Thirty Ghosts

by Harvey Pekar

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released December 16, 2011

Music by Harvey Pekar.
Recorded at Brainchild Recording Studio in Cleveland, Ohio.
Engineered by Noah Buchanan.
Drums on Thirty Ghosts by Rob Kearsey.

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Harvey Pekar Cleveland, Ohio

Harvey Pekar is:
Elliott Frank: Guitar
Ian Douglas: Drums
Nick Kratsas: Vocals
Nick Schmitt: Bass

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Track Name: God Damn All Gentlemen
God Damn All Gentlemen[1]

This bus ride downtown is perfectly paired with that sullen Paul Simon song[2]. Static streets: the veins of that frozen lake. Cleveland winters are the greyest shade of bleak. Late night jokes and jabs from 1980’s silver screens have accumulated and manifested as dark clouds hanging over this receding skyline[3]. Chips rain down on the shoulders of bitter inhabitants - an ever-present reminder that opportunity lies elsewhere. We live in the shadow of the dead. What makes a man but where he’s from? We sing a belated eulogy.


1 “No two things on earth are equal or have an equal chance, not a leaf nor a tree. There’s many a man worse than me, and some better, but I don’t think race or country matters a damn. What matters is justice. ‘Tis why I’m here. I’ll be treated as I deserve, not as my father deserved. I’m Kilrain, and I God damn all gentlemen.” Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels.

2 “In my little town / I never meant nothin' / I was just my father's son / Saving my money / Dreaming of glory / Twitching like a finger / On the trigger of a gun / Leaving nothing but the dead and dying / Back in my little town” Simon, Paul. My Little Town

3 Beverly: “You got some place to go?” Howard: “Hey, if I had some place to go I certainly wouldn’t be in Cleveland.” Howard The Duck
Track Name: Confronting Nag
Confronting Nag[4]

My self-doubt can be crippling. Feeling like a bird with clipped wings - appendages can’t catch the wind. But I’ve grounded myself. Dumbo’s feather undermines my daring[5]. The blockhead in me contemplates my track record kicking that ball[6]. I lead a monastic life in this drove. Tired of being a face often seen but a person seldom known. Eyes: the gateway to the soul. My yellow pair prefers staring at the ground. Those times I’d disappear for weeks to find comfort in the glow of a cathode-ray-tube. The warm anonymity of overstimulation was my island. Good grief! This blockhead poises for a charge - full force at fear and doubt, shedding old traits like dead skin.

4. “He was afraid for a minute, but it is impossible for a mongoose to stay frightened for any length of time, and though Rikki-tikki had never met a live cobra before, his mother had fed him on dead ones, and he knew that all a mongoose’s business in life was to fight and eat snakes. Nag new that too and, at the bottom of his cold heart, he was afraid.” Kipling, Rudyard. "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi." The Jungle Book.

5. “Dumbo! C'mon, fly! Open them ears! The magic feather was just a gag! You can fly! Honest, you can! Hey, open 'em up! Hurry!” Dumbo

6. “Okay, Charlie Brown… I’ll hold the ball, and you come running up, and kick it…” Schultz, Charles. Peanuts
Track Name: Begotten Of Ian Fleming
Begotten Of Ian Fleming

View-Master disc of stoic WASP-y testosterone arms-racers with Goldilocks-approved confidence and effortlessly hypnotic sway over the opposite sex: the revolving images of my impressionable naivety. I agonized over jumping castle walls[7]. I can hardly imagine the ruminations of our sisters[8]. What sort of culture… what sort of sick culture implants these thoughts in its youth? Cinderella’s feet were so desirable the envious became masochists. Pain and self-loathing spawn from the perceived need to fit into a so-called “pretty” person’s shoes[9]. I am not my Y-chromosome. These overalls are not one size fits all. The princess has rejected domesticity. Embrace one another as unique allies rather than cloned rivals.

7. “Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!” Super Mario Bros.

8. “The beauty barrage peoples the fantasy locus of a woman with ‘beautiful’ naked ghosts that claim her territory, turning a dim private space into a movie set where famous strangers who have nothing to do with her display themselves.” Wolf, Naomi. The Beauty Myth.

9. “‘Cut the toe off; when thou art Queen thou wilt have no more need to go on foot.’ The maiden cut the toe off, forced the foot into the shoe, swallowed the pain, and went out to the King’s son. Then he took her on his horse as his bride and rode away with her.” Grimm, Jacob, and Wilhelm Grimm. "Cinderella." Fairy Tales.
Track Name: Dear Tutankhamun,
Dear Tutankhamun,

Money does not grow on trees. Purses filled with Terminator seeds[10]. Polished copper plated zinc valued by gold in a Kentuckian vault. Planted my dollar bills, sowed my consumer goods: reaped nothing. (Frugal inheritance) Sages and John Does gave me seeds - cost them arms, legs, and elbow grease. They said, “Tend to these with will and opportunity.” Of what use are the fortunes of pharaohs? Rotting tangibility amid an oxidizing hoard. To what end, for what purpose, at what cost accrue the treasures of dead men? Good fortune in hand: won’t trade my green thumb for the Golden Touch[11]. This shovel named “altruism” digs the way for posterity. Bury my body in an unmarked grave; I am so much more than this entropic carbon form.

10. “A corporation is not a person. It doesn't think. People in it think and for them it is legitimate to create terminator technology, so that farmers are not able to save their seeds. Seeds that will destroy themselves through a suicide gene. Seeds that are designed to only produce crop in one season.” Vandana Shiva, The Corporation

11. “He took up a book from the table. At his first touch, it assumed the appearance of such a splendidly-bound and gilt-edged volume as one often meets with, now-a-days ; but, on running his fingers through the leaves, behold ! it was a bundle of thin golden plates, in which all the wisdom of the book had grown illegible.” Hawthrone, Nathaniel. “The Golden Touch.” A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys
Track Name: Rot On The Vine
Rot On The Vine

Thirty ghosts reside in my shadow[12]. Their achievements: whispers in my ear. I cannot outrun them. They inquire: “Are you a typical 21st century twenty-something? A man seemingly confined to a time zone, who confides in UPCs and quotable platitudes. Oh fortunate son, you tread water, you run in place. Child of privilege, middle-class white male of the Peter-Pan Generation: what is your defense?” What is my defense? I scour my room where painstakingly saved-up pennies and stamp collections dwell[13]. Nothing but to-dos and wish lists and dusty dreams that prove I’ve always been more Cameron than Ferris[14]. What good is a labor of love locked under glass[15]? Even a hopeful future tense has nothing on the active present. I will smash my ceramic pig until I have spent every cent of my efforts.

12. “Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living.” Clarke, Arthur C. 2001: A Space Odyssey.

13. “Particulars, as every on knows, make for virtue and happiness; generalities are intellectually necessary evils. Not philosophers but fret-sawyers and stamp collectors compose the backbone of society.” Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World.

14. Cameron: “I’m dying.” Ferris: “You’re not dying, you just can’t think of anything good to do.” Ferris Beuller’s Day Off

15. “You see those cars that are completely stock cherry, right out of a dealer’s showroom in 1955, I always think, what a waste.” Palahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club.