Prose by JUDITH PODELL aka Memphis Earlene Gray
Most Blues begin “woke up this morning.” This, and several more Universal Laws of the Blues were revealed to me, along with my new blues name, Memphis Earlene Gray. Never has a piece of writing come easier. In 1997 the piece got published in WORDWRIGHTS, a now defunct lit mag. Soon after, I discovered my Blues piece was circulating the internet, authorship claimed by some fool who called himself “Uncle Plunky”, although he threw in a little credit to Memphis Earlene Gray.
I’d been Copyrightviolated. I was outraged. Memphis Earlene, on the other hand was thrilled. Now she wants her own blog. I promised to help.
BLUES FOR BEGINNERS
woke up this morning
cat threw a hairball on the bed.
said, i woke up this morning
cat puke all over the bed.
went to the kitchen
mr. coffee was dead.
(attrib. to Memphis Earlene Gray)
1. Most blues begin ‘‘woke up this morning.’’
2.‘‘I got a good woman’’ is a bad way to begin the blues, unless you stick something nasty in the next line.
i got a good woman—
with the meanest dog in town.
3. Blues are simple. After you have the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes.
got a good woman
with the meanest dog in town.
he got teeth like Margaret Thatcher
and he weighs 500 pound.
4. The blues are not about limitless choice.
5. Blues cars are Chevies and Cadillacs. Other acceptable blues transportation is Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Walkin’ plays a major part in the blues lifestyle. So does fixin’ to die.
6. Teenagers can’t sing the blues.
Adults sing the blues. Blues adulthood means old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.
7. You can have the blues in New York City, but not in Brooklyn or Queens. Hard times in Vermont or North Dakota are just depression. Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City are still the best places to have the blues.
8. The following colors do not belong in the blues:
9. You can’t have the blues in an office or a honky-tonk. The lighting is wrong.
10. Good places for the Blues:
a. the highway
b. the jailhouse
c. the empty bed
11. No one will believe it’s the blues if you wear a suit, unless you happen to be an old black man.
12. Do you have the right to sing the blues?
a. your first name is a southern state.
b. you’re blind.
c. you shot a man in Memphis.
d. you can’t be satisfied.
a. you once were blind but now can see.
b. you’re deaf.
13. Neither Frank Sinatra nor Meryl Streep can sing the blues.
14. If you ask for water and baby gives you gasoline it’s the blues. Other blues beverages are:
b. Irish whiskey
c. muddy water
15. If it occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack it’s blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is a blues way to die. So is the electric chair, substance abuse, or being denied treatment in an emergency room.
16. Some Blues Names for Women
b. Big Mamma
17. Some Blues names for Men
c. Little Willie
Persons with names like Sierra or Sequoia will not be permitted to sing the blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.
NOTE: ‘‘BLUES FOR BEGINNERS’’ is Copyright © 1997-1998 by Judith Podell. World Rights Reserved. Permission to reprint must be obtained by writing to Judith Podell, c/o The Argonne Hotel Press.