Thomas Wictor

Emotions hurt, as they should

Emotions hurt, as they should

I offered to send Ghosts and Ballyhoo: Memoirs of a Failed L.A. Music Journalist to a reader. She replied that emotions hurt, which I take to mean that she’d rather not read the book. I understand. Here’s what a reviewer said about it.

At every turn revealing, enlightening, and heartbreaking in the most jagged fashion imaginable. Part essayist gone wild, part wild talent at Gonzo full-speed rhythm, this is a tour-de-force to be reckoned with and cried over. I have been truly, deeply touched. So very, very rare.

—Bobbo Brown
KNTX Radio

This sounds like boasting, but it’s just what I was told: Two reviewers quit the business after reading the book. Make of that what you will.

I was absolutely sure Ghosts and Ballyhoo would be a success. It failed because my parents were both diagnosed with cancer on January 16, 2013, six weeks before the book was released.


My father died horribly on February 23, 2013, and on July 5, 2013, I hooked up with professional con artists Mike Albee and Lura Dold. They pretended to be book publicists, but what they actually did was drain my bank account by pretending to care about the agony of my parents’ suicides. My mother died on October 13, 2013, after six months of starving herself.

From January 16, 2013, to January 7, 2014, I was in a haze of dissociation. I have post-traumatic stress disorder with secondary psychotic features (PTSD-SP). Meniere’s disease also causes something called “brain fog” when I’m under stress. I was ripe for merciless predators. There’s nothing new about that.

If my parents hadn’t died when they did, I’d be homeless now, at age fifty-two, with no health insurance and several incurable illnesses. The person who filed the fraudulent DMCA complaint against me recently said she didn’t find my story about the Albees believable. That’s because she’s a safe, cosseted, wealthy, unimaginative, political robot who’s never suffered a day in her life.

I could blow her rinky-dink mind to smithereens with what I’ve experienced. But I choose to conceal it because only mental-health professionals and clerics would understand.

My memoir is like this post. It’s not one note. I write about joy, sorrow, and whimsy. The last is my favorite.

The music of Linsey Pollak brings me joy, and it’s hugely whimsical.

His skill is unmatched, but so is his love of life. I admire him greatly.

This song is one of the saddest I know. I listen to it a lot.

The melodies, the cryptic but somehow logical lyrics, and the vocals are heartbreaking. I’m deadweight, alone, there’s no relief, and I’m sunk in the midnight shade. The sun catches me crying all the time. It’s a song about failure, loss, and shattered dreams. But there’s no self-pity. It simply describes reality.

Death and leather hands, recycled cans, get-well cards to the hostage van.

I’ve always loved Appalachian music. More joy, whimsy, and virtuosity.

The rhythm and melody are primitive, elemental. Art in its purest form, but without being even microscopically pretentious or contrived.

Here’s one of my favorite photos.


I love women with long tongues. So sue me. I also love women who have a great sense of humor.

Frank DeNunzio is such an improbable bass player that he’s like a mythical figure. He could be a real, live leprechaun.

What’s was the purpose of that performance? Joy. And weirdness. Whimsy.

This song hurts a lot because Róisín Murphy looks and acts exactly like “Carmen,” the Cardinal Ghost of my memoir. We were supposed to be together forever, but we blew it.

The movie Hulk is the story of my life. It’s doubly eerie because it was filmed in San Francisco, where Carmen and I spent our last two years together. For one of those years, though we lived in the same small apartment, we didn’t speak more than once or twice a week. By that time she was a clone of Jennifer Connelly in the film.


That was even her habitual expression for that final year.

I haven’t pined for her or carried a torch. When it was over, I accepted it. But I never had another serious relationship. I’m too damaged. For some reason the relationship with Carmen not only worked for three years, it was just about perfect. Then I shared my secrets, and it ended overnight.

Carmen isn’t sentimental. She wasn’t moved by this song because she said it was only musical intervals evoking an emotional response. Cheap manipulation, she informed me.

Also, she doesn’t look back. Goodbye is forever, but for some of us there are endless “Hellos” in the future, so the farewells don’t matter.

Though I’m not a fan of the Doors, I love this song, mostly because of the stellar bass of Jerry Scheff.

It’s such an evocative tune. Though entirely a product of its era, it’s also utterly timeless. Spoken-word albums are generally horrible. My brother Tim introduced me to this song in 1979. I listened to it endlessly. What makes great art? I can’t tell you, but I recognize it it when I hear or see it.

From Ghosts and Ballyhoo, when I saw the remake of Shaft, starring Samuel L. Jackson.

There were only four people in the theater: Roger, a couple in their thirties, and me. The whole time we were there, the man kept up a monologue at the level of someone talking with friends at a sports bar. He sat in the back row, but his deep, thick voice actually made it hard to catch the dialogue. The sound was like a slowed-down turboprop engine: wob wob-wob wob wob-wob-wob wob wob wob-wob wob wob-wob-wob wob.

Though I hated the film, the turboprop noise worsened it, the same way that carsickness can be made vastly more intolerable by an attack of diarrhea. After half an hour, I turned around and called, “Could you please stop talking? We can’t hear the movie.”

The guy shouted, “Hey! I’ll talk as loud as I want, when I want, where I want, and as long as I want. Got it?”

That’s what he said in English, but phonetically it sounded like, “Huy! Ull tuk uz lud uz uh wun, wun uh wun, wuh uh wun, uhn uz lung uz uh wun. Guh ih?

I had no response.

Roger loved debauchery, debasement, and devolution. He snorted and said, “White men can’t jump; black men can’t act; and manimals can’t speak.”

We left about three minutes later. The only exit was right beside the manimal. He was a muscular Caucasian fellow with an afro and a huge, black mustache; maybe his voice resulted from hair growing inside his mouth and throat. Maybe he was semiaquatic, a filter feeder with baleen instead of teeth.

The dance scene from Calvaire. It may be the most perverted film ever made.

I’ve been in circumstances like that. Many, many times: the row house in Paris, for instance. Trapped in the kitchen all night, being forced to eat raw beansprouts.

The Eastern Orthodox call to prayer, known as the toaca. This priest performs it in Romania.

How gloriously primeval and…odd. He uses two different grips on the mallets, and he varies the tone by changing the attack and where he hits the board. So simple but so incredibly complicated.

I can’t play the bass anymore because of osteoarthritis, but someday I want to see if I can cope with the whamola. Les Claypool has one here.

It has one string, and you change the pitch by fretting on the fingerboard or using the handle at the top. I think my hands could manage holding a drumstick and a handle.

So that’s Ghost and Ballyhoo. It runs the gamut. I’ll end with a beautiful Greek Orthodox hymn. There are no instruments here, only human voices.

I didn’t get the life I wanted, but I believe that I will someday. In the meantime I debunk vicious, unjust lies.

What could be more important? It beats even sending cheeseburgers into space. I wish I could meet this man. He’s a magnificent artist who fully understands the poignancy, fragility, awesomeness, and laugh-out-loud absurdity of this tiny planet.

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