Benji

LYRICS

  1. Carissa Benji
  2. I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love
  3. Truck Driver
  4. Dogs
  5. Pray For Newtown
  6. Jim Wise
  7. I Love My Dad
  8. I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same
  9. Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes
  10. Micheline
  11. Ben’s My Friend

 

 

1. Carissa

Oh Carissa, when I first saw you, you were a lovely child
And the last time I saw you, you were fifteen and pregnant and running wild
I remember wondering, could there be a light at the end of your tunnel?
But I left Ohio then and pretty much forgotten all about you
I guess you were there some years ago at a family funeral
But you were one of so many relatives, I didn’t know which one was you

Yesterday morning I woke up to so many 330 area code calls
I called my mom back and she was in tears and asked had I spoke to my father?
Carissa burned to death last night in a freak accident fire
In her yard in Brewster her daughter came home from a party and found her
Same way as my uncle, who was her grandfather
An aerosol can blew up in the trash, goddamn, what were the odds?

She was just getting ready to go to her midnight shift as an RN in Wadsworth
And she vanished up in flames like that but there had to be more to her life’s worth
Everyone’s grieving out of their minds, making arrangements and taking drugs
But I’m flying out there tomorrow, because I need to give and get some hugs
Cause I got questions, that I’d like to get answered
I may never get them, but Carissa, I’ve got to know how did it happen?

Carissa was thirty-five, you don’t just raise two kids and take out your trash and die
She was my second cousin, I didn’t know her well at all but it don’t mean that I wasn’t
Meant to find some poetry, to make some sense of this, to find a deeper meaning
In this senseless tragedy, O Carissa, I’ll sing your name across every sea

Were you doing someone else’s chores for them?
Were you just killing time, finding things to do all by your lonesome?
Was it even you who mistakenly put flammables in the trash?
Was it your kids just being kids? If so, the guilt they will carry around forever
Well I’m going out there, to get a look at the landscapes
To get a look at those I’m connected by blood and see how it all may have shaped me
Well I’m going out there, though I’m not really needed
I’m just so broken up about it, how is it that this sad history repeated?

I’ll return to Ohio, to the place I was spawned
Going to see where I hung with my cousins and played with them in the snow and fished in their pond
Going to see how they’ve grown, visit some graves and say, “Hey, I’ve missed you”
Going to find out as much as I can about my little second cousin Carissa

Gonna go to Ohio, where I was born
Got a 10:45 AM flight, I’m leaving tomorrow morn
Going to see my aunts and uncles, my parents and sisters
Mostly I’m going to pay my respects to my little second cousin Carissa

Going to Ohio, where I feel I belong
Ask those who know the most about Carissa
For it is her life and death that I am helplessly drawn

Carissa was thirty-five, raised kids since she was fifteen years old and suddenly died
Next to an old river, fire pit, oh there’s gotta be more than that to it
She was only my second cousin but it don’t mean that I’m not here for her or that I wasn’t
Meant to give her life poetry, or to make sure her name is known across every sea

 

2. I Can’t Live Without My Mothers Love

I can live with the sky falling out from above
I can live with your scorn, your sourness, your smug
I can live with growing alone if push comes to shove
But I can’t live without my mother’s love

I can live flying around at an impossible pace
I can live with the bad etiquette that’s fallen on this place
I can live with anything you got to throw in my face
But I can’t live without my mother’s embrace

My mother is 75
She’s the closest friend I have in my life
Take her from me, I’ll break down and ball
And wither away like old leaves in the fall

You can be cruel all you want, talk about all my brothers
Shoot me full of holes and I won’t be bothered
Judge me for my ways and my slew of ex-lovers
But don’t ever dare say a bad word about my mother

When she’s gone, I’ll miss our slow easy walks
Playing Scrabble with the chimes of the grandfather clock
I’ll even miss the times that we fought
But mostly I’ll miss being able to call her and talk

I can live without watching the classical fights
I can live without a lover beside me at night
I can live without what you might call a charmed life
But I can’t live without my mother providing her light

My mother is 75
One day she won’t be here to hear me cry
When the day comes for her to let go
I’ll die off like a lemon tree in the snow
When the day comes for her to leave
I won’t have the courage to sort through her things
With my sisters and all our memories
I cannot bear all the pain it will bring

 

3. Truck Driver

My uncle died in a fire on his birthday
Redneck that he was burning trash in the yard one day
And on to the pile, he threw an aerosol can of spray
And that’s how he died in the fire that day

Before he retired, he was a truck driver
He’d be gone through the winters and all through the summers
In the winters, us kids would order Dominos and watch Happy Days
And in the summer, we’d get frogs at the ponds and fry up their legs

My Aunt still lives there, out in Ohio
I’d visit her in the autumn, she makes me smile
We’d remember the story of when I was young
Getting stung by a hornet, she caressed my foot
Rubbed baking powder on it

I was probably 5 at their home in Navarre
My cousin’s friend was in the yard playing guitar
We all gathered ’round, listened to her play and sing
And I fell into a trance and knew that one day I would do the same thing

My Uncle died in a fire on his birthday
Out by the barn and his old collection of cars
Third degree burns, a charred up shovel in his hand
My Uncle died a respected man

I flew out there, I went to his funeral
Was storming that day, the sky was deep purple
And babies were crying, Kentucky Fried Chicken was served
And that’s how he would’ve wanted it, I’m sure

And after the funeral out there in Navarre
They all gathered around when I picked up a guitar
They fell into a trance as I sang and I played
And outside the frogs croaked and the mantises prayed

 

4. Dogs

Katy Kerlan was my first kiss
I was only five years-old and she hit me with her purse
I had braces on my legs and I almost fell down
And from that day moving forward I’ve been petrified of blondes

Oh Patricia, she was my first love
She sat eight rows behind me and I couldn’t breathe
I gave her Pink Floyd ‘Animals’ when we were in 6th grade
And it was on her turntable when I met her on Sunday

Her mom was gone, we were listening to Dogs
She reached down my pants and discovered I was bald
And when I touched her down there she was blossoming and soft
And the next day in school she ignored me in the hall

Shelly and Amber gave me my first taste
I went down on them both at Amber’s parents’ place
We were drunk as skunks and high on Darvon
And they gave me a bath and I stumbled on home

Mary Anne was my first fuck
She slide down between my legs and oh my god she could suck
I went with her friend first but I couldn’t get it in
And when she caught me with Mary Anne her heart was broken

Mary Anne got cold and abruptly broke it off
For a guy with sweatpants and a pickup truck
I begged her not to dump me and I pleaded no
But her body language told me it was time for me to go

The guy with the truck picked me up and brought me home
I sat down at my piano and my spirit was low
But I pulled myself together and I played a few notes
Now I was the one who got their heart broke

I met a girl named Deborah, she lived on the canal
She made me eggs in the morning, she was such a sweet gal
And we went to Red Lobster and we went to Tangier’s
She had motherly love, she was warm and she cared
She was a beautiful girl and she had a big heart
But I drifted away because there wasn’t that spark

Oh the complicated mess of sex and love
When you give that first stinger, you’re the one who gets stung
And when you lose control and how good it feels to cum
And when you pant like a dog getting into someone

Oh rejection, how it hurts so much
When you can’t love the one you’ve been longing to touch
And they’re onto something else and it don’t feel right
And you wonder if they’re coming together all night

The nature of attraction cycles on and on
And nobody’s right, and nobody’s wrong
Our early life shapes the types to whom we are drawn
It’s a complicated place, this planet we’re on

 

5. Pray For Newton

I was a Junior in high school when I turned the TV on
James Huberty went to a restaurant, and shot everyone up with a machine gun
He was from my hometown
We talked about it til the sun went down
Then everybody got up and stretched and yawned and then our lives went on

And I just left Safeway, when I walked in my doorway
When a guy took a boat to an island and shot a bunch of little kids up in Norway
Called a few of my friends round here, but no one much really cared
But I did, because Iíve got a lot of friends out there

I just arrived in Seoul, by way of Beijing
I had an hour to myself in my hotel when I turned on the TV
It was quite a thriller, CNN was promoting the bat man killer
His eyes were glazed like he was from Mars
Yesterday he was no one, today he was a star

I was down in New Orleans, at the Monteleone
Enjoying some time all to myself when I turned the TV on
There were shootings in a Portland mall
It was everyday America and thatís all
It was just another one to walk down Royal Street
The rest of the world was out having fun

December fourteenth, another killing went down
I got a letter from a fan he said Mark say a prayer for Newtown
I ainít one to pray, but Iím one to sing and play
For women and children and moms and dads and brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts

December twenty-fifth, and I was just laying down
I picked up a pen, I wrote a letter to the guy in Newtown
I said Iím sorry ëbout the kids, and the teachers who lost their lives
I felt it coming on, I felt it in my bones and I donít know why

So when Christmas comes and youíre out running around
Take a moment to pause and think of the kids who died in Newtown
Who went so young, who gave their lives
To make us stop and think and try to get it right

Who Went so young, a cloud so dark over them
And they left home, gave their mom and dad a kiss and a hug
So when your birthday comes and youíre feeling pretty good
Baking cakes and opening gifts and stuffing your mouth with food

Take a moment for the children who lost their lives
Think of their families and how they mourn and cry
When youíre gonna get married and youíre out shopping around
Take a moment to think about the families that lost so much in Newtown

 

6. Jim Wise

Spent the day with my dad and his old friend, Jim Wise.
He’s on house arrest and he sits around inside.
We brought him food from Panera Bread, the snoring sun rolled out of bed.
He talked about his ninety Corvette, his warehouse job, and his knee replacement.

Jim Wise mercy killed his wife in a hospital at her bedside.
And he put the gun to his head and it jammed and he didn’t die.
He went to trial all summer long and his eyes welled up when he told us about how much she loved the backyard garden and the budding rosebush.

She loved the garden, and its budding rosebush.
Spent the day with my dad, and his friend Jim Wise.

Spent the day with my dad and his old friend, Jim Wise.
He’s got a big thick ankle bracelet and he can’t go outside.
He’s got a long white Amish man’s beard and a catheter.
And he’ll be headed to Mansfield prison by the end of the year for sure.

His shelves are sticky old ratty boards.
His albums are The Doors and Stevie Nicks. His kitchen cabinets are full of baked beans. His TV is sound, words flash across the screen and he stares off into dead air.

Jim Wise killed his wife out of love for her at her bedside.
And then he put the gun to his head but he failed at suicide.
His trial’s coming up in the fall and he sighed when we stepped out and we left.
And I pointed out the pretty cardinal perched on the empty birdbath.

The bright red cardinal, the empty birdbath.
Spent today with my dad and his friend Jim Wise.

 

7. I Love My Dad

When I was young my father taught me not to gloat
If I came home too proud of myself I get wrestled to the floor and choked
But I forgive him for that
He was an eighth grade drop out and I was being a brat
I forgive him, I do
I know that he loves me and he knows I love him too

When I was young my father told me, to each his own
The lady said as she kissed the cow, some like the fiddle
some like the trombone and I live by that rule
Your trip is your trip and my trip is my trip too
Yeah, I’ll mind my own business
Oh, having no rules in my friend here have

I love my dad

Your kid goes to the private Berkley school with one black kid
My kid goes to the public school, came home with cracked ribs
And when my kid’s eighteen he’ll be out there like I was and probably chasing his dreams. And when your kid’s twenty-two, he’ll have an internship at a law firm and hey that’s okay too

When I was five I came home from kindergarten crying cause they sat me next to an albino
My dad said son everyone’s different, you gotta love em all equally
And then my dad sat me down
He said you gotta love all people, pink, red, black, or brown
And then just after dinner he played me the album
They Only Come Out At Night by Edgar Winter

When I was young my dad taught me the beauty of patience
We’d go and hang with his friend Billy Brislin all day in his Stubenville basement
We’d watch wrestling matches on TV and Billy couldn’t move cause he was handicapped
And I learned to shoot the shit
and how to care for those in need and to show respect

When I was a kid my dad brought home a guitar he got from Sears
I took lessons from a neighbor lady but it wasn’t going anywhere
He went and got me a good teacher and in no time at all I was getting better
I can play just fine
I still practice a lot but not as much as Nels Cline

When I was young my dad told me to pay gossip no mind
When people talk bad on you you gotta flick it off your shoulder like a fly
Learn to pick your punches, don’t get no tussles, dead in ditches
Life is short young man, get out there and make the best of it while you can

I ain’t trying to say my dad was some kind of a perfect saint
When something set him off
I hit the floor quicker than what Mike Tyson did to Ricky Sveen
I hit the floor so fast, but that was so long ago and we both moved past
My life is pretty good, I owe it to him
My dad did the best he could

I love you dad

8. I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same

I watched the film “The Song Remains the Same”
At the midnight movies when I was a kid
At a Canton, Ohio mall with friends
One warm summer weekend

Jimmy Page stood tall on screen
And I was mesmerized by everything
The Peter Grant/John Paul Jones dream sequence scenes
The closeup of the mahogany double-neck SG

And though I love the sound of the roaring Les Paul
What spoke to me most was “Rain Song” and “Bron-Yr-Aur”
And I loved the thunder of John Bonham’s drums
But even more, I liked “No Quarter” low Fender Rhodes’ hum

I don’t know what happened or what anyone did
But from my earliest memories, I was a very melancholic kid
When anything close to me at all in the world died
To my heart, forever, it would be tied

Like when my friend was thrown from his moped
When some kind of a big truck back-ended him
And when the girl who sat in front of me in remedial
Was killed in an accident one weekend
And quickly forgotten about at school

And when we got the call that my grandmother passed
The nervous tension I’d been feeling for months broke
And strangely, I laughed
Then I went to my bedroom and I laid down
And in my tears, and in the heaviness of everything I drowned

Though I kept to myself, and for the most part was pretty coy
I once got baited into clocking some undeserving boy
Out on the elementary school playground
I threw a punch that caught him off-guard and knocked him down

And when I walked away, the kids were cheering
And though I grinned, deep inside I was hurting
But not nearly as much as I’d hurt him
He stood up, his glasses broken and his face was red

And I was never a schoolyard bully
It was only one incident and it has always eaten at me
I was never a young schoolyard bully
And wherever you are, that poor kid, I’m so sorry

And when I grew older, I learned to play guitar
While everyone else was throwing around a football
Wearing bright colours the school issued them
Parroting passed-down phrases and cheerleading

I got a recording contract in 1992
And from there, my name, my band and my audience grew
And since that time, so much has happened to me
But I discovered, I cannot shake melancholy
For forty-six years now, I cannot break the spell
I’ll carry it throughout my life and probably carry it down

I’ll go to my grave with my melancholy
And my ghost will echo my sentiments for all eternity

And now when I watch “The Song Remains the Same”
The same things speak to me that spoke to me then
Except now, the scenes with Peter Grant and John Bonham
Are different from when I think about the dust that fell upon them

I got a friend who lives in the desert outside Santa Fe
And I’m going to visit him this Saturday
Between my travelling and his divorces
And our time not being what it was
It’s been fifteen years since I last saw him

He’s the man who signed me back in ’92
And I’m going to go there and tell him face to face,
“Thank you.”

For discovering my talent so early
For helping me along in this beautiful musical world
I was meant to be in

9. Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes

Richard Ramirez died today of natural causes
Got amped up on speed and broke into houses
Bludgeoned people to death wrote shit on their skin and left them
They finally got him and he went to San Quentin
His last murder was south of San Francisco
A guy named Peter Pan from the town of San Mateo
The little girl in the tenderloin was his first
And in the laundry room he took a dollar from her fist
His last days were at the Bristol hotel
Was reading Night Stalker when I went and rang the bell
The doorman buzzed, said, you’re just like them all
Gave me a key and a black cat led me down the hall
Had a flight today from Boston to Cleveland
Got a death in the family gotta do some grieving
Lost a relative and it’s eating me up
And I make them real bad and I need a little love

Richard Ramirez died today of natural causes
These things mark time and make us pause
And think about we were kids scared of taps on the window
What’s under the bed and what’s under the pillow
And the Jim Jones massacre got in our heads
And the TV headlines Elvis Presley’s dead
And the Ayatollah Khomenei hostages
And Ronald Reagan dodging bullets

While I’m there gonna stroll through the old neighborhood
Rick Stan’s my age, still lives with his mom
When he’s not in jail from innocent stalking
Writing bad checks and cocaine charges
Mark Denton had such a beautiful smile
Always sat on the porch passing the time
And drinking a beer and smoking a pack
Until one day poor Mark had a heart attack

My friend Ben’s got a good job as an electrician
Sister married the poor shark Jim Evans
And my next door neighbors whom I love so
And they love me too, but they passed long ago
And if you walk just a few blocks down Stahl
There’s a house that was the scariest of them all
A cute little palm with a sign “for sale”
But those Sexton’s kids, life was hell
And I’m telling the truth and if you don’t believe
Pick up Lowell Cauffiel’s House of Secrets
Had to fly from Cleveland to SFO
I got 3 months off until my next show
Gonna spend time with my girl
Make a record this summer
Fix my kitchen up and hire a plumber
The headlines change so rapidly
Then I came to the studio to work on something pretty
Then I saw the news on James Gandolfini
While I was eating ramen and drinking green tea
The Soprano’s guy died at 51
That’s the same age as the guy
Who’s coming to play drums
I don’t like this getting older stuff
Havin’ to pee 50 times a day is bad enough
Got a naggin’ prostate and I got a bad back
And when I fuck too much I feel like I’m gonna have a heart attack
I woke up today I saw the headlines
An airline crashed and 2 people died
And I’m at a barbecue in San Rafael
And everybody’s drunk and feelin’ pretty well
At 53 years Richard Ramirez died
But in ‘83 he was very much alive
He was the scariest killer in the band
He had a pentagram in the center of his hand

And everybody remember the paranoia
When he stalked the suburbs of Southern California
And everybody will remember where they were
When they finally caught the Night Stalker
And I remember just where I was
When Richard Ramirez died of natural causes

10. Micheline

Micheline used to come to our house and knock on our door.
My dad would answer and say, “What do you want, girl?” and she’d say, “Can I take a bath with Mark?”
My dad would say, “My son ain’t here,” send her home and shut the door and we’d all laugh.
And Micheline would walk down the street glowing and smiling like she just got Paul McCartney’s autograph.
Her brain worked a little slower than the others; she wore thick-rimmed glasses.
She took a different bus to school than the other kids and was in different kind of classes.

When she got older a neighborhood thug moved in with her and started taking her welfare payments.
He took her down to the bank, helped her withdraw her savings that was put away for her and he went off with it.
The cops caught up with him, he did a little time and cut to many years later:
He’s doing life in a Florida penitentiary with his father, both of them for murder.

Micheline, Micheline. Micheline, Micheline. Micheline, Micheline, Micheline.
She wanted love like anyone else.
Micheline, Micheline, Micheline,
She had dreams like anyone else.

My friend Brett, my friend Brett, my friend Brett, my friend Brett, he liked to play the guitar.
But he had an awkward way of playing bar chords with two fingers spreading his index and middle fingers really far apart.
One day in band practice he dropped like a deer was shot and was flipping around like a fish.
He had an aneurysm triggered by a nerve in his hand from the strain he was putting on it.
I went to see him in Ohio; he had a horseshoe shaped scar on his scalp and he talked real slow.
We played pool like we did in our teens and his head was shaved and he still wore bell-bottomed jeans.

In ’99 I was on tour in Sweden when I called home
To tell my mom I got a part in a movie when she said “Mark, there’s something that you need to know.”
“Brett died the other day, you really should send a letter to his mom and dad.” And I got on my train in Malmo and looked out at the snow feeling somewhere between happy and sad.
My friend Brett, my friend Brett. My friend Brett, my friend Brett. My friend Brett, my friend Brett, my friend Brett.
He had a wife and a son.
My friend Brett, my friend Brett, my friend Brett.
He just liked to play guitar and he never hurt anyone.

My grandma, my grandma, my grandma, my grandma, my grandma, my grandma.
Before she passed away we’d go and visit her at my aunt’s house when I was small.
I couldn’t bear the shape she was in so at the top of the driveway I’d sit in the car.
One day I was just fucking around when I put it in reverse and I was free-falling.
I remember the car moving backwards; my heart was beating and I blacked out.
Another car was coming down the street and I totalled them both and I got knocked out.

My grandma, my grandma, my grandma, my grandma, my grandma, my grandma.
First time I met her, she lived in L.A.; I think it was Huntington Park.
I made friends with a kid named Marceau and another kid named Cyrus Hunt.
We’d go downtown and get ice cream and feed french fries to the pigeons and talk to the handicapped vets from Vietnam.
It was the first time I saw a hummingbird, or a palm tree, or a lizard.
Or saw an ocean, or heard David Bowie’s “Young Americans” and I saw the movie “Benji” in the theatre.
My grandma, my grandma. My grandma, my grandma. My grandma, my grandma, my grandma.
I heard she had a pretty hard life.
But after her first husband passed away she met a man from California and he treated her really nice.

My grandma, my grandma. My grandma, my grandma. My grandma, my grandma, my grandma.
My grandma was diagnosed at 62.
Her kids stepped up to the plate for her and were there the whole way through.

11. Ben’s My Friend

I woke up this morning, August 3rd
It’s been a pretty slow and uneventful summer
Went to visit a friend in Santa Fe
Went to New Orleans and went to see my family
Woke up this morning and it occurred
I needed one more track to finish up my record
I was feeling out of fuel and uninspired
Laid on my bed too long, a little down, a little tired
Met my girl and we walked down Union Street
I was scattered and my head was in a bunch of places
Bought a 350 dollar pair of lampshades
And we ate at Perry’s and I ordered crab cakes

Blue crab cakes
Blue crab cakes
Blue crab cakes

She said I seemed distracted and asked what was going on with me
I said I can’t explain it it’s a middle age thing
She said okay and ate her eggs Benedict
And I looked at the walls cluttered with sports bar shit

Sports bar shit
Sports bar shit
Sports bar shit

Got on the phone and I called my mother
And called my father, talked a little bit with my sister
She’s got a new boyfriend, he’s a deer hunter
And she’s getting used to venison
And my dad’s still fighting with his girlfriend
About us flirting with the girls at Panera Bread
My mom is good but sounded out of breath
I worry so much about her, I worry to death

I worry to death
I worry about her to death
I worry to death

The other night I went and saw The Postal Service
Ben’s my friend but getting there was the worst
Trying to park and getting up the hill
And finding a spot amongst the drunk kids staring at their cells.
Standing at the back with the crowd of eight thousand
I thought of Ben when I met him in 2000
At a festival in Spain
He was on the small stage then and I didn’t know his name
Now he’s singing at the Greek and he’s busting moves
And my legs were hurting and my feet were too
I called him after, said I’ll skip the backstage high five
But thanks for the nice music and all the exercise

And we laughed and it was alright
And we laughed and it was alright
And it was alright

There’s a thin line between a middle-aged guy with a backstage pass
And a guy with a gut hanging around like a jackass
Everybody there was twenty years younger than me
At least that this is not my fondest memory
I carried my legs back down the hill
Gave my backstage passes to two cute asian girls
I drove to my place near Tahoe
Got in my hot tub and I thought well that’s how it goes
And it was quiet and I was listening to the crickets
And Ben’s still out there, selling lots of tickets
And though I’m content, there’s a tinge of competitiveness
But Ben’s my friend and I know he gets it
Then in a couple of days my meltdown passed
Back to the studio doing twelve hours shifts
Singing a song about one thing or another
Another day behind the microphone this summer

This tenderloin summer
This tenderloin summer
This tenderloin summer