Tombstone Tuesday - The Cemetery Gates Pt. 1

I thought we'd do something a little different for this regular segment, so here's our first Cemetery Gates edition of Tombstone Tuesday!

This week, it's the gates of Niagara Falls' Drummond Hill Cemetery on Lundy's Lane . . .

Stay Tombed!



The Quest for the Dark Tower Pt. 8: The Vacant Lot - Part I

***Spoiler warning! Though I've made every attempt to avoid giving away key plot points during this quest, it's still very possible that information discussed herein may spoil a new reader's experience, so consider yourself warned! ***

Jake walks the entire eight blocks of Second Avenue, from Fifty-forth Street all the way down to Forty-sixth Street. In Eddie's dream, when he arrives at the corner of 46th and 2nd he finds Tom and Gerry's Artistic Deli (Party Platters Our Specialty!). When Eddie inserts the key he's been carving into the door's lock, it opens onto the Dark Tower standing at the center of a field of blood red roses.

Jake's experience though, like the House Of Cards magic shop that was actually a diner named Chew Chew Mama's, is somewhat different. Rather than the deli, which somehow he fully expects to find after walking past a stationary store named The Paper Patch, he comes instead to a vacant lot containing weeds, piles of bricks and other trash, like beer bottles and empty wrappers.

The board fence surrounding this vacant lot is plastered with handbills featuring advertisements for Olivia Newton John performing at Radio City Music Hall, a band called G. Gordon Liddy and the Grots performing at an East Village club and a movie poster for War of the Zombies.

War of the Zombies is a 1964 Italian film originally released internationally under the title Roma Contra Roma (Rome Against Rome).

It was distinct from other "sword and sandal" epics of the time because of it's use of a legion of living dead zombie soldiers warring against the Roman armies they once fought for. It stars John Drew Barrymore as Aderbal, a villainous enchanter who bears a striking resemblance to Gilead's own traitorous sorcerer, Marten Broadcloak.

Among all these handbills, Jake also notices a sign:


which has been tagged by a graffiti artist known as Bango Skank. This isn't the last time this type of graffiti will show up. Several times throughout the course of the Dark Tower series Bango Skank's name is found, but what's most interesting is that this isn't the first appearance of this signature tag, either.

Bango Skank first showed up alongside another graffiti tagger by the name of Jeepy, in The Buffalo Hunter, a short story in the collection Houses Without Doors by Peter Straub.

Bev Vincent dedicated an entire sidebar entitled The Ubiquitous Bango Skank in his The Road To The Dark Tower, which mentions how Bango Skank was originally created by Straub for The Talisman, but was never used. Strangely, despite a lengthy list of appearances elsewhere in the Dark Tower series, the appearances in The Buffalo Hunter aren't mentioned at all.

Continuing to explore the vacant lot, Jake sees more graffiti art, one reads:

See the TURTLE of enormous girth!
On his shell he holds the earth
If you want to run and play,
Come along the BEAM today.

Another, on the old Tom and Gerry's Artistic Deli sign simply says:


Eventually Jake comes across a key which he picks up and puts into the Charlie the Choo Choo book . . .

. . . and then, just beyond where the key was resting Jake finds a single, beautifully alien wild rose growing in the shade, just out of sight from the street. He gazes at the flower, entranced by it's beauty, and feels an overwhelming urge to protect this rose from any harm that may come to it. Before he can do anything else though, he realizes the hour has grown late and reluctantly decides to head for home.

Long days, pleasant nights!



Tombstone Tuesday!

A gravestone marker in Los Angeles' Hollywood Forever cemetery. Once again, the name "Graves" in a place full of graves is spookily appropriate. The palm trees seem a bit out of place (cypress is the traditional tree of choice for cemeteries), but then, it is California.

Stay Tombed!



The Quest for the Dark Tower Pt. 7: The Eight Magic Blocks

***Spoiler warning! Though I've made every attempt to avoid giving away key plot points during this quest, it's still very possible that information discussed herein may spoil a new reader's experience, so consider yourself warned! ***

When Jake leaves The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind he continues walking down Second Avenue. At this point, it should be noted that earlier on in the novel The Waste Lands, Eddie Dean has dreams of walking down the same street, which between 54th and 46th Sts. is collectively referred to as The Eight Magic Blocks in Robin Furth's The Dark Tower: A Concordance.

Eddie's dream version of the walk begins with him carrying a book, when he stops to read the title he sees that it is You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe (which features a very similar waking dream sequence that also takes place in Turtle Bay with the character, Foxhall Edwards). On the cover he sees the shapes of a key, a rose and a door.

Very similar to the opening lines of Thomas Wolfe's first novel, Look Homeward, Angel, which begins " . . . a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; of a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces." When Eddie opens the book in his hand, the first line in the book reads "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." This is the opening sentence to the The Gunslinger, and it should also come as no surprise that the revised and expanded edition of The Gunslinger opens with the first lines to Look Homeward, Angel.

Obviously, these novels will have a great deal to do with The Dark Tower before the story is through, but in Eddie's dream, he drops the book into the hands of a vagrant sitting in front of a magic shop named House of Cards. Later, when Jake passes by this building (handing the vagrant sitting in front the change from his purchases instead of a book), it actually houses a diner named Chew Chew Mama's. Much later in the story, in Song of Susannah, readers will discover the name has changed once again to Dennis' Waffles and Pancakes.

So what do the many different names of the corner of 52nd Street and 2nd Avenue mean? I'd guess that Roland would say that "time is a face on the water." In other words, things change and in New York City things can change very quickly. In our own where and when, the north-east corner of 52nd St. and 2nd Ave. is home to a restaurant named Go Sushi.

In both Eddie's dreams and Jake's where and when, the corner of 51st and 2nd is home to Tower of Power Records, which is prone to blasting music by The Rolling Stones out of it's streetfront speakers. In our reality, the corner has been rebuilt and is home to a Rite Aid pharmacy.

What I found most interesting was that halfway between 49th and 48th streets, where both Eddie and Jake see a mirror shop named Reflections Of You, is a bulletin board for the Turtle Bay Association.

On the day Niki and I visited, the board was displaying a cancellation of a party held at The Katherine Hepburn Garden due to rainstorms (which cleared up just as we arrived on Second Ave.) and a special edition of The Turtle Bay News, reacting to the crane disaster that had devastated several buildings in the neighborhood just two months before. A little further uptown, another crane accident had occurred just days before. It all seemed like a series of strange coincidences considering the next location we visited on Second Ave . . .

Long days, pleasant nights!



When Hell Freezes Over . . .

A little while ago, I posted some pictures of the Devil's Punchbowl and I've been waiting for the weather to turn cold (it's been especially warm through the first half of the season) so that Niki and I could revisit to get some photos of the Punchbowl during the winter months.

Last week, while on a day trip to Stoney Creek, we finally got our chance . . .

The parking lot was closed, so we had to settle for pulling off to the side of the road and taking a little stroll through the snow, but there were several other people doing the same so it didn't seem to be a problem.

Once we reached the cliff's edge, sure enough it looked like hell had frozen over, looking much like Dante's experience in the ninth circle of hell when face to face with the great Adversary himself:

'Under each face two monstrous wings were spread,
Proportionate to such a monstrous bird:
I never saw sails on the sea so broad.

They were not feathered, but of such a kind
As bats have - and the fiend was beating them
So that he blew at once three blasts of wind:

And hence Cocytus is all frozen over.
With six eyes he was weeping; down three chins
The tears were dripping, mixed with bloody slaver.'

- Inferno, Canto XXXIV, lines 46-54



Tombstone Tuesday!

Here's a row of very old grave markers from Port Colborne's St. Joseph's Cemetery that Niki took a picture of a few years ago.

Stay Tombed!



The Quest for the Dark Tower Pt. 6: The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind

***Spoiler warning! Though I've made every attempt to avoid giving away key plot points during this quest, it's still very possible that information discussed herein may spoil a new reader's experience, so consider yourself warned! ***

After Jake flees The Piper School, fearing that his steadily growing insanity has finally become noticeable to those around him, he wanders the streets of New York with seeming aimlessness. After encountering two businessmen playing tic-tac-toe on the board wall of a construction site just down the street from Lexington Avenue and Fifty-forth Street, Jake crosses Lexington and continues on.

When he reaches the corner of Second Ave. and Fifty-fourth St., Jake is suddenly overwhelmed with a feeling of radiant goodness and a sense of positive anticipation; the exact opposite of what he had felt three weeks earlier just before the voices had begun to argue. Jake yells aloud, declaring, "It's the White! It's the coming of the White!"

Continuing down 2nd Avenue, he soon finds himself standing before a bookstore. In our own where and when, 988 Second Avenue (where the bookstore known as The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind is said to be located) is actually the site of Tenzan Japanese Restaurant, which opened it's doors to the Turtle Bay community in April of 2007.

Speaking of Turtle Bay; another restaurant, simply named Turtle Bay Grill and Lounge, is located directly across the street and has been in business in the neighborhood since 1997. A number of Tower Junkies have pointed out this restaurant over the years and it's this storefront that many devoted Dark Tower readers think of when imagining the front façade of The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind, right down to the chalkboard menu standing out front.

In Jake's where and when of May 1977, he looks at the chalkboard in front of the bookstore and reads the daily specials . . .

From Florida! Fresh-Broiled John D. MacDonald
Hardcovers 3 for $2.50
Paperbacks 9 for $5.00

From Mississippi! Pan-Fried William Faulkner
Hardcovers Market Price
Vintage Library Paperbacks 75¢ each

From California! Hard-Boiled Raymond Chandler
Hardcovers Market Price
Paperbacks 7 for $5.00


Entering the store, Jake finds the works of these authors displayed each on their own table, with a Malt Shoppe-style counter running down the center of the room. On another table dedicated to children's books, Jake sees Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, The Hobbit, and Tom Sawyer before he sees and picks up two books, Charlie the Choo-Choo and Riddle-De-Dum! Brain-Twisters and Puzzles for Everyone!

Making his way to the counter to pay for the two books, Jake soon finds himself engaged in a conversation with the store's proprietor, who introduces himself as Calvin Tower, as well as another customer at the counter who Tower is playing chess with. During the course of the conversation, Tower refers to Jake as "O Hyperborean Wanderer." Which may simply be because Jake is out walking around on a beautiful spring day, but the title of Clark Ashton Smith's collection of stories, Hyperborea might suggest a deeper literary meaning. Given Tower's occupation as a bookstore owner, this seems very likely the case.

Jake introduces himself and Tower once again drops a literary clue, remarking that Jake's full name, Jake Chambers, "sounds like a footloose hero in a Western novel–the guy who blows into Black Fork, Arizona, cleans up the town, and then travels on. Something by Wayne D. Overholser maybe."

As Tower rings up the bill for Jake's purchases, he observes that Jake seems a bit too old for these books and thinks he might be more interested in a good deal on some nice old Donald Grant edition Robert Howard books featuring Conan the Barbarian, the ones with the Roy Krenkel paintings. In actuality, Roy Krenkel never illustrated any of the Donald Grant edition Conan books by Robert Howard, but Krenkel did illustrate other Donald Grant editions of Howard's works, including The Sowers of the Thunder and The Road of Azrael.

Jake is intrigued at the prospect of these books, but has only enough money to cover the two books he'd selected on impulse. He lies to Tower, saying that he needs them for his little brother whose birthday is next week.

Tower doesn't buy the lie, but simply remarks that Jake looks like an only child "enjoying a day of French leave as Mistress May trembles in her green gown just outside the bosky dell of June." Tower apologizes for the poetry, explaining that spring always puts him in a William Cowper (that's pronounced Cooper) kind of mood.

It's at this point that Aaron Deepneau, the customer playing chess with Tower, interjects and tells Tower to hurry up and get back to the game in play. Deepneau is not only playing chess, but also reading a battered copy of Albert Camus' The Plague. Tower concludes the transaction and Jake leaves, but quickly returns to ask about one of the riddles he's just read in Riddle-De-Dum!:

'Out of the eater came forth meat,
and out of the strong came forth sweetness!'

Deepneau helps Jake solve the riddle using a verse from the song 'Samson and Delilah' and then poses Jake with another riddle:

'What can run but never walks,
Has a mouth but never talks,
Has a bed but never sleeps,
Has a head but never weeps?'

Jake is stumped, but Deepneau doesn't divulge the answer, instead he tells the boy to think it over and come back another time if he can't figure it out. Jake says he will, thanks the two odd fellows and then once again proceeds walking down Second Avenue.

Long days, pleasant nights!



Tombstone Tuesday!

Once again, like the 'Fear' and 'Lament' stones in St. Catharines' Victoria Lawn Cemetery, I happened to come across this gravemarker with the name 'Skelton' that just seemed all too appropriate in a place filled with skeletons.

Stay Tombed!



The Quest for the Dark Tower - Shuffle: The Songs of Roland Part I

***Spoiler warning! Though I've made every attempt to avoid giving away key plot points during this quest, it's still very possible that information discussed herein may spoil a new reader's experience, so consider yourself warned! ***

It's amazing how many musical references there are in the Dark Tower series, so I thought I'd share what I think of as "The Ultimate DT Playlist." This entry covers Books I-IV (since I'd rather not jump too far ahead of my own quest's narrative). Part II (covering books V-VII) will be posted in a future entry.

There are a lot of songs on this list, and I'm sure I've missed a few, so if there's anything missing, or if any of the links turn out to be broken, please feel free to mention it. This list wouldn't be nearly as complete as it is if not for several playlists that had been posted on the now defunct web community, www.TheDarkTower.net, so I'd like to take moment to say thanks to those good folks for sharing and helping to enrich so many readers' listening experience.

I've included links to Youtube (or other sources, on those rare occasions when Youtube came up dry) and page numbers to the trade paperback editions for easy reference. In many cases, I've included some commentary notes (for example, where a band or singer is mentioned, I've tried to include the song that best suits the situation, or vice versa). Some song references have been mentioned repeatedly, so for simplicity's sake, I've only included the first page where a song is made reference to.

Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger

- Woodstock - Crosby, Stills Nash & Young (pg. xi of the expanded and revised edition)

- Bobby Ann Mason - Rick Trevino (pg. xii of the expanded and revised edition)

- TNT - AC/DC (pg. xii of the expanded and revised edition)

- Like A Rock - Bob Seger (pg. xii of the expanded and revised edition)

- Time Is On My Side - The Rolling Stones (pg. xv of the expanded and revised edition)

- Hey Jude - The Beatles (pg. 22 - pg. 17 of the expanded and revised edition)

- Onward Christian Soldiers – Traditional (pg. 34 - pg. 31 of the expanded and revised edition)

- Shall We Gather at the River – Traditional (pg. 48 - pg. 49 of the expanded and revised edition)

- Calling Dr. Love - KISS (pg. 83 - pg. 88 of the expanded and revised edition)

- Careless Love – Traditional (pg. 86 - pg. 91 of the expanded and revised edition) - I like various versions of this song, depending on the situation. Bessie Smith, Fats Domino and Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash’s versions are all favorites.

- Ease on Down the Road - Michael Jackson and Diana Ross (pg. 120 - 126 of the expanded and revised edition) – The first reference to the Wizard of Oz, and a mighty strange and unlikely one at that.

- A Hundred Leagues to Banberry Cross (pg. 120 - Replaced with Careless Love in the revised and expanded edition) – This probably refers to How Many Miles to Banbury Cross which is an alternate title for How Many Miles to Babylon a traditional English nursery rhyme.

- Instant Karma (We All Shine On) – John Lennon (pg. 191 - Omitted from the revised and expanded edition)

Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three

- Lookin’ Out My Back Door - Creedence Clearwater Revival (pg. 77) - Eddie has a door following three feet behind him and he occasionally looks back through it. Also, repeated viewings of The Big Lebowski (a character with some similarities to Eddie) has caused me to consider the song in another light, or rather, a place where the sun doesn’t shine. The Dude listens to this track immediately after his (thorough) physical examination. Eddie endures a similar experience with Jack Andolini’s brother, Claudio . . . back door indeed.

- Just A Gigolo - David Lee Roth (pg. 93) - “I ain’t got no body . . .”

- Tu-Ber-Cu-Lucas and the Sinus Blues - Huey “Piano” Smith and His Clowns (pg. 123) - This is the song with the lyric “Doctor tole me son you got to quit it fast / Because one more rocket gonna be your last” which was incorrectly credited to Billie Holiday.

- You Go To My Head – Billie Holiday (pg. 123) - Even though Billie is incorrectly credited with singing “Tub-Ber-Cu-Lucas,” I still felt she needed to be represented. After all, nothing is mentioned in the Dark Tower without purpose. Granted, the mention of Ms. Holiday here is really only to emphasize her involvement with heroin, I think this song might sum up exactly what Henry Dean could be thinking as he’s given his last shot. Plus the fact that, soon after, Eddie breaks cover to run for Henry adds a slightly morbid literal twist to the song.

- Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash (pg. 124)

- A Boy Named Sue - Johnny Cash (pg. 124)

- People - Barbara Streisand (pg. 170)

- Pink Shoe Laces – Dodie Stevens (pg. 196) - Heard briefly by Detta Walker while scratching the face of a drunk frat-boy in the back of a ’46 Dodge DeSoto in a roadhouse parking lot.

- We Shall Not Be Moved - Mavis Staples (pg. 198)

- John Henry – Traditional (pg. 199)

- Barbry Allen – Traditional (pg. 199)

- Take The ‘A’ Train – Duke Ellington (pg. 215) - That fabled ‘A’ train that stops nowhere near Christopher St. Station.

- Oxford Town – Bob Dylan (pg. 233) - “Two men dead by the light of the moon / Somebody’d better investigate soon.”

- Twilight Time - The Platters (pg. 295) - "Heavenly shades of night are falling . . ."

Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands

- Among The Living – Anthrax (pg. 55) - Captain Trips and The Walkin’ Dude. Wonderful little bit of musical foreshadowing.

- Peace Sells – Megadeth (pg. 55) - The title track for the album, the cover of which features Vic Rattlehead leaning on a “For Sale” sign in front of a bombed-out, dilapidated UN building. The vacant lot is in a similar predicament only one block over.

- Down on the Corner - Creedence Clearwater Revival (pg. 72) - Seems like the logical CCR song to be playing on Eddie's headphones as he imagines himself standing on the corner of Broadway and 42nd St.

- Paint It Black - Rolling Stones (pg. 77) - "I see a red door and I want to paint it black . . ."

- Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won’t Do) – Creedence Clearwater Revival (Wilson Pickett cover) (pg. 85) - Eddie (a confessed fan of CCR) thinks a very similar line while contemplating the carving of the wooden key.

- Love to Love You Baby (Radio Edit) - Donna Summer (pg. 104)

- Samson and Delilah – The Grateful Dead (pg. 117) - “Samson and the lion got into an attack / And Samson climbed up on the the lion’s back.” From The Grateful Dead’s “Terrapin Station.” Turtles and Train Stations . . . ye gods.

- Choo Choo Mama – Ten Years After (pg. 119) - “Chew Chew”

- Blitzkrieg Bop – The Ramones (pg. 172) - On the trail to the speaking ring Eddie lets out a gusty “Hey Ho, Let’s go!”

- Kashmir – Led Zeppelin (pg. 182) - Jake hears a LedZep tune on the gum-chewing cutie's transistor radio, I figured the song that mentions a "wasted land" was the perfect choice.

- Legs – ZZ Top (pg. 196) - “She got legs and she knows how to use them” Eddie quotes this line once more in Wolves of the Calla.

- Double Shot of My Baby’s Love - Dick Holler and the Holidays (pg. 196)

- Hippy Hippy Shake - Chan Romero (pg. 196)

- Foggy Mountain Breakdown – Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs (pg. 227) - The closest I could find to “Clinch Mountain Breakdown.” And yes, it sounds about as inappropriate a thing as you could play on a banjo during a funeral.

- Buffalo Gals - Trad. (pg. 228) - Versions of the original arrangement by Woody Guthrie or even Bruce Springsteen are far more appropriate than Malcolm McLaren's old school hip-hop track, which, while influential in it’s own right, has nothing to do with the Dark Tower (of course, there is a Sex Pistols reference in Wizard and Glass so who knows?).

- Darlin’ Katie – Michael Holliday (pg. 228) - Misspelled 'Katy' in DT:III.

- Red Roses for a Blue Lady - Wayne Newton (pg. 228) - Eddie mentions him in relation to Jimtown (for those curious, Newton was born in Norfolk, Virginia) and I didn’t want to simply fall back on the old “Danke Schoen” cliché. When I dug this track up it seemed to fit perfectly, what with the rose in the vacant lot and Susannah's Aunt Blue.

- Sharp Dressed Man - Z.Z. Top (pg.254)

- Velcro Fly - Z.Z. Top (pg. 254)

- Knock Three Times - Tony Orlando and Dawn (pg. 317)

- My Gal’s a Corker - Trad. (pg. 336)

- See You Later Alligator – Bill Haley and His Comets (pg. 385)- One of Blaine’s favorite sayings, I figured this song deserved inclusion, since Blaine drops quite a few musical references to the tet.

- Stardust - Hoagy Carmichael (pg. 399)

- Tube Snake Boogie - Z.Z. Top (pg. 409)

Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass

- As Time Goes By - Frank Sinatra (pg. 39)

- Blue Sky - Allman Brothers Band (pg. 56) - Music references from Blaine. this song is from the album Eat a Peach and could easily be used to describe Blaine's late companion, Patricia.

- To Be a Lover - Billy Idol (pg. 56) - From Idol's album Whiplash Smile. Billy keeps yelling "Have mercy!" throughout the song, I like to think that's what Blaine was driving at (in his usual obtuse and riddling way . . . I'm still puzzling over "OLIVE OIL BUT NOT CASTORIA" twelve years later).

- On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe - Judy Garland (pg. 68) - Roland notices a sign featuring this railway. The movie ‘The Harvey Girls’ stars Judy Garland (Oz), as Susan (!) and features this song early on.

- Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival (pg. 90) - All that talk of demons and moons makes this a pretty obvious choice.

- Flying High (In the Friendly Sky) - Marvin Gaye (pg. 90) - Sounds like the sort of song Eddie would dig while doing some turnpikin’.

- Hard Headed Woman - Elvis Presley (pg. 90) - This song references Samson and Delilah and the phrase "hard headed woman" is mentioned later on in Song of Susannah.

- Pretty Vacant - Sex Pistols (pg. 100) - A Sex Pistols poster shows up on the fence of the vacant lot. Can’t get much more obvious than this for song choices.

- Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On – Jerry Lee Lewis (pg. 214) - One of Pettie the Trotter's favorites.

- Golden Slippers – Traditional (pg. 244) - Sheemie hums this one, probably heard Sheb playing it the night before.

- Lay Lady Lay - Bob Dylan (pg. 268) - Possibly a variation of Mid-World's Play, Ladies, Play?

- White Christmas - Frank Sinatra & Bing Crosby (pg. 406) - "We'll break bread and speak of . . . whether or not Frank Sinatra really was a better crooner than Der Bingle."

- Red Dirt Boogie, Brother – Jesse Davis (pg. 466) - Possibly a variation of Mid-World's Red Dirt Boogie?

- Beer Bottle Boogie – Marilyn Scott (pg. 563) - Possibly a variation of Mid-World's Big Bottle Boogie?

- All God’s Chillun Got Wings – Paul Robeson (pg. 627) "I got shoes, you got shoes, all god's chillun got shoes . . ."

- We’re Off to See the Wizard - Wizard of Oz Cast (pg. 633)

- Brain Damage - Pink Floyd (pg. 633) "See you on the Dark Side of the Moon . . ."

- Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Judy Garland (pg. 636)

- Green Door – Jim Lowe (pg. 640)

- Big Iron - Marty Robbins (pg. 664)

Long days, pleasant nights!