Billy Ruane -- Music High and Low

Billy Ruane passed away last night. I can't say as I knew him well, but I knew him, had drinks with him, was consoled by him after a break-up, saw him dance wildly on more than one occasion.

Many have spoken of Billy's enthusiasm, his lack of guile, his support of the local music scene, his shirt unbuttoned to the navel.

Fewer have referred to the "demons," but they were clearly there and whether the music helped exorcise them to some degree is debatable, but I'd like to think so.

If anything, for me, Billy was a kind of canary in the coal mine. For those unfamiliar with the term, in those pre-technological days when there were no machines for gauging the discharge of dangerous gases, miners would take canaries down below with them since these birds would perish first, indicating all was not right in the subterranean depths.

Does Billy's death indicate all is not right in Boston? Or more generally, in this beloved land so inundated with soulless music? It might be cheap to look for metaphorical ramifications in the event of a tragic death, but I do know one thing. When I would attend shows at which Billy was present (most of them), I would often watch his face as the band played, and invariably his reactions were a good gauge of where things were about to head. It was like he was more attuned to the music than the rest of us, like he anticipated the ups and downs of the tunes and the energy being put behind them. Or maybe it just seemed that way, Billy and his enthusiasms providing at the very least an example of just how far one could go into joy. He raised the bar, and when he approached you straight from the literal bar with a clear drink in hand, his trademark pompadour recalling at once an earlier era and David Lynch, you felt as if an emotion embodied was moving across the room, coming at you a bit too sloppily, yet in the end welcomely, his hug around the neck and wet kiss on the cheek a charm that pushed you to a higher place on the emotional scale.

In chilly Boston, Billy was a gulf stream current, a tropical breeze blowing in, sometimes soothing, sometimes cloying, yet clammy or warming he never failed to impress one with the possibilities of life.

Others have said it before, but it bears repeating. Rest in Peace, Billy -- and may your presence continue to linger in the music scene like a sea breeze, soft and low.

p.s. Turns out there's a Billy Ruane / Warren Buffet connection. No, really. Check it out:



New Book - Excerpt

A couple of weeks back I took part in a reading series called Four Stories. Held in a bar/club/dance-space known as The Enormous Room, Four Stories is, according to The Boston Globe, the "hippest reading series in town." Seeing as I never argue with the Boston Globe (at least not when it's making me look good), I'll politely avert my eyes and agree.

Seriously, hip or not, Four Stories is way fun. Rather than making literature all hush hush and precious, it throws it out there with the alcoholic beverages and flirtatious glances of real life, which is where it belongs anyway, not in some church-like mausoleum of a bookstore.

The piece I read is actually an excerpt from my novel-in-progress, "About the Author." I explain why it's called that and the basic story at the beginning of the attached mp3, so I won't repeat myself here. I will say, though, that the theme of the night's reading was "The Forbidden: Tales of Transgressions, Secrets and Sins." Be afraid, be very afraid...