Christopher Buckley

Old Tunes, Politics, Karma & Career
November 10, 2014 Buckley Christopher

Old Tunes, Politics, Karma & Career


Took the afternoon off from the dozen things I’m supposed to repair, respond to, or maintain around the yard, and stretched out on the chaise longue watching the sun’s delivery spin about me for a while… a long thread of spider web anchored from a pine bough to a branch of the green plum caught the light and looked at first like a contrail, then an incision on the sky, then a small bright scar on the air….

The young blue jays, titmice, and finches jumped on and off the feeders scattering gold and copper-colored seeds to the ground for the juncos and towhees down there, and I resolved to adopt their guiltless attitude about who might finally inherit the earth….  I poured a cheap and cheerful glass of California red, fruity and impertinent, and grabbed the remote—the size of a credit card—for the CD player and settled in to let time play back, listening to my long-dead and distant father’s music re-mixed and released, the stuff I’ve somehow come to like best now, having survived 50 years of rock-n-roll. Gershwin to begin, Bobby Darin doing a workman-like job on “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and then I raised my glass to Carmen McCrae’s sparkling take on “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” the towhees cheeping a back-up irony….  Then, Linda Ronstadt, her romantic pipes never better or more resonant, delivering a heart crushing, “But Not For Me”. . . .

Which summoned Jerry Brown to mind, one of the few politicians I’ve ever admired, who is Governor again, just in time to clean up the train wreck left by the former Hollywood Republican representative of the rich, in time to get the blame for all the budget cuts that have to be made—exactly the same position in which he found himself in 1975 when he followed Reagan and his executive mansion, when Jerry, like the rest of us, had all his hair.  You’ve got to wonder now, at 72, if hearing Linda somewhere on the radio—one of those Nelson Riddle arrangements, say “Someone To Watch Over Me”—he is second guessing his choices as a young man?  What might it be like to leave all of the fiscal disaster to those who created it, to be living modestly in a California bungalow, reading the L.A. Times or the Rig Veda in the evening, doing the crossword, listening to Linda humming a ranchera in the kitchen?

But then the next track cuts in with Fred & Ginger from the ‘40s singing “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” and I segue to Fellini’s film, to Marcello Mastroianni who was in love with all the beautiful women in the world, or at least in Italy, for as long as he stayed on his feet… and now Miles Davis with “My Funny Valentine” perfectly muted as my mind rolls back to a dim jazz club in San Francisco when I was 20 something and thought I might be in line for a bit of everything, sure I was going somewhere despite all the strings attached—practical, metaphysical, or otherwise—when I had no idea how happy I was just listening, never guessing I’d reach a point with next to nothing to do.

Christopher Buckley’s most recent book is One Sky to the Next, winner of the Longleaf Press Book Prize, 2023. He has recently edited: The Long Embrace: Contemporary Poets on the Long Poems of Philip Levine, Lynx House Press, 2020; and NAMING THE LOST: THE FRESNO POETS—Interviews & Essays, Stephen F. Austin State Univ. Press, 2021.