The tax man is a-comin’ round the bend, and I just want to hightail it in the other direction. Someone suggested that the first of the month, April Fool’s Day, should be income tax day, but I would be happy if they changed it to February 29.
On second thought, maybe not. Doing four years’ worth? I think not. Worrying that I might have gotten something wrong two or three years back and then get a big fine or time in the slammer wouldn’t be worth the every-four-year thing.
Personally, the title of the Ray Bradbury novel Something Wicked This Way Comes is what I think of when April 15 (this year April 18) rolls around. Honestly, I have no problem paying my income taxes, but as Albert Einstein said about filling out the IRS forms, “This is too difficult for a mathematician. It takes a philosopher.”
I recall a scene in the 1980 movie Popeye in which our favorite squinty-eyed sailor moors his dinghy under the wharf in Sweethaven, and as soon as he throws his duffle bag on the dock, here comes a local civil servant riding up on a bicycle.
The man says, “There’s a 25 cents docking tax.”
He goes on to say, “Are you new in town? There’s 17 cents new-in-town tax, and there’s 45 cents rowboat-under-the-wharf tax, and one dollar leaving-your-junk-lying-around-the-wharf tax, so all together, you owe the Commodore $1.87.”
Popeye says, “Uh, who’s this Commodore?”
The Tax Man says, “Is that the nature of a question? There’s a nickel question tax.”
It’s one thing that’ll make you want to sing the blues, and now’s as good time as any. Most everyone’s wanted to sing the blues at one time or another, and truth be told, a good blues song makes you feel a little better. Cathartic, in other words.
My introduction to the blues came at that time in life when we start forming our “philosophies of life,” which turned out to be the same time I started thinking about girls. I read in an interview once bluesman John Lee Hooker saying, “If it wasn’t for women, there wouldn’t be no blues.”
From his perspective, that was his truth, so it was for my experience as a teenager in the 1960s. To me, he said it like it was, no prettying it up. She’s got dimples in her jaws … boom-boom-boom-boom … haw-haw-haw-haw … That, I could relate to, at 14 years old.
I’ve talked before about blues music and how scary it was to me at first, but I couldn’t keep myself from listening to it. There was Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Big Bill Broonzy, and of course, the three Kings: B.B., Albert and Freddie. Their songs were my forbidden pleasure, found late at night on that old Philco AM radio.
And the thing is, I still don’t understand women, but I still love the blues.
One thing, you’ve got to have a cool name to sing the blues. For instance, girls with names like Sierra, Willow, Sky, Paisley, or Serenity can’t sing the blues no matter how many no-good cheatin’ men they shoot in Memphis. Better to have a name like Sadie, Big Mama, Bessie, or KoKo. Although Memphis Minnie has already been used.
I’ve always been intrigued by the colorful names adopted by blues singers. In many cases, what starts out as a clever nickname ends up as more than just a nickname. It’s their persona. And that’s one appeal of the blues music scene apart from the music itself. The human-ness, the just-folks level of the performers, and their vision. Hound Dog, Gatemouth, Son, Furry, Honeyboy, Guitar Junior, Blind Lemon, Sunnyland Slim. All my favorites.
When I was little, I was drawn to those names. They sounded more exciting than those on Top 40 radio I was listening to at the time: Ricky Nelson, Pat Boone, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, and so on.
On the other hand, just from the nature of their nicknames, those blues guys had something going on that I wanted to know. Something important. Some kind of wisdom I wasn’t old enough to understand.
Like when Leadbelly sings in Goodnight Irene:
Stop ramblin’ and stop gamblin’
Quit staying out late at night
Go home to your wife and family
Stay there by the fireside bright
If you’re new to blues music, or you like it but never really understood the whys and wherefores of what it’s all about, put some on the hi-fi while filling out your 1040. You’ll know why Marty Robbins sings, “Well, I never felt more like singin’ the blues….”