Connecting the Dots: Al Giordano, Rio de Janeiro and the Spirit of Jeff Buckley

“I will not be afraid of death and bane till Birnam forest come to Dunsinane.” -Macbeth

Lately I’ve been searching all over the place for something...anything... to give me a sign indicating the tide has finally turned. It’s now a fact that the once invincible juggernaut of Globalism has ground to a halt. The enemy is floundering on every front. Their propaganda is falling on deaf ears. Their well planned schemes and agendas have been fully exposed for what they really are. It’s as if fate has finally intervened and unleashed a spectacular Russian Winter upon the enemy’s forces. Ironically, the only thing the proponents of Globalism have now succeeded in doing is uniting the whole world against them.

Then last week a friend of mine living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil notified me with some great news... “They’re going to perform a Tribute for Jeff Buckley at the Centro Cultural Solar de Botafogo on the 19th!”

I could scarcely believe what I’d heard. Really? Huh? Why? How??? It was so impossible an idea for me to fathom that I began to laugh and felt giddy with bewilderment.

How could this be possible in the most unlikely of places? My mind began to process the news but could not logically adjust to this new piece of information. Jeff Buckley and Rio? Rio and Jeff Buckley? I examined it from above, below and all around but it did not equate.  

Moments later it all dawned on me. I began to connect the dots.

My memories from an early May evening in Portland, Oregon more than 12 years ago came rushing back. Everyone remembers the exact time and place when they first heard the music. Many have an often-fascinating tale to tell. Was this really what I have been looking for? Was this indeed a Sign? After all, I spent two-and-a-half years in Rio de Janeiro and at first that seemed impossible. Connecting the dots...  

The long endless drizzle of a typically Pacific Northwest winter had finally come to an end. The air was both delightfully and unusually warm. I felt restless and bored. I was eager to do something so I left my then southeast Portland residence and began to wander around the neighborhood.

My first wife had recently left me without a fight. “It’s over, Garrett and I am tired.” She quietly walked out of our apartment leaving me with every piece of furniture still intact.

I was also suffering from a strong disillusionment with progressive politics in general. I no longer wanted anything to do with all of those humorless drones who blasphemously called themselves “radicals.” The spirit of Abbie Hoffman certainly didn’t dwell within their embittered souls. The “movement” had been going nowhere for some time and they certainly helped make sure of it. The ghost of John Reed seemed to haunt them with a vengeance while Nike and Intel reigned supreme on the other side of the Willamette River.

The blunt yet profound words of Ace Hayes kept echoing in my mind among other things that fateful spring evening. I admired the work of the aging yet energetic veteran of the 60s despite his caustic personality. His articles in the Portland Free Press and Secret Government Seminars were legendary. Within days he knew exactly what had recently gone down in Oklahoma City a couple of weeks previous. An amazing feat considering it took place before the advent of the World Wide Web. Unlike the rest of his peers, Ace Hayes evolved and adapted himself over the years. He was Karl Marx holding a brightly polished Smith & Wesson six-shooter.

 “...Look, kid. Don’t be a fricken idiot. Politics ain’t a Left and Right thing... it’s an Up and Down thing... God damn the Rockefeller’s....”

 The sun was beginning to set when I stopped to see who was playing that night in front of the Aladdin Theater. The place had been recently converted from a dingy old porno film-house into a venue showcasing live up and coming alternative performers. Delicious Widmer beer was always served inside. The Aladdin was presenting some unknown named Jeff Buckley and his Mystery White Boy Tour.

What the heck I thought and bought a ticket. While casually walking into the auditorium and delicately holding a cold pint of Widmer beer, I scarcely noticed the vendors’ table. On it were several neat stacks of CDs entitled Jeff Buckley: Grace. I purposely sat down near the back of the theater in order to avoid the small gaggles of people already seated. Considering the mood I was in, the patiently waiting audience was thankfully small. Maybe around 150. I had this strong desire to watch the show with as much solitude as possible. If it was going to suck, I wouldn’t have any trouble finding my way out either.

The lights soon dimmed and three men walked out onto the Aladdin’s modest-sized stage with some polite applause from the audience. Oh great, I sardonically thought, a trio... definitely not a good sign. A spotlight was then shown upon a lanky pasty-skinned character with unkempt hair, which looked nothing like his photo on the CD. Jeff Buckley squinted for a bit as he slightly tuned his Fender guitar. He next mumbled something to his drummer and bass player before ripping into Mojo Pin.

I was immediately impressed by the sound and the trio was holding up surprisingly well. In-between songs, Jeff would chat and sheepishly joke with the audience. I don’t recall how many numbers into the set or if I was nursing my second or third Widmer, before everyone in attendance, including the Aladdin’s event staff, were totally blow away.

It began with “Last Goodbye.” Not only did it rock but it was wholly original. Buckley’s sonorous and melancholic voice seemed to soar above the song’s powerfully orchestrated chord progressions and interchanging rhythms. Both sound and voice kept building and building until its stunning climax

“.........ooooooooooooooooooooooooh......aaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.....did you say... NOOOOOO THIS CAN’T HAPPEN TO MEEEEE!!!!”

When it was over I found myself sitting 20 rows closer to the stage. I lost half of my beer in the process but could have cared less. No one else seemed to care if some of it got on them, either. The small crowd stood and loudly cheered. A wry grin crept across Buckley’s face. He knew he had us and now he was going for the kill.

 “You guys are a lot better than the crowd I had up in Vancouver...” Buckley quipped while tuning his Fender. “It was weird. No really... weird because they were totally zoned out and laying on the floor. Over-dosing from too much caffeine I guess...”

 Jeff tinkered with the guitar a little more and then strummed his way into Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” He sang the entire song with his eyes closed and the Aladdin began transforming into a cathedral. Buckley’s voice again soared but this time higher and higher. Up through the rafters it climbed and I am sure even farther beyond.

After the show I bought his debut CD, “Grace.” While heading home I knew I had experienced something truly special. It must have been like seeing Elvis Presley or the Beatles before they had their big history making breaks. I was sure Jeff Buckley was going to be that big. He certainly belonged up there with those guys. Waves of exhilaration and an overwhelming sense of relief coursed through my body. Everything’s gonna be alright, I kept thinking. Maybe this is what they call grace...

The next couple of years there was very little fanfare given to Jeff Buckley, though. People have their theories but I kind of knew why. He was too good for the over-commercialized music industry which even then was gearing everything new for the under-17 and brain-dead market. Perhaps the corporate bigwigs found him to be dangerous. How could you present Filet Mignons to someone who has only known McDonald’s? This made my appreciation for Buckley’s music even greater. The guy was never going to sell out. He had too much soul.

Thus the Cult of Jeff Buckley began. Only true musical connoisseurs and lucky fools like myself would get to know his music. Then on May 29, 1997 it was for certain. All I kept thinking when I heard the tragic news of Buckley’s death was, oh no... not another Vincent Van Gogh. The world would not know what it had missed. It made the tragedy that much harder to bear. The world mourned the loss of Princess Diana that year but for me we lost someone of even greater royalty.

Nonetheless, the Cult of Jeff Buckley began to slowly grow in the following years. I personally evangelized for his music and passed his CDs along to anyone who deserved to hear it. Jeff Buckley’s steadily increasing notoriety must have happened by word of mouth, or in this case, from ear to ear. Artists and musicians from all genres began mentioning his work during interviews. To know Jeff Buckley was like a code that signified a lot more than appreciating his music. It was like receiving a relic or gift from a medieval saint. A Patron Saint for all of those who deserved to make it but for some reason or another could not.

So everywhere I went, whether it was in Portland Oregon, California, New Mexico, Washington DC, Boston or even Brazil, I made sure as many people as possible could be turned on to the music. Watching people get hooked and fall in love was always an amazing thing. If “Last Goodbye” or “Hallelujah” didn’t convince them, then tunes like “Lilac Wine” and “Corpus Christi Carol” certainly would. Afterwards these new initiates of the Cult immediately scrambled to find everything Buckley made.

“...So beautiful and so much promise yet so little to know... why? Why did he have to die????”

By late 2002, I was living in Sao Paulo deep inside my already doomed 3rd marriage when I came upon the website narconews.com. I was scouring the internet and wanted to find something remotely relevant about what was actually happening in Latin America. I must confess I was at first skeptical about the site because on the surface it was overtly Leftist. Bad memories, yet I hungered for some real news. The site often showcased the Zapatistas and most importantly Marcos whom I had always admired a lot. It was then I began to read the writings of Al Giordano.

The guy kept talking about this idea he called authentic journalism. Yeah, the world desperately needed such a thing especially in those ever increasingly-dark days. America had lost its mind after September 11. Both demons and idiots were running amuck. It was what I had always dreaded would happen and there seemed no way of stopping it. Ace Hayes was now dead and the so-called “radicals” were still hiding from the Ghost of John Reed. No one was manning the gates while the alarm bells kept ringing and ringing. Dark days, indeed.

I was first impressed with Al’s style of writing. He was taking a risk by throwing his passions behind his reporting. His pieces of writing were full of wit and humor. It was obvious Al Giordano had escaped from the drones and evolved. Then he threw in something else which leapt off my PC screen and slapped me in the face. Al Giordano was quoting the lyrics of Jeff Buckley. The “code” had been spoken. Hey this guy was definitely ok in my book, and I next decided to do something I vowed never to do again since that terrible winter of 1995. I wanted... albeit temporarily... to get involved.

The Brazilian presidential elections were just a few weeks away. It was looking as if one of the greatest opponents of globalism in Latin America, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his Workers’ Party (PT) were finally going to win after many years of campaigning. I felt that this was real good news and wanted to share it with those in the English speaking world who were desperate for anything positive. So I decided to contact Al Giordano and tell him about it. He immediately wrote me back and told me to see Gomez.

Within hours of meeting Luis Gomez, the article entitled “The Battle of Sao Paulo” was written. Of course I felt like an enormous jackass with everything that happened to Lula and his PT afterwards. It wasn’t only all the corruption and gross incompetence that got to me. They let everyone down and this I could never forgive.

I was living in Rio de Janeiro by the time I finally met Al Giordano in early 2003. There he was chilling out at a Portuguese restaurant in Copacabana, sipping an ice cold chopp cerveja. We pleasantly chatted about his current trip to South America, his School for Authentic Journalism, Abbie Hoffman and a whole myriad of other topics. Yet I was extremely curious about how Al go to know the music of Jeff Buckley. I wanted to hear his story.

Al sipped a little more from his chopp cerveja then sighed.

“Jeff? ...well we were good friends...”

I was floored by this and Al went on to tell me how the both of them were determined to change things in their own way. Al with his authentic journalism and Jeff’s desire to reintroduce genuine art to the musical world. The most important thing was to inspire others to begin doing the same. It was then I truly understood Jeff Buckley’s legacy. Inspiration can be a dangerous thing for those who have other agendas because inspiration inevitably leads to action.

I eventually had to leave Brazil when my visa expired and I certainly didn’t want to return to George Bush’s America. The fear and loathing was viciously accosting me when I got off the plane in Miami in late August of 2005. It seemed many of my fellow countrymen had also gotten a lot meaner, dumber and fatter during my three-year absence. The enemy was obviously still winning. I was also resigned to the fact that any form of inspiration would be impossible to find. For the first time in my life I felt doomed for eternity. Then, a week later, Hurricane Katrina arrived and everything changed.

It has been five years since I first contacted Al Giordano and wrote “The Battle of Sao Paulo.” I got involved again this year by writing several more articles for Narco News. What I saw really going down with Bush’s latest South of the Border Tour made me want to howl. Once again I began connecting the dots and helped expose at least some of the enemy’s battle plans. Yeah, they were “outflanking” us but this time we weren’t gonna get caught with our pants down. The shift to bio-fuels is going to have an horrendous effect on almost everything and everyone between the Yukon and Patagonia.

Now Al Giordano is running around covering the coming American Presidential elections of 2008. He like the rest of us, knows this is indeed one the most important events to happen in decades. The stakes have never been higher. It’s history in the making and this time I am getting fully involved as well. Who knows? Maybe Narco News can expect another on-the-spot special from me called “The Battle for South Carolina.” I have seen a sign that makes me feel the impossible may just happen again. I want to be there for it.  

Messenger to Macbeth:
As I stand my watch upon the hill, I looked toward Birnam,
and anon, me thought, THE WOOD BEGAN TO MOVE  

A Jeff Buckley tribute in Rio de Janeiro seems weird at first. It’s hard to imagine his music being played in a city where samba, pagode, bossa nova and favela funk are the norm. Then again, Rio has more talented musicians and artists per square mile then anywhere else I have been. Many Cariocas like to rock, too. Unfortunately, most will never make it, much less be recognized. Another tragedy in a city mired by endless tragedies. A dose of inspiration is desperately needed. So it makes perfect sense to know the Patron Saint of their cause is coming to Cidade Maravilhosa.

Right after I heard this news of O Tributo, I wanted to send many thanks to Isabella Reinert and her band. Most importantly of all, I wanted to hear her STORY. It was “Last Goodbye” being played on her son’s body-boarding video that did it. Thus began yet another incredible odyssey. I wasn’t the least bit surprised.

Enjoy...

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