Saturday, January 26, 2013


As I mentioned in an earlier blog I am going through a purgation, a spiritual renewal, a casting out of the devils. The scales have dropped from my eyes. It's now 3 a.m. and I'm back at it after dropping like a rock on-to my new couch (newly acquired furniture is analogous to my present situation) in my studio.

Yesterday I felt like playing my saxophone, which I haven't in months and of course I have been singing every day. Purgation requires it. Also yesterday I ate very little. I'm fasting before Mardi Gras. It doesn't  matter, it has to do with my timing no one else's. Speaking of Mardi Gras my new Mardi Gras wreath came in the mail yesterday and I hung it on my front door. All the way from Louisiana it's bright colored strings of gold, purple and green announce my allegiance to the holiday season. The one that began with twelfth night and ends with Fat Tuesday.

During one of my last purgations several years ago I accumulated the strength to assemble all my old photos in binders along with other memorabilia. I haven't gone through it in years but yesterday I found this written poem in the binder across from  some of photos of my very young mother and me as a toddler:

My darling little Danny boy
you have been here just a year
you've filled my every hour with joy
each day you've grown more dear.

With your eyes which are of deepest blue
and hair with touch of gold
and laughter like a  tinkling bell
you've brought me joys untold.

Each minute of this precious year
has been so full of fun
for mother and for daddy too
your such a darling son.

I know as  each year passes
that you will have to grow
I want to see you be a man
but I love my baby so.

Margaret Shaw O'Bryan - August 22, 1948

Friday, January 25, 2013

Like a Cathedral

"My experience, my passions, my ideas, my images and memories are all I know of this world-
And they are enough. The absurd person can finally say "All is well."

"The purest of joys is feeling and feeling on this earth."

Albert Camus
"The Myth of Sisyphus"

I'm currently going through a cyclical purgation, using the old Catholic term. Gregory Corso said  "Once a Catholic always a Catholic." And he was right. But while I'm tossing my spiritual demons aside, I'm also dealing with more mundane things like cleaning my office loft, which manages to collect tons of detritus from my life-long passions. Latest find, a short poem written by one of my English 101 students at UL in 1996.
I have no idea where the author, Laura Reisser is today but if anyone reading this piece knows her please inform me. I'd like to know how her life turned out 17 year later. I nearly cried reading her beautiful piece this morning. Dig it:

A Trip to New City

My first poem ever, that's what this is.
Well, unless you count the made up versions of  "Roses are Red" or the diamond shaped
poems I used to do when I was a kid.
But now life is not so  rosy.
I just have a few questions.
Why do we work to make money that we won't have in a few weeks and why do we
sleep when we'll only be tired again tomorrow and why do we clean our house when
it's going to get dirty again.
Something keeps us going.
Something gives us the strength to witness things like rape, serial killings, animals
dying in oil spills, car accidents, fires, shootings, bombings, earthquakes, plane crashes.
I almost can't watch the news anymore or even scary movies because they're not so
far from the truth.

And then one time I went to New York city and it made me feel even worse because
just this one city has more people than the entire country of Sweden and it made me
feel so small and insignificant.
My cat is chewing on my pen right now and all I can think about is how lucky she is
because she doesn't even know what kind of world she lives in or maybe even that
she is going to die someday.
She's not afraid.
And in New York city there was never a sign that I was there.
I met lots of taxi drivers but they don't remember me now, and I guess I left some
garbage in my hotel room but I'm sure it's cleaned up by now.
A least in a smaller place you can leave parts of yourself around places.
I get my haircut in Plainview and the ladies there know who  I am and what I look like
and my neighbors recognize my car when I pull in at night and at work I have a desk
with my name on it and at school teachers notice when I'm not there.
But New York city was different.
People were everywhere.
Walking their dogs in Central Park.
And they all have their own story and they all eat and clean and work for the same
reason I do.
And if I were to die today none of these people would notice or even care.
They'll go on doing what they've always done until they die.
So, I guess we are all insignificant.
So what keeps us going?
I guess for some people trying to get to Heaven keeps them going.
But what about people for whom Heaven doesn't exist?
What do they live for?

You know, I guess that's why I like to go to Spain.
I mean, families talk to each other and little kids play in the Plaza Mayor and eat ice
cream and people relax with friends and are true to themselves.
And besides in the United States, what do we that's really that old?
In Spain there are towers and medieval walls and castles and Roman theaters and
cathedrals so beautiful and powerful that when you walk in you can feel centuries and
centuries of souls and spirituality.
Maybe that's why I like to go there.
Because people left things and did things and felt things.
So, it's hard sometimes.
I wish I were a kid again so death wouldn't exist and mommy would fix everything.
And the worst that could happen is that I'd be sent to my room where I'd sit on the
bed by the door and stick my foot out and say, "Look mommy I'm out of my room."
And now that I'm grown up and will someday be a mommy it makes me wonder why
I'd want to bring a life into this world that is so painful and may not even be here in
50 years because someone want to see what happens when you set off a nuclear

But I guess I will definitely have a child because it's an emotion that I don't want to
miss before I die.
So women are lucky because we get to feel something that men never get to.
A new life comes out of your body and you know you're leaving something behind.
Something beautiful and powerful.
Something kinda like a cathedral in Spain.

Laura Reisser

The Freaks, the Wonders in Wonderland!

I had a meeting last night with Ray Smerlin and the "Wonderland" crew. My kind of meeting. In attendance two magicians, two comics, a fire dancer, a contortionist and me. I was in heaven. We're planning to perform singly in multiple venues for up-coming Louisville trolly hops hawking the March 14 "Wonderland" performance. Don't forget, anyone reading this blog is invited to "Mardi Gras at Wonderland," pre-performance party on Sunday - February 10 - 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. at my studio - 3541 Nanz Ave. in Louisville.

To use an old carny line, we will be featuring "the freaks, the wonders, the strange, the unusual people. We are going to whirl you way into the land of mirth magic and mystery!"

So far, my college class is going wonderfully. At our last meeting I think I singed their eye brows with my enthusiasm (en-theos) full of the gods, whatever, it's back and I'm going along for the ride.

They all read their first two page paper on writer Stephen King's "On Writing." King believes that you must be totally immersed in language in order to be a good writer. Passion is the word. He believes this applies to any endeavor, giving the example of his son who wanted to play saxophone but wouldn't put in the hours of practice needed to master the instrument.

The students all read their papers aloud. Good flowing, sweet, enthusiastic prose. Sharing their ideas on King's essay with vigor. Monday we will all meet downtown at Hotel 21 C. I think this is going to be one hell of a  good semester!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Danny O'Day is Back in Wonderland

I haven't had anything really extraordinary to write about in this blog for many a moon. But today something occurred which is worth scribbling about. I have been going through one of my down periods. Months of dullness despite teaching a college class and producing a weekly two hour radio show on the best public radio station in town. This month alone I hosted "Wonderland" a new variety show at the Vernon Club and appeared on WHAS television's "Great Day Live."

But the last two weeks have been amazing. I'm on fire, my creative energy is flowing without cease. Everyone I talk is in the opposite mood, sick with flu or winter depression. On the phone last week I told  my friend, writer Ed Mcclanahan, "I'm flying." He said , "I'm dying." Sick with the flu he wasn't all that eager to hear about my ecstasy.

Maybe it's the recent return of my alter-ego Danny O'Day, the saucy burlesque comic and singer I created and lived as for nearly ten years during the 1970s.

At the time, I was working my way through college with my sights on a "straight job," thinking at the time I could possibly do such a thing, foolish me.

You see, O'Day is back and just like old times will be singing, telling jokes and hosting Ray Smerlin's brand new variety show at the Vernon Club for the second time March 14.

I will be introducing a huge variety of magicians, ventriloquists, dancers, circus acts and artists of all kinds.

But back to my extraordinary experience. I was cleaning out my office loft this morning when I unearthed one of my old journals. I've kept daily journals for years. There is a stack five feet high in one corner of my loft. But this one was by itself, covered by a bag of old Mardi Gras Beads, that's another amazing fact I'll tell you about later.

As I said the journal was by itself on the floor open to the first page, the first entry February 23, 1994. I yelled down to my wife, "What day is it?" She says, "I think it's the 23rd."

I nearly had a stroke. "Something, somebody, somewhere is trying to tell me something!" Then I realized it was still January. I always get mixed up this time a year. But still that's pretty cool. My journal was talking to me, from 21 years ago.

Let's see, I wasn't having a bad time back then. I was acting in a "short silly" play written by a local playwright and had recently attended a benefit for "Kentuckians for the Commonwealth" at writer/teacher Gurney Norman's home in Lexington.

When you keep a journal it's always nice to go back and read what you were doing decades ago.

On a another note, I spent yesterday arranging new furniture in my studio, singing and getting ready for the party I will be giving on Sunday, February 10.

Entitled "Mardi Gras at Wonderland," it will feature many of the musicians, poets, magicians, performers and artists that will be part of Ray Smerlin's "Wonderland," a large variety show that will be held next, we did the first one in January, on March 14.

Stay tuned for more in the mean time "I'm flying." 


Sunday, January 20, 2013

My 1993 Interview with Arlo Guthrie

Arlo Guthrie is back. Not that he ever left, but with the current craze for music and culture of the 1950s and 60s, Guthrie and people like him, Bob Dylan for instance, do appear to be back in the saddle again.

Dylan gave a concert in Louisville just last week and Guthrie brought his long locks and guitar to the University of Louisville on March 27.

Guthrie and I engaged in a sort of extemporaneous dance outside UL Students Activities Center that evening. He had just finished a sound check and was getting a breath of fresh air, when I approached him tape recorder in hand.

The bearded, long-haired Guthrie, who was dressed in jeans, cowboy boots and a patterned shirt, didn't look quite old enough to have been one of the performers at Woodstock.

He insisted on standing throughout the interview, but he answered all my questions thoughtfully and in a refreshing sanguine manner.

What does Guthrie think about the renewed interest in the music and culture of his generation?

"I see it being like a spoke in a wheel. And every time it comes around you hear it. And when you're in a time when you're not hearing it, you look back to the last time you heard it," he said.

According to Guthrie there are times in history when people wake up and become very creative and spontaneous and explore what it means to be a human being.

"But there are also times when other people say well enough with that, we got to get back to selling washing machines," he said.

Does Guthrie think the sixties was one of those creative times?

"Absolutely, if not one of the major times," he said swaying back and forth, the toes of his cowboy boots pointing in one direction and then another.

How do the 1990s differ from the 1960s?

"Wavey Gravy said the 90s were just the 60s upside down. I saw some bell-bottom pants for sale in a store the other day and it scared the hell out of me," he said.

"People talk about the sixties as if it were a decade worth of stuff. But to me the sixties were really between
1967 and 1972. And the real heart of that time was a moment when all of a sudden things changed. And I remember the day. It lasted about three months and that was it," Guthrie explained.

On that day according to Guthrie, a large number of people woke up and began to notice the world around them.

"You could look into somebody else's eyes that happened to be a little awake and it was like one of these monster movies. You knew they were awake. And you could walk up and talk to them. And they could be white, black, yellow, red, or they could be big and fat, skinny or thin.

It didn't make any difference what they looked like or where they came from. They were just people who were a little more awake than everybody else, and they all knew each other, even though they'd never met. And it lasted for about three months," Guthrie said.

Why did it end?

"Pretty soon everybody thought well, this is pretty good, whatever these people are doing I want to do it too. And pretty soon people were marketing blue jeans. And then people were saying 'Geez lets make some sheets and wall paper like the stuff they're wearing.' And all of a sudden it became a consumer culture.

And we took something spontaneous and we started to sell it," Guthrie said.

Don't you think that's pretty bad?

"I don't think it's good or bad. It's just the way it is. And I have a kind of criminal instinct to be wary of the way it is, no matter how it is," Guthrie said.

But don't you worry about people becoming zombies like in the move "Night of the Living Dead," getting up every morning and working 9 to 5 jobs, coming home to watch television and never thinking about social issues?

"My dad thought of it this way. He said a certain amount of people are working right now and a certain amount of people aren't. And he said if one of these people stop what they're doing he might have to do it.

"So, Woody Guthrie said 'Thank God that everybody is doing what they're doing. Because that means they're sparing me the job.' We should congratulate each other on the work we do. I'm very appreciative of people who are doing things I would hate to do," Guthrie said.

By Danny O'Bryan

LEO Magazine April 21, 1993

River Tails

When I got to Cox Park today it was already mid-afternoon but the bright winter sun was still high in the sky casting a glorious winter light on the river. I got my two dogs, Rufus T. Firefly and Charlie "Chihuahua" Parker out of my car and headed for the concrete walkway by the river-side only to find it covered with debris and a foot of dirty brown water.

When I turned to make my way up the hill is when I saw them. A large flash of white wings high above the river swirling in the air. Not one but two or three dozen seal gulls. More than  I've seen on my trips to Gulf Shores. Beneath the gulls where at least thirty or forty  mallard ducks floating on the water, some with their heads down and tails up in the air feeding on the bottom. Every now and then a gull would swoop down from the air and land in the river sometimes hitching a ride on a long piece of drift-wood, looking like a feathered captain manning a ship.

I watched the show for a while before moving on down the river bank where I encountered a young woman with a camera.

"I've never seen this many gulls on the river before," I told her. "I saw some people feeding them a little while ago," she said. "I guess that's the reason they congregated here," I thought it might be something more dramatic like global warming." Laughing she agreed pushing her long brown hair out of her eyes. "This is the first time I've been down here because a birding group told me they'd seen a rare, long, necked duck here yesterday."

For a moment I thought she was talking about the "old duck" she was talking to then Charlie suddenly began growling and lurching toward her. "You know, if a large dog had the ferocity of these small ones they'd be like having a "Hound of the Baskervilles," I told her.

"That's true," she said laughing and quickly walking back to her car. I think it was Balzac that said, "Never bring a chihuahua along if you're trying to meet women," lesson learned.

Photo and story by Danny O'Bryan