"Arlene the Witch" is the last song on our first full-length, Bear Hair. It’s the only song that’s solely acoustic guitar and vocals, and it’s the longest track on the album. I’ve only played this one a few times, and only on real stages twice; not just because of the sheer length of the song, but also because it’s sort of inappropriate to end a set most of the time. It features really really pretty vocals from Julia on the first chorus, and some great group vocals right in the middle chorus.
I don’t really know where to start with this song. It really means the world to me, and it appears to be the one that holds the most gravity with the most people. It’s not just the last song on Bear Hair, it’s the last one I WROTE, which also means it represents a big closing of that ugly portion of my life. At least I hope. I’d really like to think so, though. This means that sometimes it’s hard for me to play, but in the end, it always feels good. Every word is true, as usual, and the actual moments inside this song always get to me when I’m reminded of them. But that’s enough of that, let’s get started with the lyrics:
I once met a Wiccan witch on a bus
She said she liked the way I sang my hymns about Jesus
in the back with my face in the glass and a selfish present in a plastic bag
This is a true story; I was on my way back on a bus from WOODFIELD MALL, of all places, and went to go get my sister a present…and came back with a present for me instead (hence the selfish present). There weren’t many people on the bus, and I was sort of staring at the window, when I remembered a really catchy song from the last mass I went to; it was just a variation on “Alleluia.” A lady with red hair turned around after she heard me (and I was REALLY quiet) and told me she liked my singing.
I told her I’d been a wicked child
I had sins that I’ve left simmering, and un-reconciled
She took my hand, and her ginger face lit
and the tire-fire flared as we drove past it
I obviously didn’t say “wicked child,” but Arlene (her name was Arlene, by the way) sort of caught me at a bad time…the time that fueled a lot of the songs on the album. When I told her I was unhappy, she grabbed my hand, and started to tell me a lot of strange stories…
She said, “I cast a spell and my boyfriend came clean
I weave these winds, like some spiderweb ceiling
and I can break you
I can root around the goo you ooze
and I can break you;
I can, but I won’t”
This is, once again, paraphrasing. What she DID tell me, was that she had powers, and practiced witchcraft; she told me she cast a spell that would make her boyfriend at the time reveal a lie he’d been keeping inside after 3 days, and that she was able to manipulate the weather. And when I say “break,” she meant she could break inside me, and see what’s there. But that she didn’t want to. It was a very strange and intimate moment that I’ll NEVER forget, and for one reason or another, I really believe everything she told me.
So I’d just quit my band like I’d lost 20 pounds
Mrs. Davis drove me out to see some psychic out of town
My face wore a look of alarm, with a tape recorder in my trembling arms
This is the story of ANOTHER “witch.” This takes place right after I’d quit a band called Satellites Over Stalingrad, formerly Green Tangerines, and had a big calm afterwards. Mrs. Davis is Tara Davis, the mom of one of the band members, and she would sometimes take me to the job described in “Work.” She, out of the blue, told me I needed to see this psychic that she’d been seeing named Alaina. I had no idea what to think. However, she told me she’d pay and would drive me, so I figured I ought to. I brought a tape recorder to document what happened; I still have the tape.
She told me more about me than even I know
I was in a pool of my own tears before it came to a close
She took my hand and her ginger face lit
as my memory transformed it
The experience with Alaina was one of the most earth-shattering things I’ve ever been through. She truly knew more about me than anybody could have told her, especially Mrs. Davis. She had such an unbelievable amount to say, not necessarily about the FUTURE, but mostly about THE PRESENT. Who I was inside, my family life, and what was to come with us. She told me about a divine spark, and what was in store for me, career-wise, romantically…all that. And all across the board, she’s been right so far.
She affected me so much, and it reminded me of Arlene in a way…thus, my memory transformed her face to that of her.
She said, “I cast a spell and my clients come clean
I weave these winds like some spiderweb ceiling
and I can break you
I can root around the goo you ooze
and I can break you
and I already have!”
This is a callback to what Arlene said to me, except this time, she’d actually gone through with the breaking. She truly broke me down, and I’ll never forget it.
She looked me dead in my filmy face, and she said,
"Anthony, you’ve got grace living inside of you.
And if you pick up every dream you’ve ever dropped,
it walks protectively behind you.
You’re built from love, but you’ve never learned to love yourself,
so right now, you can’t fully love anyone.
But that’ll change, my child.
I swear it will change.”
This, including that one rhyme, is an exact quote. Believe me, it’s burned into my memory forever. There is nothing I can say about what she said that’ll explain anything further.
See, I’ve been building this place of worship for so many years,
you’d think it’d be complete now
But there’s this gaping hole that’s staring;
it leaves just enough room for every stone to fall down
And every compliment I get soaks in the rocks
before I actually believe it
I’m suspicious of my best friends
It’s stupid, I know
This is based on an actual dream I had where I was a missionary building a church, but there was this one whole that could never be filled, and all the stones kept falling because of it no matter what I could do. I don’t know anything to relate this church to except for myself. And that one piece that’s missing? Probably self-respect, which fuels a lot of the stupid shit that I find myself doing, and why I’m suspicious of everybody all the time.
And her stare stings in my eyes,
just like the crusties Jennie picked out in the morning
And I realize I miss her so bad,
just like the old Gerry’s performing
I dated Jennie for a long time, and it was easily the biggest learning experience I ever had. I missed her for a very, very long time, even after briefly seeing each other afterwards. I compared it to how I miss my oldest friend, Gerry Tuman, who was so important to me that I wrote an entire album about him. He was the first man I ever loved in my life, and I’ll never know how to explain it to him. And he’s definitely not going to read this. The performing refers to his acting.
I miss digital camera sound recorder function albums
committed by a campfire
I miss Lui’s basement
I miss practice; what did we fight about anyway?
Gerry, Patrick O’Carroll and I would make a fire on a very big hill in Norridge, where they lived, all the time. And I would record all my songs on an acoustic guitar using a digital camera’s “sound recorder” function. I have a lot of them still, and no, they are not good. And of course, Lui is Lui Macatual, our current drummer, and one of the best friends a guy could have. I’ve been in a ton of bands with him, and we can never remember exactly why the ended. He’s still the greatest guy, and I love him a ton.
I miss Oscar’s list of schemes,
I miss Shane and the way that he ate paper
Oscar Pinto was a friend of mine who disappeared. He still is around, and we only see each other about once a year, but we live in absolutely different mindsets. I still care about him, and I’ll never ever forget all the crazy ideas for us he would come up with. Bands, business, scams, a lot of stupid shit. He is hyper-intelligent and plagued by it. And Shane Bennett is a guy I discussed in “Bear Hair 1”…this is an added detail that he used to eat paper. Once again, true story.
I miss John and his 2 brothers,
and our songs, and how we tabled them for later
John Jennings was a good friend of mine in Middle School at St. Beatrice (see: “Knife-Throwing Academy”). He has two brothers, Josh and Nick, and it was at their house where I really started to play guitar and drums. John and I had a duo called The Iowa Sky (HAHAHA) that never really did anything, although we probably wrote an album’s worth of songs. John, if you’re reading this, we’re still dudes.
I miss loving Lauren Venlos
in a way that no one ought to when they’re that young
Okay. I described Lauren in “Knife-Throwing Academy,” but I can safely say, she was the first girl I ever loved, albeit it was a really terrible 8th-grade understanding of what love is. However, if it wasn’t for her, you wouldn’t be hearing any of these songs today, so I am forever in her debt. She will never read this.
I miss Albert Minzer
I’ll never forget you
because, sometimes at night,
your face is all I can see
Albert Minzer was the first psychologist I ever saw. He was also the first adult to truly listen to me and respect me, even though I was 13. I was taken to see him because I was failing school, and my parents thought there was something more behind it. Well, there was. And he understood me. However, when he wanted to talk to my father alone, that was when he was taken from me. And my heart’s been a little cracked ever since. I’ll never forget it. I love my father, but sometimes it’s hard to forgive.
I’ve known witches in my life
and they’ve taken magic and strewn it on my days like garnish
I’ve spent so many years entrenched in crippling doubt,
and thanks to them, it all can vanish
and thanks to me! and thanks to me!
Because I’m beautiful enough to stop these nightmares out,
and finally start behaving
and now I’m shaving
Let’s hope the hair comes in slow
THANKS FOR READING THIS.
PLEEEEASE REBLOG IT SO PEOPLE CAN HEAR/READ.