“You Get The Funk After Death”

Benjamin Orr 135 funk after death

 

“You get the funk after death.” Words of wisdom from Peter on my first day on the job. We were digging the latest grave, and I was still pretty skeeved from all the new smells that hit me when I arrived that morning. I never knew about the funk until I started working at Floyd’s Funeral Parlor. I never knew a lot of things until then.

Since I was a kid, I’d wanted to work at Floyd’s. I’d pass the big, old Victorian house twice a day, to and from school. Out front, Floyd’s tuxedoed statue stood a good 15 feet higher than the tallest passerby. He was always tastefully ringed by a bed of fresh lilies. You might think he’d be intimidating, looking down his nose on everyone, but those lilies softened him and reassured bereaved families that their dearly departed would be in good hands at Floyd’s. Floyd seemed like the kind of man I wanted to be.

“Almost like fingerprints, everyone’s funk is different,” Peter continued.

“How so?”

“Well, take the little old lady we’re burying today. She came here from Myrtle’s Nursing Home, where she’d lived for years. You know how nursing homes always have that stale urine, musty kind of smell? Well, when you’ve lived with that stink for years, it becomes part of you. Plus, she lingered for a long time after she got sick, and decay had got a foothold before she passed. Her family brought a bucketful of Tender Violet cologne to try to cover it up. I guess they thought if the perfume matched her name, violet would become the prominent aroma. Now her funk could best be described as decaying violets with a hint of dog piss.”

“She doesn’t smell like that in the viewing room. I think the embalming process must have taken care of it.”

“Nah. It just adds to the mix. You don’t notice it as much because the lilies are overpowering.”

“What about the guy who came in last night? The one who had a heart attack on the 18th green over at Shady Glen Golf? If where you came from becomes part of the funk, he should be smelling like fertilizer, but He doesn’t. He just smells awfully sweaty.”

“There you have it! By the time you get to the 18th hole, everyone smells sweaty.”

“So the funk isn’t quite like a fingerprint, after all?”

“Sure, it is. Didn’t you ever notice everyone’s sweat smells different? Garlicky and fishy, if you just had scampi; boozy if you drank lunch.”

“Hey, Petey! Stop your yammering and just dig! I’m trying to get some sleep here.”

I wasn’t about to wait around to find out who said that. I dropped my shovel and ran. Peter caught me by my overall strap as I ran past. Nearly choked me to death before he brought me to the ground.

“Pfft! When are you not trying to get some sleep, Harvey? You think you got someplace else to be?”

“Peter? Who’s Harvey? Isn’t that the name on the next tombstone?”

“Listen, Petey, even the dead have to rest up to make a good first impression.”

“On the kid? I think you’ve already made your impression, scaring him half to death. It’s his first day. I planned to ease into letting him know what’s what.”

“Not the kid; Violet. We were sweet on each other when we were young. I want to look my best when she sees me.”

I must be cut out for this work. I was already getting over the shock of hearing a dead man talking, because I jumped into the conversation.

“Mr. Harvey, how is she going to see you? I mean, I gather you ARE the Harvey in the next grave. I can hear you but can’t see you. How will she?”

“Don’t know how it works, Kiddo. It just does. She might not see me right away, if she’s not over the trauma of dying yet. But when she does see me, I want to look as good as I can.”

“Harvey, you’ve been dead 15 years already. How good can you possibly look?”

“Listen, Petey. Floyd does an A-1 job of embalming and prepping for burial. He may not be able to get rid of the funk, but he sure can preserve the body. I just wish he hadn’t concentrated only on the parts that would be seen at the viewing.”

“What do you mean, Mr. Harvey? I thought the embalming fluid replaced blood through the whole body.”

“It does, Kiddo. But Floyd does a lot more than just stuff us with that formaldehyde mix. He fixes up our faces, too. Haven’t you ever heard anyone say ‘Aw, he looks just like himself’ when they pay their respects?”

“Yes, but…”

“Listen, Kiddo. When that train hit me, it threw my parts all over the place. Floyd got them all back and reattached what he could.”

“He made you whole again, Harvey. What’s the problem?”

“Well, Petey, let’s just say, he’ll never be a plastic surgeon. Or a tailor.”

Death comes differently for everyone. Sometimes he comes violently, painfully. Other times, he comes peacefully, stealing from morphine dreams. Sometimes he’ll snatch people before they know what hit them. Other times, he’ll wait for months in the shadows, slowly siphoning someone’s life away. Anytime he wants, Death’ll take from a hospital, bedroom, golf course, lake, middle of the street. No matter how, when, or where he comes, when Death takes, his leavings come here to Floyd’s.

 

Inspired by a lyric from The Cars’ “I’m In Touch With Your World.” Photo of Benjamin Orr (credit unknown)

 

Song Lyric Sunday – “River of Fire”

Burn/Fire/Flame is another expansive Song Lyric Sunday prompt from Jim Adams. Narrowing the topic to “fire,” I’ve chosen “River of Fire,” co-written by Stan Meissner and Glen Burtnik (nee Glenn Burtnick). Each released the song separately on solo albums, Meissner on his 1992 album, “Undertow,” and Burtnik on 1996’s “Retrospectacle.”

Canadian Meissner, despite his 30 year career as a singer-songwriter, is not well-known in the United States. He has released two other solo albums and multiple singles which have done well on Canadian music charts.  His songs have been recorded by many singers, such as, Celene Dion, B.J. Thomas, and Eric Clapton.

Glen Burtnik’s creative output is diverse and prolific. He has portrayed Paul McCartney in the Beatles tribute show “Beatlemania;” has performed in two separate stints as a member of the rock band Styx; has released eight solo albums; has written chart-topping hits for artists such as Patti Smyth, Don Henley, Cheap Trick, and Randy Travis. As if he is not busy enough, Burtnik has, for over 20 years, produced and hosted the annual charity show “Xmas Xtravaganza.”

One of the many artists who has recorded a Meissner and/or Burtnik song is Benjamin Orr, who recorded “River of Fire” in 1993 as the title song of a not-yet-released second solo album. Orr’s first verse differs from the original, but, as Burtnik put it: “I didn’t care, I was just thrilled that Ben Orr was singing one of my songs!” Since it was okay with Burtnik, I’m posting the lyrics that Orr sang.

(Note: Whenever possible, I prefer live vids, regardless of picture quality, as long as the audio passes muster. The lyric link below takes you to sweetpurplejune’s page that has a video using the studio recording.)

 

 

River of Fire

My life you hold in your heart
I look for the light, I wait in the dark
Burning emotions, I’m drawn to the flame
Chasing the shadows that call out your name

Searching for some kind of escape
I find my way right here to this place
‘Cause the night has no end
All of my life my dreams run wild, now I stand alone in this river of fire
Days of despair and nights of desire, I wait for you in this river of fire

I still remember the look in your eyes
I wish I knew then that it was goodbye
I try to fight it but I know I can’t win
Sometimes your dreams just get lost in the wind

Something beyond all time and space
Leads me right back here to this space
At the edge of this world
All of my life my dreams run wild, now I stand alone in this river of fire
Days of despair and nights of desire, I wait for you in this river of fire

Burn for you… burn for you… burn for you… burn for you…

All of my life my dreams run wild, now I stand alone in this river of fire
Days of despair and nights of desire, I wait for you in this river of fire.

Song Lyric Sunday – Mod Sox

Jim Adams has announced the topic “Animal” for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday. Here’s my thinking: Insects are animals, and grasshoppers are insects, so grasshoppers are animals. Right? Well, The Grasshoppers were also a Cleveland, Ohio, band founded in 1962. Two years later, Grasshoppers founder Dante Rossi left the band, and Benjamin Orzechowski replaced him on rhythm guitar and vocals. The Grasshoppers became the house band for a teen dance show, The Big 5 Show, and lead singer “Benny 11 Letters” became a local teen idol. (A decade later, he changed his last name to Orr and co-founded The Cars. But that’s a different story that you can read about here.)

The Grasshoppers recorded two local hit songs: “Pink Champagne (and Red Roses)” and “Mod Socks.” I featured “Pink Champagne,” the more lyrical of the two, as my contribution to SLS on August 5, 2018. Although Benny sang lead, “Mod Socks” was written by Grasshoppers lead guitarist Louis Pratile and record producer Carl Maduri. It’s a very simple, good-time song that, to me, epitomizes the mid-60’s innocent crossroad of 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll and the late-60’s psychedelic/acid rock, prog rock, hard rock, country rock explosion.

 

 

Mod Socks

Well who wears mod socks?
Well, girls wear mod socks.
My sister wears mod socks.
My mother wears mod socks.
My aunt wears mod socks.

Now Benny wears mod socks.

Girls wear mod socks.
My friends wear mod socks.
My mother wears mod socks.
My aunt wears mod socks.
My cousin wears mod socks.
My fans wear mod socks, let’s go now….

Well I said who wears mod socks?
Girls wear mod socks.
Your sister wears mod socks.
Your mother wears mod socks.
Your aunt wears mod socks.

Now Benny wears mod socks.

Girls wear mod socks.
Your sister wears mod socks.
My granny wears mod socks.
Your cousin wears mod socks.
Your sister wears mod socks.
Your mother wears mod socks

I said who wears mod socks?
I said who wears mod socks?
My baby’s got some mod socks.
Yeah I think those are mod socks.*
Go on and grab some mod socks.*
Come on and grab some mod socks, yeah right now*

 

 

Song Lyric Sunday — “Down Boys”

Even when she’s not feeling great, Helen Vahdati still manages to come up with a theme for Song Lyric Sunday. I hope she’s soon feeling 100%. Thanks for giving us “boys.

In my world, there’s a Cars song for every occasion. Here’s “Down Boys” written by Ric Ocasek; sung by Benjamin Orr for The Cars 1980 Panorama:

 

Down Boys

you were trying to be cute
and it didn’t work out
you were trying to be charming
and it didn’t come off
you were trying to be clever
a big waste of time
you were trying to get rough
but you’re waiting in line

[Chorus:]
you can’t make it with the down boys
they don’t hear a word you say
you can’t make it with the down boys
just stay out of their way

you were trying to be sharp
but they couldn’t wait
you were trying to be eternal
but that didn’t rate
you were trying to be smooth
you’re rough on the edges
you were trying to be hysterical
well i still ain’t laughing

[Chorus]

you were trying to be in
but they left you out
you were trying to be in
two different worlds
you were trying to be in
oscillation in shame
you were trying to be in
but you’re lost in the game

[Chorus]