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At least a decade ago, someone sent me a list of ways to live the Blues. I read it, loved it, and immediately lost it.
This past weekend, I finally attacked some cartons marked “miscellaneous” that have been sitting in my office since we moved into our new house over a year ago — and there, buried in a huge stack of papers I’ve been schlepping pointlessly from place to place for years, was the Blues instruction manual. I’d apparently had the good sense to print it out before losing it.
I wish I could credit the author. If you know who wrote this, please say so in the comments. I pass it along to you in part because it’s too much fun to keep to myself and in part because if it’s here at Ricochet, I’ll remember where I put it.
Here you go: The Beginner’s Guide to the Blues.
1. Most Blues begin with: “Woke up this morning….”
2. “I got a good woman” is a bad way to begin the Blues, unless you stick something nasty in the next line like, “I got a good woman, with the meanest face in town.”
3. The Blues is simple: after you get the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes…sort of:
Got a good woman with the meanest face in town.
Yes, I got a good woman with the meanest face in town.
Got teeth like Margaret Thatcher, and she weigh 500 pound.
4. The Blues is not about choice: “You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch — ain’t no way out.”
5. Blues cars: Chevys, Fords, Cadillacs and broken-down trucks. Blues don’t travel in Volvos, BMWs, or Sport Utility Vehicles. Most Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Jet aircraft and state-sponsored motor pools ain’t even in the running. Walkin’ plays a major part in the blues lifestyle. So does fixin’ to die.
6. Teenagers can’t sing the Blues. They ain’t fixin’ to die yet. Adults sing the Blues. In Blues, “adulthood” means being old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.
7. Blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii or any place in Canada. Hard times in Minneapolis or Seattle is probably just clinical depression. Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City are still the best places to have the Blues. You cannot have the Blues in any place that don’t get rain.
8. A man with male pattern baldness ain’t the Blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg ’cause you were skiing is not the Blues. Breaking your leg ’cause a alligator be chomping on it is.
9. You can’t have no Blues in a office or a shopping mall. The lighting is wrong. Go outside to the parking lot or sit by the dumpster.
10. Good places for the Blues:
- empty bed
- bottom of a whisky glass
Bad places for the Blues:
- gallery openings
- Ivy League institutions
- golf courses
11. No one will believe it’s the Blues if you wear a suit, ‘less you happen to be a old ethnic person, and you slept in it.
12. Do you have the right to sing the Blues? Yes, if:
- you older than dirt
- you blind
- you shot a man in Memphis
- you can’t be satisfied
- you have all your teeth
- you were once blind but now can see
- the man in Memphis lived
- you have a 401K or trust fund
13. Blues is not a matter of color, it’s a matter of bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the Blues. Sonny Liston could. Ugly white people also got a leg up on the Blues.
14. If you ask for water and your darlin’ give you gasoline, it’s the Blues. Other acceptable Blues beverages are:
- cheap wine
- whisky or bourbon
- muddy water
- nasty black coffee
The following are NOT Blues beverages:
- Slim Fast
15. If death occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it’s a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is another Blues way to die. So are the electric chair, substance abuse and dying lonely on a broken-down cot. You can’t have a Blues death if you die during a tennis match or while getting liposuction.
16. Some Blues names for women:
- Big Mama
- Fat River Dumpling
17. Some Blues names for men:
- Little Willie
- Big Willie
18. Persons with names like Michelle, Amber, Jennifer, Debbie, and Heather can’t sing the Blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.
19. Make your own Blues name Starter Kit:
- name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.)
- name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Kiwi, etc.)
- last name of a president (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.)
For example: Blind Lime Jefferson, Jakeleg Lemon Johnson or Cripple Kiwi Fillmore, etc. (Well, maybe not “Kiwi.”)
20. I don’t care how tragic your life is: if you own a computer, you cannot sing the Blues.
Image of John Lee Hooker via johannasvisions.com.