story behind your nickname?

There’s a lot in a name. For some, it’s a measure of their identity, and for others a memento of the past.

Take mine, for example. A whole raft of people only knew me by the name Wes. Years later, on Facebook, they discovered that Lou was my real name. Of course, they don’t know how I came by the alias.

At one point, I was a member of a group of Folkies on Boston’s Beacon Hill. I was also a junior member, having only shown up in Boston a month before. Everyone else had impressive-sounding nicknames or alias. There was the Tea head of the August Moon, Captain Zero, Dutchie, English Joe, and Mike the Vike. I was the only one not replete with a handle, alias, or nickname. So far, I had avoided committing any blunder that landed me with an embarrassing name, nor performed some feat that gave a great descriptor like Captain Zero. It was a puzzle that my tribal seniors decided to address that very night.

While they were debating my naming, I wandered over to visit my friend Judy. Judy’s roommate Elaine was an airline stewardess, and the two usually showed up with five or six friends who worked with Elaine. Judy was like an older sister. I had to be on my best behavior around her and with any of her guests. That night I struck up a long and involved conversation with one of Elaine’s friends about how the folk music industry was changing.

You had to talk loudly to be heard above the crowd at the Gardens that night. But it became clear that although I had introduced myself to Sarah as Lou, she had not heard me. Eventually, her not knowing my name morphed into my being called Les. As we continued to drink, Sarah altered this to Wes. I was frankly too enchanted to correct her. 

Judy and Elaine gathered their brood at about eleven and left for home. Sarah grabbed me for a hug and a kiss and proclaimed loudly, ” Wes! You’re so sweet.” Sweet wasn’t what I was aiming for, but I saw them at their apartment on West Cedar Street before wandering back to the Gardens.

I saw them snickering as I walked towards our table ( now buried under empties and remains of bar snacks). I knew my fate was determined. As I sat down, the Tea Head smiled and said to Captain Zero,” The envelope, please.” he was handed a soiled cocktail napkin. ” the choices are Sweetie and Wes.” He handed me a beer and exclaimed, “Lucky for you, we determined that Sweetie would demean the tribe. So we now baptize you, Wes. They then poured their remaining beer over my head. We were then asked to leave the bar and not return until something more outrageous dimmed the memory of my baptism. A week I think.
The following day everyone in the household started calling me Wes. Eventually, I began to think of myself as Wes. When I enlisted in the Navy, Wes went onto my record as my alias and the name has followed me ever since. 

Names have consequences; they are not mere accessories in life. My nickname links me to a time when I traveled widely, sang and played in coffeehouses, and had outrageous adventures.

Take One,

Daily writing prompt
What is your favorite genre of music?

I was never a fan of the Childe Ballad form. Odes to lovers who turn slasher on the banks of the Ohio due to True Love and unplanned pregnancies were not my thing. My genres were blues, Jug band music, and, as it evolved, the singer/songwriter sort of fix on music. Add to this forays and deep dives into listening to Rag Time, Cool Jazz, New Orleans-influenced jazz, and pop. You’ll have to admit that I’m very eclectic.

My interests form a sort of weird spectrum. I was a folk singer in the sixties – mostly what was called a blueser among friends and associates from New York City’s Greenwich Village. But if you hung around the music scene there, you eventually heard almost all styles. You wound up having associates who played at jazz clubs, so you went to listen to their gigs. One friend edged away from “pure” folk into folk rock, so you listened to her material.
Being part of a scene meant not being an isolated individual. Little influences from other people’s approaches show up in what music you buy and listen to. There is a narrative flow as your interests develop.

You are exposed to the new and different. I get upset with those that insist that music be pure – Blue Grass has these elements and never includes those, Country must never have that, and the Lord forbids folk musicians to use electric instruments. Purity is the foe of innovation. Innovation is what keeps the music fresh and evolving. We do not get to sit on an imperial throne and decide what a particular genre should be; musicians and the folks that listen to their music get to do that.
What’s my favorite? I’m eclectic and enjoy almost all of it.


Usually, this blog steers clear of politics. After reading a few posts, you know I’m irredeemably liberal, but I don’t usually comment on direct political issues. “Back in the day,” I was the voice arguing for peaceful engagement over the violence espoused by more radical friends. I remember clearly how The Revolution was just around the corner in 1968. Somehow we got past that.

Right now, though, I think that many state governments, and the Supreme Court, are having a let them eat cake moment. And I worry that they may have made the revolution without intention. It’s an old problem of unintended consequences due to poorly conceived actions.

It might take years, but much hope and belief in progress for all sorts of minorities, the disenfranchised, and people experiencing poverty have ended in a spate of poorly thought-out “conservative” laws and opinions.

One of the things we learned about social justice over the years was that it wouldn’t come all at once, but incremental progress is needed to keep the ship of state underway toward the ultimate goal of equity. We now seem to be heading towards the reefs, and using an old cliche, many of our politicians and judiciary members are rearranging the deck chairs as the ship begins to sink.

I have not changed; I still favor peace over violence. I’ll vote as I believe and feel strongly about the power of the ballot in my state. But what about those jurisdictions where the franchise is threatened, Gerrymandered, or suppressed? Don’t think that it’s all going to stay quiescent forever.

A James Baldwin quote comes to mind: “One day, to everyone’s astonishment, someone drops a match in the powder keg and everything blows up.”


Daily writing prompt
If you had to change your name, what would your new name be?

Names are a touchy subject for me. I had a performing name when I was a second-rate folksinger in the sixties. Through the mid-seventies, some people only knew me only by that name. I did not so much as surrender that name as I grew out of it. I ceased road-tripping, performing, and behaving like a dissipated young rake and ne’er do well. 

Frankly, it wasn’t a slump in coffeehouse bookings that did Wes in. Wes and his shenanigans faded out the day after a jealous boyfriend tried to shoot me in a Boston Back Bay basement apartment. Funny how things like that can change perspectives.

However, after many years, I hit the point where I found it flattering to be remembered by old associates who still used the name—enough time had passed that I could accept the younger me more tolerantly. He had never rated as a behemoth of the stage, but he’d done some reasonably amusing and outrageous things. My younger aliased alter-ego was interesting, non-conventional, and non-conformist.

Some older friends maintain that I didn’t so much walk away from my younger self as I reinvented him more maturely. I am still unconventional, non-conformist, and a bit nuts.

Still crazy after all these years?


I always think it best to start with the disclaimers. I am not now nor ever associated with any intelligence agency. Like most of my ilk, Folkies, I believe intelligence and government agency represents a tactless oxymoron.

That said, my friend and I were fixers, scroungers, and locators in a small way. We were not operating a racket. We were always running a little “commotion.” It was how we avoided gainful employment. We were careful to be just this side of legal and had a good sense of how far we could go and stayed to that line. But we always looked out for things that appeared to be out of place.
So there was a bit of trepidation when Brother Isaac pulled into our booth at the Harvard Gardens one evening.
Brother Isaac should not have been there. He was part of the Church of Revealed Disciples. They showed up once a month on a Saturday morning to attempt to lead our roommate John, to salvation. The rest of us inhabiting the exclusive Grove Street digs were never bothered, which was strange.
Brother Isaac sat down, grabbed the John by the arm, almost spilling a beer, and just said: “Johnnie, it’s all over. Won’t be seeing you again. Keep your nose out of bad snuff.” with that off, rode Brother Isaac into the sunset, and it was the last we heard of the Church of the Revealed Disciples. My friend sat there with a bemused expression. I figured it was none of my business and just sipped my beer.

Over the next year or so, I learned more about my friends. Both of them tasted intelligence operations at some point in their military years. I had pieced that together from things unsaid, said, people met, and uncommonly odd bits of knowledge. Their long-term association, our Folkie Flop House on Boston’s Beacon Hill, our forms of making a living, and our endless traveling habits all said Folkie. But, it did not add up. Pieces were missing from the puzzle, and what I could put together seemed nonsense. That something covert had or was going on became my operating theory about the bits of Theatre of the Absurd that was our lifestyle in those days.

The years passed. Our friend John, has become a conservative shock jock on the radio, my friend dies in an avoidable car accident in Baltimore, and I have begun to morph into a staid anthropologist. Then I went to grad school.
I began drinking with George, a former marine. Who, after taking in enough bourbon to float the ark, started talking about the Church of Revealed Disciples one night. The Church was a cover used by Naval Intelligence for a long-term operation. Not being as sloshed as he was, I coyly asked, ” So, how’s Brother Isaac doing these days?” Suddenly, not quite so high, outshoots: “Who’s Brother Isaac?” I replied, “You know – Church of the Revealed Disciples.” He claimed to have never heard of it, but he kept looking hard and deep at me for the remainder of the night. I tried a shot in the dark – “Have you heard from Mike the Vike recently?” I thought he’d explode – ” Jesu Christi!”
I smiled. The Vike had been another of the continual threads of life on Beacon Hill. The Vike was always in supply, always on the move, and never who he seemed to be. I was trying to dovetail bits and pieces that had troubled me, and I was surprised at how well they all fit.
Over the next few days, I spiced life up by dropping hints in George’s presence that implied I knew more than I did. His paranoia grew, but we became fast-drinking buddies. I recognized others in my anthropology department as former intelligence operatives through him. Being an anthropologist was a plus for employment at certain agencies operating abroad.

But nobody made me. I was an enigma, and George, one night in a DC hotel, pulled a little pearl-handled .32 and point-blank asked me whose dog I was. I flippantly answered, “The DARs.” * Not long after this, George passed out, and I secured the thirty-two where he wouldn’t find it and went back to my room. Our friendship was at an end. And my tiny brush with intelligence agencies and their operatives ended. I thought.

Life slipped into high gear after grad school. I eventually worked only a few miles from the old digs on Beacon Hill, but the cognitive distance was enormous. I rarely thought of John or my friend, Brother Isaac, strange churches that were fronts.

Eventually, I wandered into working for the federal government.
And that’s where it gets funny again. I was a GS-12 programming officer. I did not need classified information, but they required a clearance. I dutifully complied with the request for data, but the inquiries always came back unanswered. What was wrong with me? And I answered that, in truth, there was nothing. That was not wholly true. During my time in the Navy, I’d had a high-security clearance. Not because I was so essential a person but because the work my squadron was doing was, and presumably still is, sensitive. They would not grant me confidential clearance because my top secret was still operational. This item pissed off the local hierarchy. If a secret document came into the agency, a lowly GS-12 would be the only one allowed to read it.

Thinking about this, I realized that the evening in a DC hotel was explainable. Somebody had run my file and discovered I was a total cipher with an impressive clearance. To people of a certain mindset in intelligence agencies, that raised flags. Not only was I an anthropologist ( almost a requirement in those days for certain types of operatives), but I was also a pretty bland sort. Not James
Bond. Whose dog, indeed?

Everyone I’ve written about in this is dead. Convenient. So we’ll never be able to check it out, but if you are out there, don’t ask about the Church of the Revealed Disciples, and whatever you do, don’t get involved with Brother Isaac.

*Daughters of the American Revolution

White Horse Circle

This is a Flashback Friday post from the days a few years ago when we were under a Covid lockdown:

Most of us have events that echo through the corridors of our lives. Thirty, forty, and fifty years later, it remains like a rhythm track beating at an intersection from a car seven cars ahead. You can’t make out the song, but you hear the beat. I have that sort of track inside me, and it emerged briefly to thump into action this morning as I emerged from the house into the downpour to go to the store, out of quarantine.
It was 1960, something. I was standing in the pouring rain in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, at the White Horse traffic circle. It was me, my soaked clothes, and a guitar. The guitar had some extra clothes wrapped inside the case to keep the guitar dry. I was praying for a ride.
Out of the night appeared a large black sedan full of African American Church ladies. I heard one of them holler out to me, “Hurry in, there’s room for one more if we squeeze!” and squeeze we did to Philadelphia.
They grilled me: did my mother know where I was? What was I doing in the middle of nowhere New Jersey in a storm like this? It went on, but in such loving terms that I soon broke down in tears. Out it came my life’s current romantic, financial, and existential crises off the rails.
Then a quiet voice asked: “May we pray for you?” and pray they did all through the dark wet night from White Horse Circle on NJ 226 to North Philly. Letting me out where I could catch a train, I was told: “You’ve gotten prayed over good. Don’t forget; God loves you.”

OK, it wasn’t my tradition. I’m a Methodist escapee from a Catholic upbringing. But the rhythm, the memory kept returning, and I am in that car with those ladies praying for me. And, as I said, it’s like a powerful rhythm track. I can’t hear the words, but I feel the powerful beat. I am so grateful to those ladies; they prayed over me so well that all these years later, It’s still there.

Thank You.


Being an active Folkie in the 1960s, I get asked if I was at Woodstock occasionally. For the record, I categorically deny ever having been anywhere near Woodstock during that festival. Asking this question is like asking your average Roman citizen alive in 44 BC if they were present when the big guy got offed by his “friends.” No, I was busy picking up my second-best toga from the laundry.”
People who see history through a pinpoint hole make me jittery. They seem to lack the ability to see the bigger narrative. In my case, I was on my way traveling across Canada, a journey that was much more transformational than a drug-addled concert in the mud could have been.
In short, any time a significant event occurs, other contemporaneous and essential events ( if only to you) are also happening. People like to focus on single important events because it helps them create watersheds, moments when history appears to shift into new patterns.

Even if the events are watersheds, the most important stuff happens downstream, affecting individual lives or the further flow of events. History is flow, not a punctuation.

My trip to Canada resulted in an extended stay in Ottawa and contact with people who influenced me greatly as a woodcarver and human. The events of that time continue to affect my life to this day.
I’m on a grand adventure to the future. Excelsior!


Vivid flashbacks are something to avoid. However, I found over the last decade that a few movies and television shows tend to trigger some incredibly real flash temporal relocations; I feel like I’m in the process of being transported. One of these was an early episode of the Incredible Mrs. Maisel. Unfortunately, it was set in a New York City which was entirely too recognizable to me.
While watching, my mind filled in the blanks and recreated the streetscape from long-lost memories. Finally, I had to get up and leave the room before being ripped from the current time and dropped somewhere near Greenwich Village, where I might run into a younger version of myself.

Just thinking of this is giving me an anxiety attack.

Around the same time, a movie about a cat and a folksinger on the run came out. Parts of it are set in the Village. I started having evil Deja Vue watching it. It was popular, and I saw clips all over the internet. Friends, knowing my history, asked if I would see it. I just shuddered and said no.

It wasn’t that the times and scenes were so awful, but they were traumatic. As a result, I have no desire to “enjoy” the urges, fears, and joys of a teenage me. Part of the fear was knowing what was in store. The future held the Vietnam War, the drug overdoses of friends, bad relationships, and much joy.
Being an aficionado of Science Fiction, I couldn’t guess if I’d be able to change things or just tag along for the ride. Either situation scares me.

Time is the distance I’ve put between me and past events. So I think that in parts of my mind, I see those things as still going on; just I’m no longer there to take part.
Time is thin scar tissue that allows me to move on, but as Cormac McCarthy said: “Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.”

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