What first got you into music?
Thanks. I love telling this story.
My mother and my aunt had a lot of vinyl records. Me and my sister, Lynda, and our cousins, Mickey and Nancy, when we would visit each others’ homes—I’m talking three, four, five years old—we had these little children’s turntables with tinny little speakers and boxes of records.
And as we played, we took turns playing vinyl records. Nowadays, gaming systems are the babysitter. I was lucky to grow up with a turntable.
Some records, we weren’t allowed to handle. They could only be played on the grown up’s record player, and only they were allowed to place them on the turntable.
When you’re a kid, that’s impressive: Something so precious that you aren’t even allowed to touch it. Something sacred. Something holy.
The first song I can remember hearing was The Beatles’ I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND.
I’m just going to call out a few artists I can recall from the stack: Tom Jones, Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass, Englebert Humperdinck, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Petula Clark, Tammy Wynette, The Mills Brothers, Ed Ames, Smokey Robinson, The Platters, Nat King Cole.
I had a copy of The Kinks’ LOLA, and I played it so many times that mother yelled down the stairs, “If you play that record one more time, I’m going to come down there and break it.”
My cousins and I knew every song on the charts. If we saw mention of a song we hadn’t heard, we went on a mission to find it and hear it. All styles. All genres. Pure joy.
Who inspired you to make music?
Where I grew up—a working class Catholic town called Castle Shannon that started out as a coal mining village and grew into a suburb—all kids were expected to take up a musical instrument at the age of nine, usually an instrument for the school band. My sister picked the clarinet. My cousin picked the trombone. I wanted drums.
My mom shopped for drums, but drums were too expensive, so she asked if I would be happy with a guitar. That was my ninth birthday present—an acoustic guitar and a guitar lesson. My thirteenth birthday present was a $50 electric guitar and a little ten-watt amp.
I was one of those kids who spent a lot of time living in his own little dream world, and that turned out to be the thing that saved me.
My family disintegrated. My mom ran off to whereabouts unknown. She took my sister and brother but left me. My dad was a violent drunk, and he and I would get into serious fistfights. I ended up living above the garage at my grandmother’s house.
I hated everyone and everything. I totally isolated myself, had no friends, and I would sit in my little room with my guitar. I had a pencil and piece of cardboard, not even a tablet of paper. And I started writing songs.
I had the lyrics written out on the piece of cardboard, a concept-album of some kind, and I made notes about the intended vocal style. I never sang out loud, but I imagined singing some parts in the style of John Lennon, other parts in the style of Marc Bolan from T. Rex, other parts in the voice of David Bowie.
There were kids at school who actually got together to jam, and they had bands, played at school dances. I don’t think any of those kids knew I existed, much less that I played guitar.
But that loneliness, the isolation and the anger that it produced, serious anger, you can’t underestimate the revenge-motive. I wanted revenge, and words and sounds were my weapons.
I totally bought into the mythology of rock’n’roll. I read a statement by Patti Smith where she says something like, “Rock’n’roll is the highest form of communication known to man.”
What did I know? It HAD to be true.
STREET FIGHTING MAN by The Rolling Stones—“What can a poor boy do except sing for a rock’n’roll band.”
JUNGLE LAND by Bruce Springsteen—“Kids flash guitars just like switchblades, hustling for the record machine.”
PISS FACTORY by Patti Smith—“I will get out of here and I will go to New York City and I’m going to be so big and I will never return to burn out in this Piss Factory.”
This music-thing was like being part of an invisible army. Me and my imaginary friends in a fantasy a war against every asshole in the whole wide world. To the death!
Music was the only thing I didn’t hate. It saved my life.
How would you describe the music that you typically create?
My music cuts across genres. I have a writer’s voice. I have a world view. I have a “thing,’ something people can get into. The Little Wretches are a vehicle for my stories and songs.
I teach through stories and I tell stories through songs.
Now, who the f### am I to think I have anything to teach anybody else? Imagine the arrogance of thinking yourself a teacher!
I am teaching are the stories of the people I’ve known. I am honoring the people I’ve loved by keeping their flames burning.
If there are kids out there today as angry and hurt as I was, I’m sure they’ll find in my songs what I found in the stuff that kept me alive.
I’ve been performing solo with an acoustic guitar for about a decade, so you might think I’m some kind of folkie. But I don’t play no Peter, Paul and Mary. I’m REAL folk. I’m handing down the stories of my people. I pray there is a next generation to do the same.
When The Little Wretches were coming up, hardcore punk was the big thing with all the cool kids. Cool kids? I hate cool kids. I’m more hardcore—just me and my guitar—than your entire hardcore scene and all its spikes and leather. The Little Wretches versus Black Flag. They are louder and more blatant, but go beneath the surface, and is Black Flag more hardcore than me?
What people really want to know when they ask what kind of music you play is what kind of clothes should they wear. What drinks should they drink? What drugs should they take? What should they smoke? How should they cut their hair? Right? People are looking to belong to something.
Bob Dylan’s LIKE A ROLLING STONE, that’s everybody’s biggest fear—having nothing an no one and discovering your friends are frauds and parasites. “How does it feel?”
Somebody told me the marketing companies can extrapolate based on what kind of music you listened to when you were twelve and predict what kind of beer you’ll drink when you’re thirty.
Well, I ain’t gonna change what I am to fit in anywhere, and if that puts me on the outs, so be it. I don’t want to belong to anything that makes me deny any part of who and what I am. I don’t want to be stuck in anybody’s box, limited to anybody’s categories.
I describe my music as, “Musical Portraits and Cinematography of the Soul.” That’s kind of ponderous, isn’t it? La-de-da-de-da. Ain’t you something?
Yeah, but what’s it sound like?
Tony Norman, one of the best columnists in America, said we’re a cross between Nelson Algren, Rimbaud and Grimm’s Fairy Tales. He’s a writer, so it figures he’d frame us in literary terms.
Another critic said, “The Little Wretches play the kind of music to win a jaded girl’s heart.” That’s about the best description I can think of.
Where’s the jaded girls? I got some songs for them. How about their moms? How about their grandmoms? Or their little sisters.
What is your creative process like?
A line will come to me, a phrase—lyrical or musical—and one idea leads to another. I’ve had songs that just come to me in almost finished form.
I’ll pull a lot of my lyrics out of everyday conversation. I’ll eavesdrop, take what I heard, and make it rhyme. Set it over a rhythm. The color of the words tell you what chords and melody you need.
I’ve spent so much time immersed in this stuff that some things just “sound right” to me.
This is going to sound off-topic, but I promise, it relates:
I studied poetry-writing for a time under a guy who’d grown up near Bruce Springsteen and used to spy on Springsteen’s rehearsals. So now he’s a college teacher, and Springsteen has a new album out, and my teacher wanted to borrow my copy. He doesn’t want to risk wasting his own money, but he really wants to hear what his homie is playing these days.
When he returned it to me, he said he was disappointed. He said every note was predictable. Every rhyme was predictable. He said that the most amazing thing about Springsteen when he was coming up was that you never knew where he was going next. Everything felt like a surprise, but everything also felt perfect. Kind of a paradox.
(I do NOT agree with the dude’s assessment of Springsteen, by the way.)
When I’m writing a song, I understand that I need to make that paradox happen. I want to give the listener something simultaneously surprising and perfect, like every note and syllable is exactly where it needs to be, but you didn’t anticipate its coming till it happened. And I like to throw in lines calculated to snap you to attention, re-set your focus.
What did he just say? Did he say what I think he said?
This is so difficult to explain. It really falls into the Socratic “Beauty is Divine” thing. An idea comes to me from out of nowhere, then I sculpt it a little. I just kind of know when I get it right. And when I know it’s right, it doesn’t matter who likes it or who gets it. I know I nailed it. It’s between me and God.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
What kind of collaboration are you talking about?
I’d love to collaborate with filmmakers and choreographers. I’d love for my songs to be part of a curated exhibit in a gallery or staged with actors and dancers.
Strictly in the field of music, though, Tony Norman suggested I get in touch with T-BONE BURNETT. He thinks T-Bone Burnett would be a great producer for The Little Wretches.
The Irish supergroup THE CHIEFTAINS, I’d love to collaborate with them, have their sound as the musical backdrop for my songs.
There’s a band from my hometown, DEVILISH MERRY, that has a lot of the qualities I admire in The Chieftains. If I could hire Devilish Merry to be my backing band for an album and a tour, that would be cool.
I have no desire to chase down my musical heroes, and I’m too old to waste my time. If I could choose collaborators, I’d choose an all-star team of people I’ve already worked with.
You know about Bob Dylan and The Band making THE BASEMENT TAPES, right? Holed up, making music every day with no particular audience or end in mind, but Dylan’s songs being the nucleus of the project. I’d like to do a Basement Tapes thing.
If I could be holed up in a Big Pink House with musicians willing to work with my songs, I’d stick with Rosa Colucci of The Little Wretches on vocals and percussion. There might be singers more famous, but none better or more creative and sympathetic.
For piano, I’d pull Dave Losi of The Little Wretches out of his self-imposed retirement. Or H.K. Hilner. H.K has two musical idols—The Rolling Stones and Gustav Mahler. He “gets it.” Maybe we’d stick H.K. on the grand piano and have Losi do organ.
My Garth Hudson, the guy who adds sweetness, beauty and texture to the sound, would be Steve Sciulli. Steve is a multi-instrumentalist with great musical instincts and a broad vocabulary. He’s played traditional Irish music, punk rock, classical rock, traditional Japanese music, ambient music, meditation music.
On bass, I’d take Dan Wasson. Dan is a fixture in Pittsburgh’s jazz scene, but he’s played all kinds of music. Dan and I went to St. Anne’s School together. We played football and wrestled together. He knows Hendrix inside and out. He knows Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, all the Free Jazz stuff. John Carson of The Little Wretches is not to be sold short as a bassist, either. I’d pick Dan because of his musical vocabulary, but John Carson “gets it.” We could always have John on bass and give Danny an electric guitar.
Speaking of guitar, I wish to God I could bring Jon Paul Leone out of eternity and back to this world. Jon Paul Leone. Oh, to play with him again. He was an encyclopedia. He could play as fluently as I write.
Mike Madden on drums, no doubt. Mike rocks. And Ellen Hildebrand on rhythm guitar. Ellen is not a virtuoso musician, but she’s another one of those people who “gets it.” She knows what the music is supposed to sound and feel like. She’s got soul.
And the guy who founded The Little Wretches with me, my brother, Charles John Wagner. In fact, I am so much in his debt, if I could collaborate with him, I’d want to devote a few years to playing HIS songs, setting HIS poetry to music.
I wish you could have known my brother.
If you could go open a show for any artist who would it be?
A lot of the artists I most admire have such devoted followings that the opening act gets in the way. It ain’t no fun trying to entertain people who want your set to end so they can see their heroes.
If my motive was to possibly poach some fans, turn the stars’ audience on to MY music, if I’m playing solo, I’d go with Steve Earle or Richard Thompson. If I have the whole band, I’d love to open for The Dream Syndicate. Or Steve Earle with his band. Or Richard Thompson with his band.
The three solo-performers I most admire are Michelle Shocked, Peter Himmelman and Jonathan Richman. I’ve seen each of them do shows WITHOUT openers. Would they even have me? I would want to open for them just so I could get into the show for free.
What is one message you would give to your fans?
Thank you. I hope I have not been a disappointment to you. I love doing this. I look at what I’ve done, what I am doing, and what I hope to do, and I want you to know that your support and encouragement helps to sustain me and gives me added reason to keep fighting.
Do you sing in the shower? What songs?
I do my shower-singing in the car. You might pull up next to me at a traffic light and see me rocking in my seat and wailing along with some Patti Smith. Maybe The Kinks.
Music in the car. LOUD music in the car. Hardly ever in the shower. One of my favorite things when I have a day with nothing to do is to just head out, find a road I’ve never traveled before and see where it goes. Just get lost in the maze of roads knowing that all roads eventually lead back home.
John Doe has a song, “Beer! Gas! Ride forever!” I can go without the beer, but I can’t go without the music.
Mott the Hoople. Garland Jeffreys. Jackson Browne. Glen Campbell. The Everly Brothers. Dusty Springfield. Linda Ronstadt. Emmylou Harris. Buddy Holly. The Sex Pistols. Elliot Murphy. David Johansen.
Dang, you shouldn’t have got me started.
Oooh, ooh. I forgot PROMISES, PROMISES by Generation X.
What would you be doing right now, if it wasn't for your music career?
A couple of things, for sure. I’m pretty sure I’d be writing, and I’d be working with at-risk teens.
As a writer, I could be in politics, writing speeches, writing position papers for a think tank. God forbid that I’d be a college professor doing poetry as a cottage industry. Bob Dylan put poetry out of business.
I’d definitely be working with kids, which is something I actually do now. I work well with the angriest of kids. I don’t know what it is, but I have a knack. I come around, and babies stop crying, dogs stop barking, and angry kids see me as a friend.
Where have you performed? What are your favourite and least favourite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?
Well, everything is still locked down where I am, so I don’t really have any upcoming shows. Like a lot of people, I do these Zoom and Facebook Live things, just sit in front of a laptop and play to a picture of yourself. Not satisfying at all.
When it comes to favorite and least favorite venues, you might be surprised. The venues I prefer are venues where we can come in and totally be ourselves. It feels like a living room, and the audience is like a group of family friends. It has nothing to do with the actual size of the place. It has more to do with the spirit of hospitality and community, and that usually starts with the owners.
There’s a legendary blues club in Pittsburgh, MOONDOG’S, run by Ron “Moondog” Esser. There’s a place called The Oddity Bar in Wilmington, Delaware. The Oddity Bar has a sci-fi movie feel. You can be on stage and MAD MAX or THE ROAD WARRIOR can be playing on the TV’s. Places like that, you are welcomed when you get there and thanked when you leave.
I love playing art galleries. There’s a big installation-art gallery in Pittsburgh called THE MATTRESS FACTORY. I recorded a live acoustic album in a room there. Hardwood floors. Brick walls. The sound was so perfect we didn’t even need amplification. And the entire place is imbued with the spirit of beauty and creativity.
Also in Pittsburgh, I’ve played at THE WARHOL a couple times. (If you go to Pittsburgh and don’t visit The Warhol, your trip was incomplete.) And smaller galleries, too. A dear friend who passed away recently, DAVID ALLEN FLYNN, just about every time he had an art-opening, he asked me to play.
I can’t forget small “black box” theaters, too. When a show is running, you know, a play, a couple of nights a week are going to be “dark.” Usually Sunday and Monday nights. Some theaters will have music on the dark nights. The stage-sets for the show-in-progress are usually more interesting that the rinky-dink lights at a club. Great circumstances for doing a show. Atmosphere. Props. Formal seating. Gravitas. Yes, this is how Shakespeare did it. And Bugs Bunny.
“Overture! Turn the lights! This is it! We’ll hit the heights!…”
How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?
I don’t really feel like I’m a part of the music business.
I have always subscribed to the DIY/punk ethic. I’ve spent a great portion of my life listening to unauthorized bootleg recordings. My favorite bands were regarded as “underground,” and they forged ahead in obscurity for much of their “careers.”
For the indie/outsider artist, the internet is a wonderful thing.
The internet allows the artist to connect directly with the listener, the viewer, the buyer, whatever. Lower the overhead costs and cut out the middle-man.
Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage.” Thanks to the internet, all the world is an open-stage. The internet allows every knucklehead with a laptop to make a Grammy-quality recording. Every grandpa who went to law school instead of spending his student loans on a Les Paul can now pretend to be a musician in his semi-retirement.
More than ever, I’m a needle in a haystack.
But the internet allows a person in South Africa, New Zealand or Hungary to find The Little Wretches. And that’s all I can ask for. If I can find a way to make the music, I can be assured that audiences will be able to find it.
I’ve got to tough it out and give them a reason to want to find it, which is why I’m so grateful to be doing this interview. If I neglected to thank you previously, allow me to thank you now.
And as a fan, the most satisfying thing is discovering a new artist to “get into.” The Little Wretches might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but there are people out there who are seeking exactly what we are doing. I have this goldmine of music just waiting to be discovered by people who aren’t going to find what I’m offering anywhere else.
What is your favourite song to perform?
Did you ever see the move, SOPHIE’S CHOICE? With Meryl Streep? That’s what you’re asking me to do. I love all of my songs like children. If one hasn’t been played in a while, I perform it so it doesn’t start to feel unloved and unappreciated.
Pick a favorite?
For covers, I like playing Buddy Holly’s EVERY DAY and Glen Campbell’s LESS OF ME. Of course, I have a version of I’LL BE YOUR MIRROR, the Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground song, and I infuse it with original poetry. I love playing that.
I have an unreleased song called DUQUESNE about a woman who is forced to retire but who gets up and goes to work every morning anyhow. Instead of working, she sits in church all day then goes home when the day is done. She says, “There’s no place on earth where it’s good to be old.” My finest writing, I think. DUQUESNE might be my favorite, and it’s still on the to-do list.
Great music yet to come from The Little Wretches, believe me.
What is the most trouble you've ever gotten into?
Trouble? Are you asking if I ever did time for manslaughter? Snoop? Ice T? Did I ever steal a car? Rob a liquor store? Shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die? Get rich or die trying?
Did you ever follow professional wrestling, The Road Warriors? “We snack on danger, we dine on death!” Or something like that.
I’m a cancer-survivor. I’m from a broken home with two violent, substance-abusing parents. You’re asking me about trouble?
I’ll tell you about trouble, and mine is minuscule compared to what a lot of other people face, but I mentioned earlier that my dad was a violent drunk, and my mom had to go into hiding.
My best friend when I was a teenager, I can’t say his name, but he was a mixed-race kid in an otherwise all-white neighborhood. His own dad died when we were nine or ten years old, and my dad, who’d grown up without a father, treated my friend a son.
My friend wanted a gun, but the sporting goods store wouldn’t sell him a gun because he was under age. So he begged my dad to buy this gun for him.
Now, this was prior to my mother going underground. Here’s the context. My mom and dad had split up, and my dad used to come to my mom’s house every day to either kill her or convince her to take him back. My job was to fight him off, which I was able to do because he was drunk. I was a tough kid, but my dad was legendary. But he was drunk, so I could take him. Lord have mercy if he’d ever been sober.
Well, my dad bought this 22-calibre pellet-gun for my friend, “the gat,” he called it, with the understanding that my friend would let my dad use it whenever my dad wanted it. One time, my dad came to my mother’s house and said he was going to shoot her eyes out. Fun times.
So anyhow, my mom disappears, and I end up living with my grandmother. But I still felt like my father’s house was rightfully MY house, and whenever he wasn’t home, I knew how to break in through one of the windows. I’d go there when he wasn’t home, listen to records, watch TV.
He had an envelope in the closet where he kept all his cash. I used to take a ten or twenty-dollar bill when I wanted cash. He was a drunk, right? He couldn’t keep track of his money. I’d take it, and he’d just assume he’d drunk it up.
What I’d do is wait till he got home. I’d watch him back the car down the driveway, and when he’d open the garage door, I’d sneak out the front door. If he sensed that I’d been there, too bad. There was nothing he could do about it.
Well, one time, me and my friends were in my dad’s house, and my dad came home. No problem. I have a system. Wait till he comes in the garage. But this time, he parked the car at the top of the driveway and entered through the front door. We were trapped.
Now, the three of us could have jumped him, but he was a tough man, and my friends weren’t up for that. I’d invited them in, after all. It was my responsibility to get them out of the house safely.
I herded them into the back room with the idea that they could crawl out the window, but we must have made too much noise because he started yelling at us, at me, in particular. “I was a no good, lazy, so-and-so,” every vulgarity you can imagine.
As fate would have it, my friend had “the gat.” So I said, give it here. I’ll face off my dad while you guys get out of the house.
Now, as a sidebar, I should mention that my dad and I had been in a bunch of fistfights previously. I’m a very good wrestler. If I could evade his first punch, I could take him down and punch him out. Ugly. Also, my uncle, my Godfather, had suggested that the next time my dad and I tangled, I should break my dad’s leg. My dad was a mailman. If I broke his leg, he’d probably have to go into rehab, and when he’s sober, my dad is just as good as any many alive. According to my uncle, I’d be doing my dad a favor if I broke his leg.
So I go out into the main room, and my dad has already retrieved two big knives from the kitchen. (I actually have a scar along one of my eyebrows from a time he got me with a little pocket knife.) He knew I was there. He remembered our recent encounters, and he didn’t plan on losing this round. But he also didn’t plan on me having “the gat.”
So while my friends ran out of the house, I pointed the gun at my dad and told him to drop the knives or I’d shoot. He dropped the knives. He was really drunk, too, so I took him down with a basic wrestling move, and I was going to break his leg, but I couldn’t get myself to do it.
I’d visualized the move a hundred times, but when it came time, I couldn’t do it. Instead, I stomped my heel right into his solar plexus. I can still hear the sound he made, the face he made. Horrible. Then I followed my friends, and I have no recollection of what we did next. Probably went out for pizza or ice cream.
Just another night for a teenager in Castle Shannon, Pennsylvania.
Does that sound like trouble?
I have a couple of songs about my dad. I hope he forgives me, God rest his soul, for talking about him like this. My dad was a great man. He overcame more than I ever had to overcome. He was a father to the fatherless, a hardworking, selfless, humble man. But he drank. “Honor thy father and mother.” I hope that, taken as a whole, my body of work serves as a testament to the goodness of my mother and father.
Evil won the battle but lost the war.
What is the best advice you've been given?
My Uncle Jimmy, Jimmy Humes, my godfather, the guy who suggested that I break my dad’s leg, he didn’t give me good advice so much as he modeled for me how to enjoy life.
Jimmy Humes had been one of the top musicians, an accordionist, in Western Pennsylvania, but he’d gotten hooked on drugs and had to quit music in order to quit the drugs. Imagine being among the best at something but having to walk away from it.
There is so much I could tell you about him, but he was interested in hunting and fishing. He liked the outdoors, but he was a music dude. He didn’t know any hunters or fishermen. So he read up on it, invested in a little equipment, and while he taught himself how to be an outdoorsman, he brought me along for the trip.
My Uncle Jim, the best advice he ever gave me was, “I’m going to have a good time no matter what happens.” Kind of like that character in THIS IS SPINAL TAP, Viv, whose motto is, “Have a good time all the time.” My mom and dad were not happy people. They worked, they drank, and they fought. They were missing something. But my Uncle Jim taught me how to simply enjoy life.
“I’m going to have a good time no matter what happens.”
Easier said than done? Not really. It’s all in how you approach things. Time on earth is short. Life is precious. Savor it.
If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be? ·
Industry? In broad terms, industry involves mass production for mass consumption for the sake of commerce. I’m not really part of that. I’m more like an artisan than an industrial worker.
What you find is that there is a lot of conflict-of-interest in parts of the business that are supposed to be separate, a lot of people wearing multiple hats. It’s like the judge, the lawyer, the jury are in cahoots with each other. Really, I don’t know or understand it.
People do business with people they like. People like to help their friends. When you’re on the outside, it feels like the whole thing is corrupt. But that isn’t just the music business. It’s how business works.
My relationship to the music industry is like my relationship to the weather. I get up and do my thing, rain or shine. I deliver the mail.
I wouldn’t change the music industry. I’d change the culture. People use music—something sacred to me—like a cigarette, a beer, or a cup of coffee. We live in a feel-good culture. Music is a mood-regulator for people who self-medicate. Walk into a grocery store, music is playing Walk into a convenience store, music is playing. Take a shower at the YMCA, music is playing. You are being drugged against your will. You are being conditioned to treat music—sacred and holy music—as something to be ignored.
It’s insidious. You are being drugged against your will by music that, in many cases, is amazing. I’ve heard The New York Dolls playing in convenience stores. Never got played on the radio in their day, but now they’re background music when you have to pee on a road trip.
Nothing against the New York Dolls, but what do I have to do to get The Little Wretches played at rest stops on the Pennsylvania Turnpike?
What's next for you?
I’ve been telling everyone who asks that I want to wake up in the morning thinking about where I am playing tonight. I want LIVE music to come back.
Right now, I am working without a booking agent, and nobody is booking, anyhow. But I need to find somebody to handle the booking.
If I never wrote another song, I have enough material waiting to be recorded to get me through another two or three albums.
I’m scheming. What I want, though, is a booking agent who can keep me busy. Every night, another audience. Drive. Do it again.
How important is the current climate crisis to you and how do you think you could help?
The fact that you’ve asked that question, worded as it is, suggests that “the current climate crisis” is important to you, and you believe it should be important to me. Am I correct? Yes?
And if that is the case, I feel like I should be turning the question back to you: YOU tell ME how you think I could help.
But we have to be careful with this.
I do a lot of work with at-risk and court-adjudicated teens. I learned a valuable lesson from a kid whose name I cannot share. We were watching a reality TV show with a segment about cosmetic surgery. I asked his opinion, and he said, “I ain’t nobody to tell another person what to do.”
I ain’t nobody to tell another person what to do.
That’s a sentence I keep with me every day of my life.
But back to the current climate crisis.
We have to define our terms. What do you mean “current?” The phenomena of climate is measured over time, is it not? So the words “current” and “climate” don’t really go together.
We also have to define “crisis.” As I understand it, climate-activists anticipate a chain of events with potentially catastrophic consequences and propose that action be taken now to defuse the ticking time-bomb of climate.
What we want, I believe, is to PREVENT a crisis.
I suggest you go back to the 1970s, books like LIMITS TO GROWTH. Go back to the turn of the century and Al Gore’s INCONVENIENT TRUTH.
Those apocalyptic predictions simply haven’t borne out, have they?
These points I’m making, people pull them out to “debunk” the notion that there is a current climate crisis, and that is not my intent. But I do think we need to broaden the discussion. Re-define the terms.
I’m going to go even further off-topic, but I’ll bring it around, I promise.
Let me ask you this. If I invite you to my home for dinner, do I ask you to do the dishes? No, I don’t. Now, on the other hand, if I give you permission to use my yard for YOUR party and you make a mess, do you have an obligation to clean your mess? Yes, you do.
It’s a question of stewardship. If you make a mess, you clean it up. If you deplete the supply, you replace it.
What we have is people in the business world who profit from depleting the planet of its supplies, and nobody holds them accountable to clean up the mess they made or to replace the resources they’ve used or restore the ecosystems they’ve disturbed.
It’s simple, isn’t it? You broke it, you bought it. You messed it up, you clean it up.
On the other hand, activists have this notion that nature was beautiful and harmonious till human beings came along and messed it up. To them, humans are termites. Humans are parasites.
I don’t buy that. Nature is nasty. Volcanoes. Earthquakes. Wildfires. The food-chain. Eat or be eaten. Ask tyrannosaurus rex. Ask triceratops.
Through human ingenuity, nature has been transformed so that a greater number of people can live in comfort and safety than at any time in history. Imagine, there was a time when the human population numbered in the thousands. Now, the planet can sustain billions.
Climate-change may be the reason humans migrated out of Africa. Climate-change may be the reason people migrated out of Mesopotamia. No water in Ur. We better go find some water. Next thing you know, we’re crossing from Siberia to Alaska, and the Mayans, Incas and Aztecs are transforming the Western Hemisphere, creating what we now call the Amazon Rainforest.
The Amazon Rainforest? Yes. It is the product of human stewardship.
So, back to the climate crisis. The crisis is that we project that people will be unable to adapt and adjust to the coming changes. Make no mistake, change is coming.
Me, I do not fear change. I was born for chaos. I was born for change. The future is created by people with no stake in the present. I’ve got no stake. I can afford to revert to the Bronze Age. If tomorrow, musicians had to go back to the days of the troubadours, just me and my guitar, on the road, unplugged, candlelight and torches, I’m on board.
Do it. I was MADE for that.
But I like my fossil-fueled car. I like driving three-hundred miles to play a gig for little more than gas-money. I’ll give up driving my car when Hollywood stops spending tens of millions to produce stupid movies, activists stop jet-setting around the world to give speeches at dinners where they throw out food more valuable than I’ll eat in a month, and China pays its workers a fifteen-dollar an hour minimum wage.
So, it looks like I’ve gone on a rant. I apologize. All politics is local. Clean your mess. Try not to waste stuff. Insist that the green spaces around you remain green. Insist that the polluters around you be held accountable. Protect wildlife. Conserve. Learn how to farm. Even if you live in a city, plant tomatoes, broccoli and peppers.
At the end of the day, ask yourself: Did I produce more calories than I consumed? Odds are, you did not. If you take more than you give, you are a parasite. Don’t be a parasite. Create. Produce. Give more than you take.
I don’t think that’s what you wanted, but that’s my two-cents on the current climate crisis.