Re-Share: I Found God in the Drums of ‘Boléro’

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampTolkien, philosophy, music. This is one of my favourite posts, and it deserves to surface again.


This article is inspired by the classical piece ‘Boléro’ (Link), by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) (Link). If you aren’t familiar with that piece, it should be considered required listening for the article to follow. You can find it here (Link).

I listened to this piece recently, and found an unexpected intensity within its plodding rhythm. I hadn’t put the song on for any specific reason, yet early in, I understood the depth of the moment I was having.

It should also be noted, perhaps, that I was at the time firmly entrenched in my (11th?) reading of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Silmarillion’ (Link), a book to which I ascribe particular inspiration. So you should probably read that, too.

Nonetheless, my revelation started with the first beat of that oh-so-familiar snare-drum. Described as an ‘ostinato’, the pulsing rhythm of this opening drum continues throughout the entire song, remaining constant as everything else is thrown into chaos.

It struck me immediately as terribly spiritual, although it took me a while to articulate exactly why that was.

You see, in ‘The Silmarillion’, the one God, Eru Illúvatar, conceives of creation as music—performed by his angels, the Ainur. The Ainur sing his tune, but among them is the spirit Melkor, who sews discord into the song, and causes turmoil. Some of the Ainur join in Melkor’s discord, while Eru adds new themes to the music to counterbalance Melkor’s efforts.

In the end, when all music stops, Illúvatar offers the Ainur an opportunity to see what they have done, and creates the world and all existence to reflect the reality of his divine tune. Unto the Ainur he says, “Mighty are the Ainur, and mightiest among them is Melkor; but that he may know, and all the Ainur, that I am Ilúvatar, those things that ye have sung, I will show them forth, that ye may see what ye have done. And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.” (Pg. 17)

Since childhood, this story always struck me as one of the most apt and inspiring metaphorical representations of the divine will. And so, as I listened to the ever-increasing notes of ‘Boléro’ rising above and competing with the persistent drum-beat in the background, this was the idea that settled in my mind.

The Silmarillion goes on to tell of the events of Middle-Earth being a representation of the Music of the Ainur, and assures us that although great evil does occur, its power is limited, and in the end all things turn to the greater good. This requires a lot of faith, but it’s something I’ve held onto since first reading it as a young elementary school boy—hoping that it would prove true in our world as it does in this fantastical place.

Throughout the duration of ‘Boléro’, the snare drums maintain their eternal beat in perfect rhythm. Meanwhile, horns and woodwinds, strings and symbols are taken up against the drums. They increase endlessly throughout the song, rising to an incredible cacophony and very nearly drowning out the snare drums which are their source.

At times, the listener can barely hear the drums, but when the music changes, or when there is a brief silence in the din, they are ever to be found beneath the turmoil, just as they were before. Patient, persistent, eternal.

Taking this in, I couldn’t help but feel I heard God in those snare drums. The music rising against it was like the duelling theme of Melkor—want and greed and malice and destruction. These are present still in our world, and will often threaten to overwhelm the senses of those unguarded ears who know not how to find the consistency of Grace beneath.

Much like the confusion of the composition at hand, it’s easy to get lost in this world. These days, perhaps more than ever, the myriad distractions and temptations we meet each day are easily sufficient to overwhelm the senses and deafen us to reason and decency. It takes a concerted effort and a determined will for us to focus on what is right and just, when so much around us seems so dark and hopeless.

But of late, I have seen greater evidence of Grace and beauty in this world than I have long held possible. It’s buried no doubt, often times nearly beyond reach. And all the while the daily racket of industry, and want, and loneliness and grief compete for our ear, turning us away from the true rhythm of the world and focussing us only on ourselves.

But to miss the rhythm is to miss the point entirely.

For no matter how dismal the world can be, there is light to be found, and beneath the din there is the rhythm of Grace for any with the will to listen for it. Immutable and constant, it plods along as it always has, unaffected and undeterred by all the competing noise, and when the racket of distraction dies down, its beauty sounds out all the clearer.

I know it isn’t easy. The clamour of discontent can be deafening, and it is often all too easy to fall into this discord and march along with the madness rather than keep to course. But this is folly, for no matter how distant it may seem, for every evil there is goodness still. Where there is hate, there is also love. Where there is terror, there may also be found mercy. For the loneliness of a consumerist society there remains the comfort of the family home. There is friendship, and loyalty, and faith, and hope, and honour…for every conceivable darkness, there is a light which can still set things right.

The drums of decency pound on, and when the din of darkness rises too high for the ears to readily perceive them, all the more must we focus our hearts and minds to that eternal rhythm, and trust that all will unfold according to that divine beat.

-Brad OH Inc.


Under the Green Desk Lamp…

In light of the season, a re-share of an old post.


The green of the trees,

Had passed to grey,

In the deepening dark of night.

I stood waiting,

For you to show,

And knew I would not fight.

I’d seen it all,

What was to come,

We had our roles to play.

To bring it here,

To share those words,

Then sweep it all away.

For no act’s worth,

Is known until,

The final die is cast.

We’d built this house,

And raised it high,

But now to make it last.

The night was still,

The rest were calm,

When you came through the gate.

With fear and fire,

You kissed my lips,

And forever sealed our fate.

-Brad OH Inc.

‘If It Be Your Will’

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

If it be your will
That I serve no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will serve no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will.

If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this empty room
I will speak for you
From this empty room
All your praise I shall preserve
If it be your will
To let me serve.

If it be your will
If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
And your grace unfurl
If it be your will
To heal this world.

And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In our rags of light
I am waiting still
to end this night
If it be your will.

This poem is largely stolen from, and entirely dedicated to the late great Leonard Cohen. To hear his version, click here.

-Brad OH Inc.

The Dangers of Dogmatic Thinking

People have had a lot of brilliant and noble ideas throughout the ages. The best of our intentions have—on our finest occasions—come through to provide us with incredible esoteric insights, high-minded ambitions, inspiring works of art, and other enlightened insights into the human soul and condition alike.

Then, we tend to wreck it all.

The legal system, for instance, is certainly a respectable and necessary structure for any society. Arguably, this system was created initially as a general system of laws, rights, consequences, and limitations on human behaviour with the intention of keeping the playing field even and the right to life and freedom secure. Laws were laid out to protect the sanctity of civilized existence, and the means to judge and enforce those laws were clearly defined.

So too with religion. While the source can be argued to death—and certainly has been—the foundation of most earthly religions is a set of considerations, principles, and inspiring examples of humanity’s spiritual potential. Most of these sacred texts address the nature of sin, self-control, love for one another, and other such entirely admirable ambitions.

So with such incredible aspirations, how does humanity continue to get it all so wrong?

Well, in short, we are creatures of habit. Worse yet, we adore taking shortcuts.

With most any system devised—and the two above are shining examples—we may reach fantastic heights in our state of being. But successive generations tend to skip out the hard work of exploring and understanding the nuance and reason behind such systems, and begin to rely on hard and fast rules instead.

These become mindless and dogmatic restrictions on human behaviour. More destructive still, they often become guided by a matter of precedent. Here, laws and religious tenets are continually reinterpreted to fit the needs of whoever is presently in charge of their interpretation. Then, these new bastardized definitions become the benchmark for further misinterpretation. The original good intentions are lost, and the guiding principles of law and religion alike quickly shift away from the nobility of human betterment, and become just another system of maintaining otherwise unjustifiable power structures.

In both scenarios, we see a series of great intentions written down in stone, then systematically misapplied, misinterpreted, and misused. Each new iteration of this misuse is then made sacrosanct, to be further abused and distorted. Eventually, we are left with none of the good effect, all of the high-minded self-righteousness, and very little of true grace or justice.

So what can we do to avoid these ever so common failings? Well, we can start by taking a very serious look at our own intentions. Growth and insight are never easy, and achieving any real sense of decency, grace, or virtue is seldom possible when taking the quickest path.

Without fail, the easy ways will lead to the most common of results, and with us people, that is seldom a respectable scenario. Rather, we must constantly consider the truth of our intentions. We must examine the reasons behind our needs and desires, and, rather than turning to dogmatic principles and knee-jerk reactions, we would do best to consider all angles, remind ourselves of the deepest principles we hold dear, and move forward not with expediency or—heaven forbid—righteous indignation, but simply with patience, love, and an ever-present sense of respect for our fellow humans.

This is what must surely lie at the root of all such systems after all, be they religion, law, or others. So to leave them out is a terrible oversight, liable to result in the enforcement of something else entirely.

-Brad OH Inc.


Under the Green Desk Lamp…

The green of the trees,

Had passed to grey,

In the deepening dark of night.

I stood waiting,

For you to show,

And knew I would not fight.

I’d seen it all,

What was to come,

We had our roles to play.

To bring it here,

To share those words,

Then sweep it all away.

For no act’s worth,

Is known until,

The final die is cast.

We’d built this house,

And raised it high,

But now to make it last.

The night was still,

The rest were calm,

When you came through the gate.

With fear and fire,

You kissed my lips,

And forever sealed our fate.

-Brad OH Inc.

Beers by the Bonfire

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampPerhaps it’s not quite as classy as Bourbons by the Fire (Link), but no one will catch the callback anyway. Besides, this isn’t the time for pomp and flair.

For the last year I’ve been in a sort of fugue state—drifting listlessly, waiting for my sense of purpose to descend upon me from on high. It hasn’t happened yet. But here I am. I’ve awoken to find the world a bit darker. The moment for high-minded philosophies is now past us.

To a man, we seem to focus on the lies of the next—we have no time for our own misunderstandings. It’s a bitter march, but we press onward—focussed only on the failings of the other.

Our options have dwindled, our reason hangs by a thread, and the only choice we have left to us is which of two futures we want the least.

These days, we have the greatest and easiest means of communication the world has ever known. We can pass information across the globe in the blink of an eye, and connect with like-minded strangers at the click of a button. Yet we squander this—debating the inane and pressing the irrelevant. The pawns squabble amongst themselves as the King stands exposed.

Piece by piece, we give away what we should hold the tightest. We do so willingly—with the unrestrained vigour of those possessed by a sense of righteousness, yet blinded by a cloud of distrust.

The fire crackles in front of me, as it always has. We’ve been sitting around such fires since before we were us, and likely debating these same sorry shortcomings. They’ve always been with us…the doubt and fear and self-loathing that drives a society to turn in upon itself for fear of what is beyond.

The beer is still cold, but it offers little comfort.

I think about what it might take, to turn this course around—what it might look like to see the world as hopeful and promising once again. The innocence of youth is unattainable now, and knowledge is easier gained than forgotten. I settle for another swig of beer.

I keep telling myself there is plenty of room on at the fire. If not, you can always build it bigger and back the chairs up. There is always plenty of beer. But the mood grows uneasy, and we’re all suspicious of each new guest.

I’d been told that the world was rich, and could provide for all through the bounty of human cooperation. It turned out no one really believed that. Worse, perhaps they do, but simply choose something else.

Greed—it is a sorry bonfire indeed when one man claims all the beer for himself. So what does it say about a world where we hoard our own and let the extra rot—we cling miser-like to our entitled notions, then act appalled with the bitterness of the hated ‘other’.

Surely the way is clear enough, and the rest is all just fanciful distraction. The answer has always been the same—we say it in songs and debates and prayers and art, we define ourselves by our commitment to it, yet live daily as if it were but a child’s dream—silly and irreverent.

The fire is warm enough for all, yet it leaves only ashes behind. If you stare into it long enough, you can lose sight of all the rest. The darkness beyond vanishes into black, and the world is nothing if not the fire before you; your current comfort—your own personal salvation.

Damn the rest.

Fuel, fire, and beer. Security, comfort, and distraction. They’re all you need.

I take another long swallow. Then another. The beer is getting warmer, and has grown flat. Still, it does its job—soothing my nerves and steadying my shaken will.

The fire spreads slowly out around its base—cleansing the old, consuming everything in its path.

It’s a twisted scene to be sure, and it is no difficult thing to become lost in the mire and confusion as lies spill from every side. It is a hard thing to act decisively when inundated with doubt, and we all sit around this fire, blinded by its light and shackled to its fleeting warmth.

Those we look to for safety have turned on us, and those from whom we would seek direction have failed. On every side, we are constrained by justifiable fear, and this alone is often sufficient to breed the inaction necessary for such a terrible course to hold true.

My beer is running low, and the fire dwindling to embers. The cold of night encroaches upon my refuge, and I let the can fall from my hand. There is no more comfort here.

Tonight, the retreat is over. Tomorrow the fire burns anew. Will it serve only to ward off the chill of the outside world, or will it rather set ablaze all which can no longer stand? Will it burn away the fear and doubts which hold us in thrall? Will it set to light upon the tinders of decency and virtue which still smoulder in the hearts and minds of all decent people?

Tomorrow alone will tell. I will be there, beer in hand. I will be ready.

-Brad OH Inc.

A Shameless Plea for Virtue

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

I work and hone and search and seek,

To find those things which I would keep,

Within my heart for times ahead,

When I make good the things I’ve said,

I’ve heard the call to love and grace,

But still I train to take my place,

For charm and fun I have my knack,

But my true calling I still lack,

Good Captain help me set my sails,

And teach where my own lessons failed,

To raise with wisdom, strength and heart,

To tend the light that now grows dark,

For what is strength and decency,

When shorn from faith and purity,

For pride and lust and greed and wrath,

All tempt me from my given path,

And when lost deep in the forest,

One path seems as good as the rest,

But still to make it right I know,

There are yet saplings that must grow,

And bring to blossom charity,

And set within me clarity,

That I may hold to what is right,

And cower not at fall of night,

So at the closing of the day,

This one and final thing I pray,

Of vices I have had my fill,

And wait with baited breath until,

Good lady take me by the hand,

And guide me to that Promised Land.

-Brad OH Inc.

‘Edgar’s Worst Sunday’ Update #2

cropped-cropped-blogbanner13.jpgNot so very long ago, we let you know that the beta-reads for our upcoming novel, ‘Edgar’s Worst Sunday’, had come to an end, and the revisions had begun! Well, we’re now proud to share that said revisions are wrapping up, and all that now stands between you and picking up a copy at your local retailer is the small task of finding a suitable publisher!

At that time, we celebrated by sharing Chapter One of ‘Edgar’s Worst Sunday’ (Link), so we here at Brad OH Inc. thought it only fitting to share Chapter 2 with you today. We certainly hope you enjoy it!

Edgar's Worst Sunday Official CoverIn life, Edgar Vincent had always maintained one great passion—himself. A semi-successful composer, his rock star lifestyle suited him well, and his narcissistic outlook had always ensured he was a man with few regrets. Callous comments, thoughtless promiscuity, binge drinking, and excess sufficient to shame Caligula were standard Saturday night fare.

Sundays for Edgar had always been a painful haze of sickness and regret.

But when Edgar finds himself in the cloudy planes of the afterlife on one particularly bleak Sunday morning, he must put aside his ever-present hangover and try to figure out how he ever got to this point…and where he’s meant to be going now. But as Edgar traverses the spiritual realm, he comes to find that facing his death is hardly as difficult as facing himself.

However, heaven also presents Edgar with an unending smorgasbord of hedonistic entertainment, so he’s in no particular hurry to change his self-serving ways. After all, considering he’s already dead, what more could he possibly stand to lose?

 Edgar’s Worst Sunday

A Novel by Brad OH Inc.

-Chapter 2: The Local Bar-

[Text Redacted due to Contractual Obligations]

 -Brad OH Inc.

The Fiasco on TuffPuff Mountain

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

The peak of the mountain was still a ways off when everything started to sour.

Earlier that day, the world had been filled with all the resplendent promise of nature, and I, along with 2 friends, decided to scale the peak of TuffPuff Mountain, under which we’d been camping for the last few days.

The rock was warm and rough under my hands as I pulled my way inch by inch up the sheer face of a small cranny, my back wedged against the stone behind me as I picked my handholds and made my way along. The air was warm, and the sun on my face sped my way towards the small enclave of light shining above me.

With a final surge, I heaved myself onto the shelf of the mountain, panting and exhausted, yet thrilled with the excitement of my progress. Turning, I stopped to take in the vast distance I had come. Below, I could see my campsite, a tiny dot beside the shimmering green lake, so far below me now.

DSCF2924‘From the Top Down’

Exultation—I’d never been a climber, so this tenuous foray brought a sense of inspiration and pride to me I had been sorely in need of. But the view brought something else as well, and as I watched the great black thunderheads rolling across the valley, I knew immediately that the journey down would be far different than the way up.

There was no hope in climbing down the cliff-face with the rain so close—that would surely mean a terrible plummet and tragic conclusion. Three of us had journeyed up from our campsite, but one had split off just before the cliff-face—unwilling to risk scaling this potential hazard.

He was the smart one.

The plan had been to reach the peak, take in the view, and enjoy a meandering wind back down through the wooded slopes on the further side. Any ideas or detours along the way were to be welcomed with the sort of earnest glee inherent to the free-wheeling voyages of vacationers out in the elements. Now, all that had changed. Where moments ago the potential of the day had been wild and boundless, now we had only one goal: Get off the mountain.

We turned east, hoping to intercept our wiser friend on the trek back to camp…but first we needed to find a safe means of getting down from the heights we’d climbed…back down to the somewhat gentler slopes on the side of the mountain.

I remember the first crack of lightning—loud like nothing I’d ever heard. Like the wrath of God smiting down upon the cold stone all around us.

Then came the rain.

A wall of water and hail, it hit us hard, and head on. A ceaseless tempest moving into us—as if to drive us further up the mountain, away from any hope of safety.

Hurrying along the stony precipice, scouting for potential paths, the storm only increased. With each ear-shattering crack of lightning, the wet hair on my arms rose from the charge in the air.

But with every potential path we spotted, we were met with disappointment alone. Our approach proved each to steep, or too wet. One would be rocky and near vertical, the next slick with snow and ice. And all were hazardous—with new-formed streams rushing down their lengths.

We’d lost sight of our other friend now, and the palpable tension between my companion and I was already reaching a crescendo—the unspoken words between us driving home but two clear ideas: one strike of lightning would kill us up here, and there was no safe way down.

With all hope exhausted, and the storm worsening by the minute, our desperation peaked, and searching about us for deliverance, we were only met with damnation.

Before us stretched a long plain of ice—a sharp slope of about 40 feet that ended in a rocky cliff face…then a long drop.

Beside the ice was a steep incline of rock and mud, and the water washing down it had turned it into a veritable waterfall. All the while, rocks dislodged from above came tumbling past us, threatening an early end to our faint hopes.

He went first—inching and sliding his way down the ice—planted on his ass and clawing to maintain his grip.

Then it was my turn.

DSCF2918Would this be my Gravemarker?

My instincts raged—the same way they had when I’d went skydiving the summer before. Standing upon the lip of the plane door, looking out into the endless blue, a wordless voice had spoken in my ear, telling me it was a dreadfully bad idea to jump from a perfectly good plane.

The voice was louder now. ‘Sliding down a snowy mountainside in a lightning storm will not end well.’

I had no doubt the voice was right.

But some of my friend’s panic about our imminent lightning-death had spread to me now, despite my earlier sentiments that it would sooner be the decent that brought about our end. Besides that, he was already down past the point of return, and I was loathe to part with another friend in such dreadful circumstances.

And so I went.

It started slowly enough. Clutching my heavy wooden staff in one hand, I inched along. My empty right hand dug into the snow, and I slid bit by bit as the freezing water soaked into my pants.

But I was going faster now. Then faster still. I knew what was happening…my mind processed the math of it faster than it could articulate the threat. Faster and faster. I dug deeper into the ice, tearing my skin and cracking my nails as I slid along.

I could see the rocks below, growing larger with their approach. My friend had nearly reached them.

I was sliding far too fast to stop now. With a final, desperate effort, I clutched my staff in both hands, and slammed the point into the ice, hoping to create an anchor.

The staff broke, twisting my wrist and sending its two halves scattering down the mountain.

Everything after was too fast for conscious thought, yet I remember vividly the bleak sentiment which settled immediately into my conscience. ‘That was my only shot’.

The pull of the staff before it broke had set me spinning, and so I sped down the slope—20 feet, 30 feet, 35…the rocks were close now, and I fully understood what was coming.

Before I hit the rocks, I glimpsed my friend just below me. Colliding with him would surely send us both tumbling over the edge. As a matter of instinct, I jammed my left foot out to brace against the impact.

It hit hard.

Hard like nothing I’ve ever felt.

In the din of the tempest, I couldn’t hear the bones shatter.

Three of them, I later learned. My ankle utterly destroyed.

Despite the effort, I slammed into my friend. Then we were both rolling. Tumbling head over feet, like a child somersaulting down a peaceful summer hill.

End over end I fell, stone and sky blurring together—an all encircling tomb.

The voice was in my head again. ‘So, this is how it ends.’

There were other thoughts too—wordless but present.

A lonely dog.

A mourning family.

A touch of humility, a touch of pride…plenty of regret.

Then peace, and the thrill of adventure, bouncing and rolling down the ice-slick slopes of the mountainside for who knows how many seconds.

…Then curtains. Faster than thought, there was no doubt in my heart that the end was only a blink away. ‘One more rotation, maybe two.’ Then my skull would hit some rock and pour my brains into the torrent of water, down the stone, and finally into the lake—about two kilometers below.

The bruises I discovered later bespoke the force of my fall. But I felt none of that just then. One final thought came to me—‘It’s not a bad death.’

Then a hard thump, and I slid to a stop against a dark brown rock. I saw my friend roll over once more, then back flip over the ledge. ‘Dead,’ I had no doubt.

The ground against my hands was cold and wet as I pushed myself to my feet. I remember what I expected to see—a little black form, bouncing and tumbling down the slope so far from me now. Hopeless.

But there he was—about five feet below, springing to his feet with the frantic energy of a panicked child. “Brad, we’ve got to get out of this lightning!” he screamed. Then, turning, he fled off on his way back towards camp.

It seemed like the only logical choice, so I moved to follow.

It wasn’t until I hit the ground again that I perceived the state of my foot. Then my head was a cacophony of alarm bells and sirens.

SAMSUNGA Dismal Scene.

I rolled onto my back, pulling my knee to my chest. Touching my ankle, I knew immediately it was far too bad to walk on.

My friend was a speck in the distance now. The storm continued. I was shaking from head to toe—from the cold, from the pain, from the adrenaline.

Freezing to death in the fetal position on a mountainside didn’t promise the same vainglorious ending I’d just missed out on, however.

And so I pushed on.

A few steps here, then I’d fall again. There was no self-conscious muting of my screams. With each step, each fall, I let them come. They were between the mountain and I now, and if I didn’t get back to camp fast, my secret would surely be safe.

I cursed my friend for leaving me.

I bemoaned my ambition for taking me here.

I lamented things I hadn’t done, and regretted things I had.

But just then, there was only one thing to be done.

One step. Then another.

A hundred steps…a thousand.

Much of the journey I spent seated—pulling myself downward with my one good leg. The other slid along by my side.

My pants were shredded now, and I chuckled like a madman at the spectacle I must have been. Bloody, exposed, and broken. A damn fool human who had taken it all too far.

It wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling, and yet something was entirely different about it. Moments ago, I had accepted entirely—deep down in my bones—the fact that I was about to die. Not only that, I’d even felt that it would have been a good death. Guts, glory…all that. But when the dust settled, I found myself broken, battered, and helpless as my ‘friend’ retreated down the mountainside, flatly rejecting my pleas and condemning me to my fate. It was a complete reversal of fortunes. From a blaze of glory to a sad, pathetic, wet little thing sliding down the rocky face of the mountain. I was humbled, and humiliated. And yet, the humiliation was worth it entirely, I knew, to be able to go on with life. It was worth it in spite of—nay, perhaps even because of the suffering it entailed.

This was the crucial lesson I took of those terrible slopes—that to suffer through and persevere when faced with no alternative is no cruel fate, but a blessing rather; a testament of the human spirit and the greatness we are capable of when no easier way is afforded to us. In adversity there is growth, and only through struggle can we achieve our highest potential.

I would go on, I knew, step after step, never again to toil in the mires of apathy or flippancy.

Step after step. Ice and rock passed into trees and valleys. The lake grew bigger. The storm pounded ever on.

But there was no doubt anymore. Not since I found out that movement was possible. I would make it back to camp. I’d get off this cursed mountain if only to strangle that damn snake of a ‘friend’ who’d left me up there to die.

I didn’t in the end.

I may have actually hugged him. It’s hard to say.

When I got to flat ground, I made my way along by grasping pine branches and dragging myself forward. Pain was nothing now. The damage was already done. Survival was all that remained.

I remember stumbling into camp. The first thing I saw was the friend we’d separated from part way up—safe and sound. This was a relief. The entire journey down, he’d been in my thoughts—and I’d often considered the dread I would feel if I’d made it back to camp to find him absent. That would inevitably have meant a trip back up the mountain. Damn the storm, damn my foot. If he was left up there, I’d have to go after him.

We would both have died.

‘Another good death.’

The next thing I saw was the friend who’d left me there. But the anger was gone now.

Before that day, I’d never faced the certainty of my own death. Grudges mattered less now.

In a day, I would be home with my dog. He wouldn’t need to be lonely. My family wouldn’t need to mourn. More than any of that, I’d learned something incredible about my own potential. To look into the eye of doom and persevere is an uplifting experience.

…and that was something I needed to hang onto.

I bound my ankle with a tensor bandage, and curled up in my flooded, freezing tent with a bottle of cheap white rum.

The next day meant a seven kilometer hike down the steep, wooded slopes back to the highway and my car.

But now, I had no doubt that I could handle it.

-Brad OH Inc.

The Little Book of Bourbon

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

The stink of sweat, and the wet hiss of street cars. Saxophones screech from dark alcoves like debutantes that took a wrong turn.

Pedestrians rule the streets, beaten up cars working around them like Indians in a barnyard. New Orleans is a city alive in the truest sense—throbbing with its own potential, adorned in its own inequity like Joseph’s spastic coat.

Here, a man can drink on the streets—paved with cobblestone and flanked by sweaty brick buildings 300 years old.

Citizens crazed—with heat, booze, or lust I cannot tell—approach and talk cordially amongst themselves, and this stranger as well.

As the absinthe flows, the thick, cloying air lightens in tandem with the mood, and the night is alive with a thousand potential stories both new, and as old as the dry bones used by the Voodoo Mama just around the corner, ready to divine fortunes for a false smile and a real fee.

Some men look at a city and decide upon its potential early. They go to bed with the falling sun, counting the hours until they can rise to cut deals and exploit the less proactive denizens of this shared hell they inhabit.

Others rise late and party till dawn, seeing the promise of the city instead scrawled upon the cobblestone alleys and dark crevices of the establishments reborn at dusk; eager to meet and engage with the searing enthusiasm burning in a city alight in its own decadence.

For them there is no hell—and heaven is just a street corner away.

I struggle daily with an overwhelming compulsion to defy the norm, to taste and touch as much of life as time will allow while balancing an ‘acceptable’ life. Others fight for normalcy in a world fraught with turmoil. The most we can take from this is the weight of experience on the psyche, and the importance of mad rushes of varied tastes and flourishes of culture. Old cities like this are a natural extension of the social impulse…a thing lost in more modern complexes.

The Natchez steamboat screeches calliope tunes at me as I pass misshapen statues and covens of filthy pigeons. The $300 I came with has been reduced to a dirty pack of crumpled ones.

My knuckles are bloody—seafood or scuffles, I cannot be certain.

I stop to listen to a soapbox evangelist, the frenzy of vacation scaring off my familiar apathy. But his words are unfamiliar, unexpected. He says that religion is an affront to the spirit. God is an ideal. Original sin—as it is described, is the animal nature in us all, whereas God is the perfect goal we are meant to aspire towards.

True or not—this is not the point; the goal is soul, and perfection is a high watermark to all the savage bastards on this earth.

There is a great sense of ownership in this city. Men speak of renovations like child-rearing, and date each building with the care of tracking genealogy.

The ancient weight of history rests upon the streets like a shroud, cloaking the denizens in its comforting embrace, and a sense of community identity permeates all.

It was around 4:00pm, in a small jazz club off Bourbon, when I realized that I’d never leave this town alive if I couldn’t acquire a strengthened taste for straight liquor and twisted people. But there is something horribly sleazy about drinking fine Bourbon from kitschy party cups. Like hiding cocaine in an animal shaped children’s party balloon.

There can be no doubt that I am yet to find true equilibrium. The battle between the boisterous extrovert and the mumbling, cantankerous recluse wages on daily.

Also, I’m a big fan of absinthe.

It’s a funny line to walk—being tugged between the joys and regrets so inherent to a life well lived.

But if a man can persist, and persevere beyond the quagmires he so ceaselessly chooses to embroil himself in, soon enough the straight road may reveal itself.

And just like that, things were making sense again. The night must get dark before the stars appear again to light the way. And if they need still further darkness… it’s always waiting on Bourbon St. …just a breakdown away!

The Little Book of BourbonI’ve learned I lean towards an older crowd than my own age merits, more towards the 50+ blues crowd, willing to truly talk without any of the flirtatious pretension. But this knowledge does little to ease my mind.

A lovely lady lives behind the bar at ‘The Blue Note’ off Bourbon and St. Louis, and feeds me tastes of each drink she makes, providing shots for words as she purrs siren-like about her life and times in NOLA.

She was good, but he was better. She had the kind of angel voice and deadly looks that could with a word command a man into the sickest sort of depravities even he would never have imagined himself capable of. But he had the sort of prodigious talent, and plucked those strings with rhythm and precision sufficient to lift that same man to higher planes of self.

I’ve got to get out of this place. A city of saints and sinners in the truest sense—both more than willing to send a man off his rails and leave him begging for more while reeling with sickness and exhaustion… just as long as you tip.

But not just the tip. They’ll take it all. Your money, your ideals, your direction. Everything that separates a man from these goddamn flea-bitten apes you see on discovery channel as you drink your box wine and eat your cold pizza.

I’ll be dragged down for sure. Deeper than the determined bodies clawing their way up; jealous of those laying in the moldy crypts—spiting sea-levels and buoyancy for the sweeter rumours of voodoo and ancient evils.

No—they’re for another time. I’ll be down in the bayous, a bottle of Jameson clutched in my hand as the gators feast on my bones.

Elsewhere, a woman will stand alone, singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ acapella as a man elsewhere strums out Beethoven on his guitar.

What am I rambling about?

I’ve got to get out of this place before I’m just a stain on its streets.

I’ve heard it said—both recently and before, that all the great things mankind has done have been the result of the powerful—corporations, empires, tyrants—these are the builders, and this I cannot deny.

But the stage is nothing without its actors, and the great stories and moments have always arisen from the fearless few willing to rise up and rage against the rat bastards with everything that makes us human and keeps us animal.

In the face of the depravity and madness I’ve faced, I still cast my lot proudly not with the world builders, but with the rabble and ravers of humanity.

I just need a woman with an eye for photography or an ear for music—either one will do.

I realized rather early on, but feel it all the more pressingly now, that this city must cease to fear the magic of the past and learn to harness that of the present.

A Guest Article by your Friend and Ours,

-Duke O’Brady