The Oakland-Bakersfield Blues

tequilaI read at the Open Mic Poetry Reading at Dagny’s on Friday, March 2nd, 2018. I read two poems, accompanied on ukulele. The poems were “The Purple Ukulele Blues,” and “All Bob’s Children.” They were both set to standard blues progressions, ‘Purple Ukulele’ was in G and ‘ABC’ was in A, or maybe I’ll change it to E? Anyway, I played the ukulele myself, and it was the titular purple ukulele. The one that I got from my sister Nancy, that belonged to our dad, Robert Louis Craddock.

The performance was a debacle, a humiliating disaster. I can play the ukulele behind my back, and the blues I can play in any key, any position, all up and down the neck, with blues licks thrown in. But the songs were not quite finished, and so I was preoccupied with the words, really, you have to be careful because one extra syllable can throw the whole thing off. I should have had the current version written out, but I didn’t have the time or luxury to do that. I arrived at the appointed hour, but it was already standing room only, and I didn’t want to be rude by working on my poems instead of listening intently, hanging on every word. The featured poet, after all, was none other than Dr. Tim Vivian, who leads the Scripture Study Group that meets every Sunday at Dagny’s, and also was the Priest in Charge at St. Paul’s, and a Professor of Religious Studies at California State University at Bakersfield, where I had audited his classes.

So, after a huge disaster of a reading for me, Tim asked me where I had learned the Blues. So, I was thinking of the answer and then about a week later I wrote this song:

The Oakland-Bakersfield Blues

I paid my dues in Oakland, but Bakersfield is where I learned the ropes.
I paid my dues in Oakland, but Bakersfield is where I learned the ropes.
‘Cause Bakersfield sets fire to your desire while it dashes all your hopes.

Thought I knew the Blues in Frisco. Blues was easier than falling off a log.
Thought I knew the Blues in Frisco. Blues was easier than falling off a log.
Is the sky there even blue or is it lost in San Francisco fog?

When the dot com bubble burst it left me with nowhere to go.
When the god damn bubble burst it left me with nowhere to go.
Couldn’t even get a job in retail. Now they’ve burned down Santana Row.

Waiting in the Oakland station for the Blues to yield.
Waiting in the Greyhound Station for the Blues to yield.
Bus departs at 12 to midnight. Destination: Bakersfield.

Bakersfield was booming. There’s no way that I could fail.
Bakersfield was booming. There’s no way that I could fail,
But when the boom went bust I was disgusted and I ended up in Oildale.

I checked into a Motel 6 in Baker. No rooms in Bethlehem.
I checked into a Motel 6 in Baker. No rooms in Bethlehem.
While Chet fell from his hotel window down in Amsterdam.

Thought I knew the Blues in Frisco. Blues was easier than falling off a log.
Thought I knew the Blues in Frisco. Blues was easier than falling off a log.
Is the sky there even blue or is it lost in San Francisco fog?

I paid my dues in Oakland, but Bakersfield is where I learned the ropes.
I paid my dues in Oakland, but Bakersfield is where I learned the ropes.
‘Cause Bakersfield sets fire to your desire while it dashes all your hopes.

Christopher R. Craddock © 2018

 

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