February Word Challenge, Day 22

(If you’re wondering what this is about, read this.)

My five random words for today’s exercise are olympics, laser, coin, doughnut, friar.

Chosen word for free association: friar
monk, fish friar, chip monk, deep friar, band name


“Ladies and Gentlemen … from Schenectady, NY … put your hands together for … DEEP FRIAR!”

On cue, Francis walked through the stage fog and took up his position behind mic #3. The cheers grew louder as he and his band members emerged from the shadows onto the stage. His Les Paul hung heavy from his shoulder, the headstock angled toward the floor, stage lights reflecting from the chrome hardware.

It didn’t used to be like this. At one time, the words were the message, and Deep Friar, despite the punny name, wrote music that made people think. But these days, the message was lost. The music was still technical and challenging, at least, but after their fourth album (Friary Crash) debuted to lackluster sales, the record company had told them to lighten up on the lyrics. It had worked; every album since then had gone gold, and controversy over lyrical meaning disappeared.

And for Francis, so did the point.

February Word Challenge, Day 21

(If you’re wondering what this is about, read this.)

My five random words for today’s exercise are belt, bingo, lift, trolley, reindeer.

Chosen word for free association: lift
spirits, elevator, raise, major lift


I had the opportunity to learn how to play and sing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” recently for an upcoming benefit performance. I love the self-referential portion of the song in which the melody and chord progression are climbing and the lyrics say the following:

Well it goes like this: the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall and the major lift

I put this song in the same category as “The Hook” by Blues Traveler and “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen. All of those songs are tongue-in-cheek exercises that make different points than the listener expects; “The Hook” is a cynical look at how it doesn’t really matter what a song’s lyrics are about as long as the hook grabs your attention. “Born in the USA” is about the deplorable treatment our veterans receive after coming back home from war; it’s not a celebratory song, but it is often used as one because the chorus — the hook — is just “Born in the USA”, which by itself doesn’t make any negative statements about the government or military.

“Hallelujah” is similar, if a bit more obfuscated. Its point seems to be to rail against love. Or is it to celebrate the pain of love?

February Word Challenge, Day 18

(If you’re wondering what this is about, read this.)

My five random words for today’s exercise are teapot, bin, salt, basket, library.

Chosen word for free association: library
Don’t need it. The scene just popped into my head.

Really, the entire house was a library. The room officially known as the library was on the top floor of the painted lady, but as the books filled that space, they cascaded down the broad staircases to the main floor, lining the walls and snaking around, gradually filling in space like a jigsaw puzzle. At the servant staircase, they piggybacked their way down the treacherously steep steps and into the cold of a dry basement, where they waited in the sometimes crisp air for their next set of eyes.

February Word Challenge, Day 17

(If you’re wondering what this is about, read this.)

My five random words for today’s exercise are tax, balance sheet, test, mutton, attack.

Chosen word for free association: mutton
sheep, greasy, MLT, Navajo

Mother Begay wrapped her shawl tighter, shielding her body from the cold northern New Mexico wind. The heat from the dried juniper campfire was enough to boil the water for mutton stew, but not useful for much beyond that. Tsé Bitʼaʼí loomed, silhouetted, in the November moonlight, a silent reminder of the journey her ancestors had taken to this world on the back of a great bird.

As she stirred strips of squash into the atoo’, she wondered; would the boys be home for the Night Chant this year?

Would they ever again?

February Word Challenge, Day 15

(If you’re wondering what this is about, read this.)

My five random words for today’s exercise are board, tornado, faint, pile, prophet.

Chosen word for free association: prophet
leader, seer, visionary, profit,

“Prophecy is a tough business, kid.” The seer lit a stogie, pulling the flame into the cigar as he drew in a breath. “First of all, there’s no money in it,” he said, shaking the match to put it out. “If you’re going to be a prophet, you’d better be financially independent. Or on food stamps.”

“But what about fortune tellers?” asked the young man. “They make money.”

The seer looked at him and rolled his eyes. “Boy, you are green. There’s a big difference between fortune telling and prophecy. Fortune tellers deal with individuals; prophets deal with civilizations. And believe me, the people only want to listen when you’re foretelling something that they think is good for them. Prophecies of doom only attract weirdos, and even though they may be the only ones prepared when the shit goes down, having them around can be kind of a liability. So I generally keep the small stuff to myself if it’s not going to kill too many people. It’s too much trouble otherwise.”