This song was never meant to be performed by me. You may hear me singing this song, but I will always hear Billie Holiday taking it to a terribly seductive and despondent realm. This song is for a chanteuse; singing her heart out to an indifferent audience of transients and addicts. The smoke is thick, and the collective blood thinned by whiskey. An ideal environment to menace the lonely with a direct altruism:
“Love is gonna kill you.”
The title “Finely Tuned Meat” describes people in a harmonious state. It’s even a tad uncomfortable to say out loud; especially to a loved one. It reduces our transcendence to a primordial base level. And it’s not necessarily an inaccurate description, depending on your ideological proclivities.
Say out loud “we are finely tuned meat” right after your significant other says “I love you” (or after watching a fun filled Rom-Com) then come back for the next paragraph. You’ll probably have plenty of time to read…
“From far away”
I received word my father had cancer. At the same time someone else close was going through the early stages of pain that would metastasize a few years later. Frustration was felt by everyone; sadness and empathy a veneer of suffocating smoke.
Feeling powerless and rife with worry, I left my domicile and went back to the USA for my father; but never forgetting the reality I could not fix at home.
“It comes back again…”
The first challenge was gaining entry into the USA via plane. Homeland Security had a big problem with me. Big enough that I required an invasive yet amusing interrogation from Buffalo’s finest servants of peace and justice.
I was asked a battery of questions for the course of an hour; ranging from “why did you leave the USA,” to “what was your father’s gross income in 1986.” Occasionally this servant teetered towards an intelligence device called “magic” which looked exactly like an 80’s arcade game shell. While it looked like I could pop a quarter in to play Galaxian, it was a malevolent intelligence-storage device. Tax, credit, social records of every citizen and resident.
Eventually the interrogation ended by him making unconstitutional threats (US entry fee of $250) and signing affidavits that were certainly never filed. Fortunately, I made it to my plane with seconds to spare.
As this memory fades and distorts, what now stands out about that US Homeland Security experience is the smug purposeful smiles and their inability to make eye contact. Weakness and power abuse gilded with the title of protection. (If you want to read the full experience from a more hostile perspective, I wrote about it several years ago in the Torched Laughter studio diary. Click click)
Nothing, not even smug incompetence and eagle tears, was going to stop me from seeing my father.
“Following your dreams…”
I was in a hospital waiting room while my father underwent a procedure to remove the cancer. There was considerable worry, not just for him, but for others close to me enduring trying experiences at the same time. I felt a sense of density that made everything heavy to my senses. Whether right or wrong, I considered that pressure “love.”
I wrote all the words to this fragile warning in the waiting room. I had a gnawing vision of a sniper on a roof, waiting for me to raise my head to smile at the sun.
“The stillness crumbles”
Then the surgeon came out of the OR, and gave news that the procedure was a success. There was relief, but the density I felt transmogrified to something parasitic, as if it latched onto the base of my skull.
What temporarily alleviated that parasitic density was seeing my father on morphine. If there was a way to wheel him out onto a comedy stage, I would have done it. That brimming smile which emanated a calm derision towards hospital staff was a wonder to behold.
My father remained cancer-free after the procedure. Sometimes life allows for victories in the face of the abyss, which could be its own cautionary warning of what lies ahead.
“And a chill, terrifies”
It was several years before I recorded this song. The vulnerability and dynamic exceeds my being. Alas, I do not have a stable of chanteuse singers at my disposal; so I must sing my personal best. But if Madeleine Peyroux recorded “Finely Tuned Meat,” I would happily eradicate my recorded version from existence. Her (very living, very popular) voice would perfectly capture the essence of what I was going for.