“I’m here to capture the rapture and the resurrection at the same time,” says Tim Dundon, pushing a wheelbarrow brimming with fresh mulch, leading me up the inclined path into his shady tropical reserve. “Isn’t life triumphing over death the resurrection? The body turns back to basics and then the basics are picked up by the next generation and the next generation makes use of it and is happy to live inside this new entity because it didn’t go to the landfill. It went to the hill with the will.”
— from “The Sodfather” by Daniel Chamberlin, originally published in Arthur (Dec. 2007)
In the spirit of Tim Dundon, we’re doing some compost work here on the site, making sure nothing goes to the landfill, and all that we did back then is available to the next generation. We’re restoring lost blog images and credits, and posting text, photos and art from old print issues of Arthur Magazine online for the first time.
There’s a lot in the archives for us to choose from, and we’re not doing it in any systematic order. If there’s something you’d like to see online sooner than later, let us know in the “Comments” section below. Requested items will then be brought online, archived and highlighted in the blog.
1. A remedy for boredom: Consider that our senses provide awareness for the universe. For transcendence, freedom is form.
2. Life is a bathhouse. Someone is likely to steal your flip-flops. If you feel impatient waiting for the world to value the knowledge that you value, you may discover a reserve of compassion by considering that ignorance is a shield for that which we are unable to face.
3. For the Sufi there is no right and wrong. Life is a dynamic, ever-changing context. This can be confusing. How does one know the right way? Consider a simple rule: Dismiss that which insults your soul.
4. That which we cannot forgive we are forced to carry.
5. What is savored by gratitude is burned into the soul of the world and lasts forever.
6. The force of attraction that limits us is our interest in the world. Consider the words of Rumi: “We are that which we seek.”
7. Look for what is arising.
8. The things that change are not our real life. Within us is another body that belongs to the changeless, and it is fully satisfying. For as long as we are embedded in what is transitory we are only creatures.
9. The soul is perfect—nothing you do will ever change that you cannot diminish it.
Originally published in Arthur No. 1 (October 2002). Cover photograph by Spike Jonze. Art direction by W.T. Nelson.
THE SOUND OF THE BONE DRILL
BMX superstardom didn’t come cheap, says Mat Hoffman
Excerpted from The Ride of My Life, BMX madman Mat Hoffman’s new autobiography written with Mark Lewman. Hoffman came out of retirement at the 2002 X Games and made history, pulling a no-handed 900 air.
I’ve broken one wrist five times. The other wrist, three times. Between my ankles, I’ve had five breaks. I’ve snapped four fingers, my thumbs four times, my hand twice, busted my feet three times, and broken three toes. (You don’t think a broken toe would hurt that much, but your entire body weight is on it.) I’ve busted my collar bones five times, snapped my pelvis, my fibula, my elbow, cracked three ribs and separated a couple from my sternum. (Breaking ribs off the sternum sucks—just about every movement you can think of is centered in your chest.) Then there’s my head: one skull fracture, two broken jaws, two broken noses, a mouthful of teeth, and a partridge in a pear tree.
Every choice you make can be traced back to the instinctual need to seek pleasure, and avoid pain. These two forces are interconnected, different sides to the same coin. Since I started bike riding, I wanted more than anything to experience the highest highs. To get there, I was willing to accept the consequences. My medical records contain more than four hundred pages documenting my injuries. I’ve put myself in a coma, had over fifty knockouts and concussions, been sewn up with over two hundred stitches, dislocated my shoulder more than twenty times, broken about fifty bones, and had over a dozen different surgeries. I’ve torn ligaments, bruised tissue, severed arteries, spilled blood, and left hunks of my skin stuck to plywood, concrete, dirt, and bicycle components. I’ve had to endure not just physical pain, but the mental anguish of re-learning how to walk, ride my bike, or even remember who I was. I’ve dealt with mountains of health insurance red tape, and condescending doctors who took it upon themselves to lecture me before they treated my injuries, as if they needed to save me from myself.
Not everyone understands that I’ve asked for it, accepted it, and willingly volunteered. Not to sound sadistic, but I consider each of my injuries a tax I had to pay for learning what I could do on my bike. I wanted it all, and wouldn’t take any of it back if I could. Yes, I will be sore and broken when I’m older. I can feel it already, the aches and pains of a body that has been beyond and back. I’ve given up as much of myself as I could, because I love bike riding that much.
My insurance companies have always hated me, having paid hospital bills totaling more than a million dollars over the years. I’ve had to rely on surgery to keep me going. You know it’s getting serious when you start letting people take knives to your body to make you healthy.
Here are my patient notes.
Number 1: Collarbone Crush
November, 1986. It was immediately following a Mountain Dew Trick Team show. I’d just learned 360 drop-ins, and was uncorking them all day. We finished our demo, but I still wanted to ride. I took my chest protector off, figuring I’d just do easy stuff. I lined up parallel to the coping to do a simple hop drop-in, like Eddie Fiola used to do. I stalled in position for a second and went for it. For some reason my brain told my body to react as if I was doing a 360 drop-in. I fell straight to the cement and took the hit on my head and shoulder. My friend Paige said it made a sound like a helmet being thrown off the ramp with nothing in it—a loud, hollow snap. That was my grand finale. I didn’t just break my collarbone, I shattered it. I knocked myself unconscious too. The show was right next door to a hospital, of all places, with two of the best surgeons in Oklahoma City on duty that day. In surgical terms, Dr. Grana and Dr. Yates performed a fourth degree AC joint separation procedure, provided reconstruction of the coracoclavicular ligament, and did a partial removal of my left collarbone.
Number 2: Right Leg, Wrong Move
February, 1988. The 540 is a trick that makes you earn it to learn it. The price is a lot of slams. I finally thought I had them just about dialed in, and did one and looped out. My leg got caught behind me and I sat on it. There was a snapping sound and a blast wave of heat, pain, and nausea. Broken bones have a dull, throbby kind of ache to them. I got into Steve’s car to go to the hospital. Every time he hit a bump my leg would sway between my knee and ankle. My body was in shock, and the pain began to subside. We started chuckling every time it swayed, and then started laughing harder about what the hell we were laughing at. Dark humor helps. The doctor I encountered in the ER had very little humor. My first question to him was, “how long before I can ride again?” He told me I would be lucky to walk without a limp and would never ride a bike again. “Okay, thanks…bye,” was the next thing out of my mouth. I left that doctor as fast as I could, and my dad got me in to see Dr. Yates. Yates put in a titanium plate (the body rejects steel) and ten screws in my fibula to repair the complete syndesmotic disruption and fibular fracture of my right leg. I missed the first King of Vert in Paris because of this injury.
Originally published in Arthur No. 2 (January, 2003)
ASK T-MODEL FORD
[Note: ARTHUR has traded our former advice columnist, Neil Hamburger, to another publication for a comedian to be named later.]
This issue’s advice columnist is Fat Possum recording artist T-Model Ford, the self-styled “Boss of the Blues” from Greenville, Mississippi. T-Model, who’s been 78 years old for the last four years, has promised to tell ARTHUR’s readers nothing but plain wisdom.
“I know a whole lot,” he says. “What I tell you, I ain’t gonna tell you nothin’ wrong. If I can’t please you, I ain’t gonna hate you. I’m gonna make you feel all happy. You WILL get happy. If you shake my tree, I’m gonna shake your orchard. That’s the truth. I’m hangin’ like a apple on a tree. That’s why I ain’t fell. Cuz I’m HANGIN’!”
Email your questions to email@example.com
Q: I’m 18, my boyfriend is 19. We’ve been together a year. We see each other on weekends. My boyfriend is so loving, but I just lie there. We’ve tried going out to dinner, massages, lots of kissing. Nothing works. I like having a cuddle, but I don’t want to have sex with my boyfriend. What should I do?
T-Model Ford: Uh oh. Well, it’s like this: you know, you go out, you kiss, and you hug, well now, that don’t get it. When you kiss, that‘s some dessert to you. If he ain’t interested in, he’ll ask what else to do. He ain’t interested in what she want to do. But now, if he interested in it, and she ain’t interested in it, she can’t change him. But now if he in it and sexy, he already ready, he waiting on her to tempt to do. Now if she don’t tempt to do, and she don’t want to, he can forget her, try to find him somebody else that wants sex. He gonna leave her! Age ain’t got nothin’ to do with it. I looked at bugs and antses. They do it! You take a hog, when she lay a pig, and three days after she lay a pig, the little male pig tryin’ to ride somethin’. That’s what sex is! Sex is ruler of the world. That’s for old–and the young. If you’ve got an old woman and she ain’t sexy, you ain’t got nothin’! You got an old man, and he ain’t sexy, you ain’t got nothin’! If he don’t feel on you, don’t rub on it, he might as well be DEAD. You take an old woman, you feel her, she close her legs up, don’t let you feel what’s down there, you LEAVE her. She ain’t sexy! I’m an old man, myself. I’m 80 years old, I mean, uh, 78 years old now, and right now, I’m sexier than a young man. You hear me!? I’m sexier than a youngun. I’m gonna tell you somethin’. In this week since I’ve been home…I’m gonna tell the truth. I done had sex three times since I been home. Now, can you beat that? I know you can’t. You know why? Cuz this lady woman, she opened her legs and let me feel down there, and rub on it, and I’ll suck on her tittie, but I won’t suck on that other thing. I got somethin’ to put in that other thing! Now, that’s an OLDER woman! Older as I am,… Now how come’n your woman can’t be that sexy? Huh? If a young woman ain’t sexy for you, you don’t need her! You hear me?
Q: I’m 22. I have a cousin, she’s 21. We’ve known each other for most of our lives. She’s a fantastic person. She’s become really beautiful as she’s grown up. Well, one night three months ago she came round. We decided to stay in, watch a videotape, have a couple bottles of wine. I’m not sure how it happened, but we ended up showing each other what we like our partners to do, and this of course lead us to having sex. Now it was really good. I think I’m falling for her.
I know you is. You need to go your way, and let her go her way. Don’t try it with cousins. Dogs don’t know any better. He wouldn’t have his sister and he wouldn’t have his mama, but if he don’t know better, he’d have the mama and have the sister. You don’t want your name out like that, do you? Put her down, get you somebody who ain’t kin to you. It’s not trouble if you go with your cousin, it’s DOG. It’s dog do that. No human being don’t do that. If he’s a dog, he’ll do that. But if he’s not a dog, he ain’t gonna do that!
Q: My hair is falling out, and I’m only 23. My hair was perfect up until about four months ago. Now when I wash it, it comes off in my hands. Nobody in my family is bald. I can’t understand why this is happening to me. Is this normal?
In one way it is, and in one way it ain’t. You got a worry, and you gets mad and angry, you reach up and get a handful of hair and pull it, break it loose from the roots and leave it there, then when you comb through it, it all comes out! It don’t hurt you. You see what I’m talkin about? Alright. See, I done that myself. I used to get angry with my girlfriend cos she lookin’ at somebody else. Just reach up there and get a handful of hair and pull it, break it loose, and when I comb it, all of it come out! That’s what do that. Or, either you’re sleeping at the foot or the head of the bed, and it’s rubbin’ it so, you can’t get off it, then when you do get off it, it done broke the root of it. And it wear your head bald-headed. He’s worrying, getting angry, he breaking his hair loose hisself. I know it is. You just watch him and see don’t he do that.
Q: One day I’m happy and my future looks bright and hopeful. Then something unexpected happens, and I’m suddenly depressed and negative. Everybody I know seems to go through the same kind of thing. I feel like I’m on an emotional rollercoaster, up and down, up and down. I mean, is this why we’re alive? To experience this, to be up and down, up and down, is this the way it’s supposed to be?
Not exactly. You worrying about something. You thinking about something you done done, and you worrying about you can’t get to that no more. And it’s worrying your mind. You out by yourself, you wishin‘, if you ever done it, you’re worrying about it now, it’s on your mind, you wants to do it and you ain’t got nobody to do it with. And that’s what it’s doin’. You lay in the bed and think about it, or go out walkin’, sit by yourself, or… Ain’t happy with it? You need to leave it alone. If you can’t live happy, go on by yourself. Don’t let it run your brains up, your pressures up, and have you doin’ somethin’ you don’t wanna do. You feel like you wanna suicide yourself? Get out of that! Quit that! Get round a big bunch and enjoy yourself, that’s what you got to do. Get out with a big bunch and enjoy yourself. Don’t let that cross your mind. If you don’t want ’em, get you somebody that you can have sex with, and get with them. That’ll help it. I know: I’ve been through all up and down that line. See, I had a woman when I was in my young days, and she had me where I couldn’t eat, and I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t work by myself, coz all my mind was on her. And she had another man. Her husband. I took her away from her husband, and he come back into town where I went, and they poisoned me. For him, could get her then. I don’t know who she with, I ain’t seen her since that day. So I’m livin’ happy, and I feel good. Don’t NEVER let a woman get into your brains. When you got a woman and she go to worrying and getting close to your brains… If you ain’t gonna live with ‘em, you better cut out! Catch the first thing smoking going north, and don’t come back.
Q: In my relationship, I am the gift-giver. During the year and a half that I’ve been together with my boyfriend, I’ve given him many presents. I’ve been very generous. It’s my way of showing that I like him. Yet he hardly gives my anything. That’s important, isn’t it?
It’s important, and otherwise… he USIN’ her. He done like her flesh and he don’t care about her a bit. She givin’ all of her good times to him, she makin’ him happy, but he not makin’ her happy. If he can’t change it, or she don’t want to change it, or if she like it like thataway, he gotta take off hisself and go into some other town. Or some other state. Stay away from her. When she go to writing him, and calling him, she done send a bad mistake. And she wanna call him back, and try to make up for it. But it’s too late! If her buggie don’t like mine, or like his, don’t get mad with him. Let it go. Go on into another town and make you a new life. That’s the way I do. When things don’t work like I want ‘em, and I can’t make ‘em work, I leave town and find me another town. And let the town furnish they own woman and you will do better. Don’t you carry a woman to another town for you to make up. LEAVE that one where you found her, and go to another town and try. You might get lucky. I know all about that stuff! I don’t let one woman stop my buggy from rolling! Let somebody else do it! I won’t wait. But if you don’t, it’ll hurt. It’ll get your mind all messed up. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.
T-Model Ford’s latest album, Bad Man, was produced live by the genuinely legendary Jim Dickinson and released by Fat Possum this past September. It’s your own damn fault if you haven’t heard it yet. More info at www.fatpossum.com
Originally published in Arthur No. 18 (Sept. 2005)
T-MODEL KNOWS BETTER
T-Model Ford is the 85-year-old self-proclaimed “Boss of the Blues,” also known as “The Taildragger.” T-Model Ford is featured at length in the new feature-length documentary, You See Me Laughin’: The Last of the Hill Country Bluesmen (available now on DVD, more info at fatpossum.com). Every couple months we call up T-Model at his home in Greenville, Mississippi and talk about something that’s been bothering our mind. Got a question for T-Model, or something you want him to address? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Is it hot down there in Mississippi this summer?
It’s hot… but I’m still standin’.
How do you deal with the heat?
I just sit out under an acorn tree somewhere and drink water. Just don’t get where the air can’t get to you. You’ll be alright.
What about mosquitoes and no-see-ums and chiggers?
Well, the mosquitoes are at nighttime, and then I’ll be inside. Daytime, I’ll be out there, when we don’t be bothered with them. But at nighttime, heh, you be bothered with ‘em.
So what do you do if it’s hot at night?
I got an air conditioner and a fan. I let it run, and when I go in there, it’s cool in there. And then I pull off everything but my shorts.
Have you ever had a problem with honeybees having a hive at your house?
Get you some diesel oil where you put in trucks. And get your spray gun and pump it up. Don’t turn it to just one place, let it spray all over. And you get in there. When it hit em, they gonna leave or they gonna die. You’ll get shut of ‘em. You’re gonna get that queen bee. He can’t do with that diesel neither.
I have a friend who’s very sad because one of her friends died unexpectedly. She’s very sad and is having trouble eating. What’s the best way to deal with grief, when you’ve lost somebody you love? What’s the best way to get through that?
Tell her to get on her knees and pray to the Good Lord to let her get over it, and don’t worry ‘bout nothin’. If you worrying about something, it’s gonna continue, ‘til you die. Look at me: all my brothers and sisters done died and left me here. I’m 85 now, and I ain’t worried. A tree fell on me, got me in bad shape, but I’m still goin’.
I heard you just drove up to Flint, Michigan in your ’79 Lincoln, the one with 200,000 miles on it.
Yes, indeed. It went up there and back down without any trouble. It went 60, 70, 80, NINETY… it took it. And didn’t use no oil. And it’s ready to go back again.
T-Model Ford is the 84-year-old self-proclaimed “Boss of the Blues,” also known as “The Taildragger.” Each issue, Arthur calls up T-Model at his home in Greenville, Mississippi and asks some questions about things we have on our mind. T-Model gives his sage answers, then we transcribe the conversation with some interpreting help from the fellas at Fat Possum Records, the Mississippi label that releases T-Model’s all-bets-are-off blues albums. If you’ve got questions for T-Model, and we suspect that you do, email ‘em to email@example.com
How do you deal with traffic?
I don’t worry about it. I take my time. Don’t rush, wait your turn and your time will come. People want to rush too much these days.
Are bad people born that way?
It ain’t the way you born. It’s how you raised. If you in too much of a rush, you won’t raise ‘em right.
What’s a better pet: a dog or a cat?
A dog, if you train it right, is the best pet. You can’t depend on a cat, it’s up to its own devilment. But a dog? If you train him right, you can depend on him. You can leave a baby with him and he’ll stay right there. He’ll make sure that baby don’t get in the road. Pick him with up his teeth and move that baby on back up there. A cat won’t do that.
Do you have a dog?
I had two dogs that a white lady gave me, German Shepherds. I raised them up right, trained them right.
What happened to them?
Somebody poisoned them. And my cat Tom, while I was playing guitar up the road, somebody let their dog out and killed him. I was pretty mad that night. I got out there in the yard the next day with my gun, laying up for that dog [to return]. The police came, and I told them, ‘You ain’t taking this gun. It ain’t done nothin’—yet.’
I think they took that dog up to the country. They knew what I was fixing to do.
If you’ve got some cash, what should you do with it? Hide it somewhere, or put it in a bank, or…?
If you want to save it, put it in the bank. You can’t hide nothin’ nowadays. So, best to put it in the bank. It didn’t used to be that way. But now, the young races is in charge. They rushing around…. Most of the old folk are afraid to go out, because of the teenagers robbin’ and fightin’ and killin’. If the old folk do go out, they take a gun. Yeah, it’s getting rough now, alright.
Originally published in Arthur No. 15 (March, 2005)
T-MODEL KNOWS BETTER
T-Model Ford is the 84-year-old self-proclaimed “Boss of the Blues,” also known as The Taildragger. Every two months, Arthur calls up T-Model at his home in Greenville, Mississippi and asks some questions about things we have on our mind. T-Model gives his sage answers, then we transcribe the conversation with some interpreting help from the fellas at Fat Possum Records, the Mississippi label that releases T-Model’s all-bets-are-off blues albums (more info at fatpossum.com). If you’ve got questions for T-Model, and we suspect that you do, email ‘em to firstname.lastname@example.org
You make a New Year’s Resolution?How’s your health? A lot of people decide to go get a check-up as a New Year’s resolution.
You live longer if you don’t go to the doctor too much. It’s alright if you have a little hurtin or something, not too serious or nothin’… Every time you got something you wanting to be done, you runnin’ to the doctor, runnin’ to the doctor. And they don’t know all the time what they doctorin’ on! So, I just go every now and then. I’m too old to let ‘em cut on me.
What kind of blade do you carry?
It’s a Case, the best knife I believe they made. A man’s got to carry something. Someone told me years ago back, me and him was running together, and I know he had to see somebody do somebody that away, and he told me, he said, Look T-Model, even if it ain’t nothing but a pin, or a nail, carry something in your pocket. A folk can run up on you and make you do anything they want you to do and you aint’ got nothin’. But if you got a nail or pin in your pocket…! And that’s true! I just love to carry something in my pocket. I wanted to carry a gun, but I don’t need to carry it, ‘cause folk can make you angry. And they done made me so mad, where I’m livin’. I’m trying to govern it down.
What’s a good way to get rid of ants?
Get some diesel oil, burnin’ in a tractor or somethin’, find where the bed is at–don’t dig it up!–and just pour it down in the little hole there. It’ll get shed of them quick.
What do you think of the women’s basketball league?
I don’t like ‘em too well. I’m particular about me. I don’t like to see women hanging around too much together–there’s a dead cat down the line, somewhere.
I heard you have women on the police force in Greenville.
I don’t like that. That ain’t no woman’s job! That’s a man’s job. A woman’ll arrest a man all for nothin’. They already want to do something to a man, and so if they get a chance, they stick it to a man. About a year or two ago, a black woman arrested me right here, sittin’ by my car. I had to pay a $144 for the fine what she give me and I wasn’t even sayin’ nothing. The other guy was doin’ all the cussing and talking. I’m just sitting there, listenin’. She said, One more word out of you and I’ll send you down. I said, Yes ma’am. I was trying to honor her. But she didn’t appreciate it. She came on out there and unbuttoned the handcuffs and locked me and they carried me down. We down there [at the police station] and the white lady says, What you got handcuffs put on you for? I says, I don’t know. But when I had to pay that there fine, I told the sheriff, Don’t send that black woman at me never no more. Send a man at me, not no woman. I says, things might happen sure ‘nuff if you send her back to arrest me.
T-Model Ford is the 84-year-old self-styled “Boss of the Blues,” also known as The Taildragger. Every two months, Arthur calls up T-Model at his home in Greenville, Mississippi and asks some questions about things we have on our mind. T-Model gives his sage answers, then we transcribe the conversation with some interpreting help from the fellas at Fat Possum Records, the Mississippi label that releases T-Model’s all-bets-are-off blues albums (more info at fatpossum.com). If you’ve got questions for T-Model, and we suspect that you do, email ‘em to email@example.com
What’s the best way for a woman to lose a little weight?
Well, she can’t eat everything, and be eating all the time. She have to find her a little snack, and eat it. That’ll lose weight.
Is there any food she should avoid?
What about exercise?
I ain’t never had exercise. I always, if I was pickin’ up too much weight myself, I’d slow down on my eatin’. Whatever I’d be eating, I’d slow down on it. And I’d lose weight then. Then I know I’m losing weight, and I’d want to get back at eating the same thing as I was eating in the front.
What’s the best way to make some money quick?
Play the guitar good and get you with the right bunch, doing tours and they paying you right, and they do you right, that’s quick money. That’s what I’m doing. That’s all I’m able to do now is play guitar, make a little money in that. I’m trying to work on a few records now. I just got me another amp, a Fender, so I can practice.
What’s your favorite way to travel? Plane, train, automobile or horse?
If you got a long way going, overseas and like that, the best way is to go on a plane. But now if you ain’t going oversea traveling, the best that I know, had good luck with, is get a van, and ride. You can have another person drive, you can help him if he needs it. You go like that, you won’t be in no strain or jammed up.
What do you want for Christmas?
I’d like to have me one of them good amps for Christmas. One of them Twin amps. I’ve got already two good guitars. If I just had Black Nannie [T-Model’s old guitar that was stolen and pawned off by one of his sons] back, I’d be alright.
Are you planning anything special for Christmas this year?
No, my money’s light. I ain’t got the money. I’m staying home, or be round some of them little honky tonks, or out of town, playin’—if they want me to play.
T-Model Ford is the 84-year-old self-styled “Boss of the Blues,” also known as The Taildragger. Every two months, Arthur calls up T-Model at his home in Greenville, Mississippi and asks some questions about matters concerning us our our readers. T-Model gives his sage answers, then we transcribe the conversation with some interpreting help from the fellas at Fat Possum, the Mississippi record label that releases T-Model’s all-bets-are-off blues albums (more info at fatpossum.com). If you’ve got questions for T-Model, and we suspect that you do, email ‘em to firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s your favorite season of the year?
I take ‘em as they come, they’re all alike to me. I don’t worry about it. That’s the Man’s work. I’m doin’ alright. He’s letting me live, go around, doin’ my little thing. I’m feeling GOOD.
What if you’re a person who doesn’t enjoy going to church, listening to the sermon and so on, but you still want God in your life? What’s the best way to get His attention?
Well, if you want to go to church, you just got to go on in to the church. But I don’t go to church. I got the church right here in my heart. I don’t go to church, because the half of them going to church, they ain’t the Christian I is. I can ask them about some things, they can’t answer. I can. I can’t read and write, but I can answer. I was raised up in the church. When I was getting in my 30s then, I married a woman. I was a young man and… I thought the peoples all around liked me, and they enjoyed me, I thought we was gonna be in the church. But they changed–they went to talking about me, saying I wasn’t going to the church for no good, I was going to church to look at the young women. And I ain’t thinking about it!
When it comes to romance, do you believe in making love on a first date, or should you hold out, stoke the fire for a while, so when it finally happens it’s so much sweeter?
Well, if you want it, go ahead. But if you don’t, let it go. And further up the road, it’ll do better. So, don’t worry about it. Let them worry about it. Don’t you worry about it. That’s the way they’re doing on me. They’re worrying about this old man! They say I’m 84 years old. But I ain’t worrying for nothing. I ain’t lost nothin’, and I gets what I want. I’m trying to get another CD fixed up, where I can go out there and do it again.
How many songs do you reckon you know how to play by heart?
Well, it’s a hard question to answer. I know a heap of ‘em. But I can’t read and I can’t write and I can’t spell. When they crawl up in my mind, I can do it to it, I can sing it and I can play it. I had a white fella come to my house the other morning from England I believe it was, he wanted to hear me play the guitar. I told him, I can play. He didn’t think I want to play. He asked me to get it, and let him hear a little. I let him hear a heap. He crazy, he wrote it down in a book, I can play and what I can do. I really can play. I don’t have to ask nobody. I can play with anybody, I can play without ‘em.
How many years does it take somebody to play the blues before they finally get it right?
Oh, it don’t take no time. If you interested in it, and wanna play and take heave at it… I learned in a week! And I’m BAD. I was shamed to go out with the guys I was playin’ with, but they finally got me out one time, and I’d been bad ever since. I ain’t scared of nobody with a guitar, I don’t care where he come from. I didn’t start til I was 58. Everybody want to know why I waited, but I wasn’t interested in nothin’ like that. I had workin’ on my mind, and women. But they never did worry me. I ain’t never worried but one time about a woman, and I got POISONED by her. And I ain’t worried about any none of them…they go and they come. That’s right. I let them worry about ME. I ain’t the man I used to be, but I’m a ladies’ man.
Originally published in Arthur No. 12 (Sept. 2004)
T-MODEL KNOWS BETTER
T-Model Ford is the 84-year-old self-styled “Boss of the Blues”, also known as The Taildragger. Every two months, Arthur calls up T-Model at his home in Greenville, Mississippi and asks some questions about matters concerning us our our readers. T-Model gives his sage answers, then we transcribe the conversation with some interpreting help from the fellas at Fat Possum, the Mississippi record label that releases T-Model’s all-bets-are-off blues albums (more info at fatpossum.com). If you’ve got questions for T-Model, and we suspect that you do, email ‘em to email@example.com
What is the best kind of food to have on a first date?
Fish, chicken, a little beef and a few pinto beans. When you’re eating, you’ve got to have something to lay to your ribs and you can stand up on it. When you’re ating this here junk, like potato chips and different stuff like that, it don’t lay too good. So, you get something you probably raised on. Then you can stand up stout. You can stand the pressure.
Why aren’t there more women who play the blues?
Wellll, that’s a bad question. And then there’s a good question. I figure the women are trying to take the man’s place. See what’s going on now, the women are liking other women! They ain’t got time to realize what they going through with. They not supposed to do that. We men are supposed to do that. But they taking the man’s place, now. They can’t stand up like a man. Like the police, they put women on the police force. Well when they go for a tough man, the women can’t handle ‘em! It’ll take another man to handle it. The Lord don’t like that kind of life, what the women doing. And the men doing it too! They wanna go and do a little of it. They can’t do it ALL. That’s what I say. I don’t know nobody else would know that, but I know. I can’t read, I can’t write, I can’t spell my name real good, but I got a good head on me.
But don’t you like to hear women sing?
Well, I like to hear em when they can do it right. Some of ‘em, they can’t do it right. Some of ‘em THINK they can do it right. There’s a lady here, I forget her name, but she’s a big heavy fine-looking lady, I like to hear her sing. She’s a fine-looking big woman. She doin’ a good thing. There’s not that many of them now. It’s like the old mens, they done died out. Blues will never fail out, but it’s failing.
What’s the difference between a boy and a man?
A man can drink straight whiskey, but a boy can’t.
If a woman doesn’t have much money, should she have a baby?
You don’t have to be rich. You have to have faith in yourself. You know what it costs to get a baby. You know what it costs to get without a baby. She gotta do like a grown woman. She can’t do like a girl. And she got to act as a grown woman.
You gotta have the father there, don’t you?
Yeah… Well, you can have the right father, or the right daddy. A mama can do good without, but it’s a mighty few that can raise children. See, if you have experience, you hereby can look at any baby and tell what it’s raised on: a bottle or the breast. You can tell the way it’s raised by the way it acts and looks. You take me, you don’t find them babies no more. I was raised on a sugar titty! You don’t know what that is. But I’m gonna tell you. You take a ball of butter, put it in a little rag, sprinkle some sugar on it and twist it up and get you a twine and wrap around the top of it. You make it like a titty. Leave it in long enough, you can hold it with your hand, put it in your mouth, and you suck it. You suck that butter and sugar out of that rag, just like you do a bottle, but you be more healthy. You won’t be sickly and puny. You’ll be a healthy baby. It’s better than a bottle. I was raised on it, I’m 84 years old now they’re telling me, and there ain’t none standing with me now.
Breast milk is the best. This is how come the young race is so wild, doing everything, cuz they raised on some other kind of milk—bear milk, cow milk, dog milk, monkey milk, any kind of animal milk. The meanest kind is a bramah bull. Your baby get that milk and the devil’s already in that cow! The devil’s already in that milk. A baby’s EVIL when they suckin’ on that bottle. You can take a baby when they’s laying there crying and going on and you bumpin’ em and shakin’ em, hush baby doll, he ain’t gonna hush. But you give him the right milk in that bottle, he’ll hush and lay there and go right to sleep. That’s the evil coming in him! Oh yes. Just like I tell you, any baby raised on a bottle, you know it. He’s evil, you can’t satisfy him with nothin’ you do.
I seen one or two white ladies have a baby, they gets something to hide behind to pull the breast out to let the baby suck a titty. You see that! When I was a baby coming up, they pull them titties out anywhere and give to their baby. But they don’t do that now.
T-Model Ford is the 82-year-old, self-styled “Boss of the Blues”, also known as “The Taildragger.” Every two months, Arthur calls up T-Model at his home in Greenville, Mississippi and asks him for some advice. T-Model gives his sage answers, then we transcribe the conversation with some interpreting help from the fellas at Fat Possum, the Mississippi record label that releases T-Model’s original badass records (more info at fatpossum.com). If you’ve got questions for T-Model, and we know that you do, email ‘em to firstname.lastname@example.org
T-Model, what should you do if you got some neighbors that are acting rowdy? Having parties late at night?
Well, if it’s worrying you… If you the boss of the house, get you another house, or stay there and put up with it. If you can’t stand ‘em and all, can’t get along with ‘em, and if they don’t wanna move, then you move out of there yourself.
You wouldn’t call the police?
No. Police ain’t gonna do nothin’ about it no way. All you do, talkin’ on the phone… first thing a couple more weeks, or a month, it’s the same thing again! If you get tired of something, move out! Go on ‘bout your business. That’s right. I ain’t rowdy, but they think I is! [laughs]
T-Model, you like whiskey, right? What’s your preference?
I like the Johnny Walker. I drink, but I don’t get ‘toxicated. “Toxicated” means you get high and almost drunk and you don’t know how to treat the people. But I just take me a little shot drink all alone, and I don’t get high. If I smell it, I quit drinking. I can handle myself. Because if you get too much of it in, you can’t handle yourself, and other people neither. I don’t like a drunkard no way. Dope smokers and drunkards—I don’t even want to get in their company. You don’t want it all, you just want a little teeny bit.
T-Model, you’re 82 years old and still playing music, going on tour. You have any advice for young musicians that are just starting out?
I’d tell them to play the blues. Stick with the blues. The blues will forever be here. This mess they coming out with now, wasn’t out when we was coming in the world. Nothing but old guitars, acoustic guitar. But now, it’s the blues everywhere I go, all overseas and out of Mississippi, the people love the blues. All the crack places and the rap places, my style of blues is puttin’ them all bad. They don’t wanna hear that. Like when I go overseas or get out of Mississippi to play, all the people coming there to hear me, they ain’t caring about hearing no other people play! They come to hear T-Model. So I got the best style there is: the blues.
T-Model, is it true that you can play for eight hours straight?
That’s true! It’s like walking in the kitchen and drinking some sweet milk. Ain’t nothin’ to it, man.