In Emily Dickinson’s poem “There’s Been a Death, in the Opposite House,” the reader is given a glimpse, from the outside looking in, of the social mechanics of death “In just a Country Town.” The narrator/neighbor watches the windows open, a mattress taken outside, and the retreat of the defeated doctor met with the arrival of the minister, the milliner (presumably there to take measurements for ladies’ funeral garb, hinting that the deceased might be a patriarch) and the “Man of the Appalling Trade,” the mortician, doctor of the dead. Throughout the bustle and flow, there’s an undercurrent of conspiracy, a concerted attempt to avoid the deep, irrefutable and completely mysterious meaning of death by engaging in the ant-like industry of removing the corpse. Dickinson herself is complicit in this plot, avoiding any biographical information about the deceased and instead focusing on the quick actions of the living to remove remains of this former citizen of the sunshine realm. She even slyly takes herself out of the story, as the narrative voice in this piece is that of an unnamed man and not Emily the Poet.
This business of cover-up and removal of the dead is still — ahem — very much alive today, a century-plus after the poet’s demise. You will find it in the sheets over roadside traffic victims, in the blurred parts of graphic news reports and YouTube videos, in the euphemisms we use to cloak the horror of death, which we are surrounded by in a nation run on war abroad and apathy for mass death in our own streets. The statistics of poverty and its incumbent deaths from violence and addictions, our inhuman healthcare system run by profit, all provide cold data to disengage us from the reality of visceral suffering. For some societies, patriotism means strong social safety nets and a humane standard of living for all their people. For us, it seems to boil down to maintaining a national delusion of excellence in the face of open failure.
Locally, however, there is not only hope, but humanity. You may have noticed that I was gone from the Journal last week. This was due to a death in the family. My experience came surrounded by very dear friends, people who were unafraid to look at the raw mess and react with love informing their actions, a love that resonates into the lost static of history with such clarity that it defined our humanity before any language existed to do so. And I found our local services, from dispatch to police officers, to coroner and mortuary workers, all balanced professionalism with compassion. I’ve always maintained that a cooperative community is the greatest bulwark we have against calamity and tyranny. The image of the lone survivalist filling his bunker with guns and tubs of MREs is a tragicomic cartoon, when talking to one’s neighbors and having strong social bonds is historically our best survival tactic as a species. Just ask a Cro Magnon man how well rugged individualism works out as a means of survival. If you ever happen to find one, that is.
Anyway, I’m back, and exceptionally grateful for all of you out there, dear readers. As I often say, have fun and take care of each other. I meant it before and I really mean it now.
The magnificent musicians in local Dead-ish group Magnificent Sanctuary Band are putting on a groovy, all-ages get down at Fieldbrook Winery at 5:30 p.m. No cover but consider purchasing provisions.
The Outer Space is putting on an indie folk show tonight at 7 p.m. The lineup is full of musicians who work with the gentler side of the sonic palette, with touring Colorado duo Frail Talk bringing the colors from the furthest blooms little Arcata. Speaking of blooms, Your Local Flora will be playing a set, along with Sara Kei. Admission is $5-$20 sliding scale and masks are recommended.
It’s local rock night at the Arcata Theatre Lounge, with a trio of homegrown talent scorching the stage. Starting at 7 p.m., you will find Phosphorus (hence the scorching reference), Drastic Gnarly’s and the young upstart winners of 2023 Fernstock, The Critics. All of this music for the low price of $10, and half that if you buy in advance. That’s what a burgeoning music scene is all about.
I have been in communication with the owner of Blondies, one of my favorite local venues, and I am happy to announce that the much-loved Sunday jazz jam is on the calendar today at 6 p.m. Bring your instrument, and it is free, as in cost of admission, and style of jazz if you so prefer.
Forget about the sold out Center Arts gig, if you didn’t get tickets for Sylvan Esso earlier then you are S.O.L. Which is a piece of luck, as tonight’s edition of Metal Mondays at Savage Henry Comedy Club is fantastic. Humboldt-grown but Los Angeles-based Biomass is a group that balances the harmonic splendor of Terry Riley with the heavy riffage of Neurosis and Sleep. I’m painting around the edges here; this band is amazing, and very unique and groundbreaking. Local support is provided by two of Humboldt’s finest, Death Doula and my dear favorite sky-shriekers Black Plate at 7 p.m. ($10).
Humboldt Hot Air and Richards’ Goat are presenting a show at the Arcata Playhouse I can definitely vouch for, having seen them in New Orleans a decade ago and being a fan for ages. Os Mutantes is the groundbreaking Brazilian psychedelic tropicalia band whose music influenced some of our most influential bands. They were also victims of political repression by reactionaries in the late 1960s and have thankfully enjoyed a renaissance over the last decade. New York’s Ghost Funk Orchestra opens. The $35 ticket is a deal for this legendary act. And 7 p.m. is a decent hour for all.
The EXIT Theatre is putting on its monthly variety revue, The Something Different Show. Tonight’s performers are musician/sound-dude Michael “Tofu” Schwartz, Laura Hughes and Jauna Little at 7 p.m. ($8).
Collin Yeo (he/him) has seen the Eternal Footman snicker, but at his shoes, not his coat. He lives in Arcata, where his moment has yet, hopefully, to flicker.