Paul Tumey Comic Book: Goodbye to the Factory (1990)

In 1990, I was living in Leominster, Massachusetts with Susan. We were soon to married. This was my two years of experiencing blue collar America. This comic book shares my experiences and feelings about working in a factory.

(Click on each image to enlarge and read)

 Paul Tumey comic Factory 1 Paul Tumey comic Factory 2 Paul Tumey comic Factory 3 Paul Tumey comic Factory 4 Paul Tumey comic Factory 5 Paul Tumey comic Factory 6 Paul Tumey comic Factory 7

Paul Tumey comic Factory 8

Record Review: Paul Simon's Graceland Blows My Mind in 1986

(Record Review)"Simon's Graceland: A Masterful Musical Meld
by Paul Christley Tumey
First Published: Capital City Magazine #24 (Nov, 1986)

review paul simon graceland 1986Where were you when you first heard Paul Simon's Graceland?
It's one of those events where things are different ever after... especially if you were listening in the fall of 1986, when the record first entered the world. It was like nothing else we'd heard.

I was 24 and living with a 44-year old lovely lady. She procured a copy on a cassette tape and lent me her Walkman (remember those?). The music heralded both a new optimism and realism in my life as I matured into a freshly minted adult American.

(Click on the image at left to enlarge and read. )

It's my belief we become different people when we listen to some songs. Graceland's new sounds subtly made me into someone new. Part of that newness for me was becoming a published writer.

This article was one of my first published articles. My buddy Frank Young was the editor of a remarkable weekly magazine, Capitol City (Tallahassee if the capitol of Florida) and he bought some articles from me. I will always be grateful to Frank for making me a professional writer.

Although I've published a lot of record reviews since then, this is one of my favorites. For all the clumsy slightly overblown writing, I managed to get close, I think, to what listening to the music felt like. I was heavily inspired by what Greil Marcus had done with his landmark book on American music, Mystery Train.  I think I at least conveyed the new experience the music held for the listener. The publisher invited me to a staff meeting one day and played a message on the office answering machine. It went something like this:

"I just read Paul Tumey's review of Graceland. I just want to say how great it is that you can get such quality writing in a free local magazine. I'm going to go out right now (voice cracking) and buy the record!"

The record was only weeks old when this review was published, I was gratified to see it win a bunch of awards and become a critical and popular favorite. I guess today you could say it's a classic, a landmark record.

So much has changed since 1986... .and so much is the same. Personal computers, email, the Web, Obama... surely these are days of miracle and wonder. Politically, things in Africa shifted... but overall, the world feels much the same to me as it did back in 1986. Simon's compassion echoes to the recent earthquake in Haiti: "Somebody sing, somebody cry why, why, why?"

As for musical influences, just listen to The Givers,  a youthful amazing new group that owe a lot to Graceland. Go
here and listen to their amazing 5-song EP and you may feel a trace of that initial excitement Graceland caused when it was it new. Sublime sounds that make you feel good and expansive.

From one Paul to another: Thanks, man.

New Painting; "Center"

As I grow, I see ever more clearly that the essence of staying centered is to allow yourself to constantly shift and reconfigure.

This set of four square panels I painted in December of 2009 is designed to fit together in any orientation and sequence. The paint was applied on each panel using a different tool and technique, brush, rag, sponge, and fingers. The design was inspired by a cool toy I picked up at the Chicago Art Institute in 2008.

The word "Center" is written on one of the panels. Can you find it?

Here's three random configurations (click to make larger):



The Pretty Pony and the Lonely Window Washer

A bedtime story
by Paul Christley Tumey (with help from Reid Christley Tumey)

Once upon a time there was a lonely window washer. Every morning he would set out with his buckets, wipers, ladders, ropes and pulleys. He washed the windows of short and tall buildings, the circle windows of brick mansions, the large plate glass show windows of department stores, and the stained glass windows of churches. He even kept the little square windows of his glasses gleaming and spotless.

He worked for a sourpuss named Mr. Doctor Professor President Commodore Octagus, who owned a company that cleaned everything. These titles were all self-bestowed, because Octagus felt he deserved to be looked up to, since he was such a successful businessman. Mr. Doctor Professor President Commodore Octagus was never satisfied with the lonely window washer's work. "Cleaner! Brighter! SPOT-less!" the Commodore would command. His voice, however, was squeaky and high, and he had two big tufts of wild hair that poked out from the side of his head, so he was not scary. Still, the lonely window washer worked very hard for him.

He felt lonely because every day he would gaze through the glass windows he cleaned and see cool people on the other side. He saw mothers, fathers, children, office workers, bakers, salespeople, and so on. He could never speak to any of them, because he was separated by the glass. Most them ignored him as if he were not even there. 

He washed every window in town, except for the windows of his own home, an old cottage in the woods outside town. The windows were so dirty that not only could one scarcely see out of them, very little sunlight came into his house at all. He simply had no need of light in his home. He had lived there so long, he knew where everything was, and there was never anyone else around. He never had cause to say, "Hey look at this!" so he never needed to wash his own windows.

Until the day he saw the pretty pony.

It was an especially bright, shiny day. The lonely window washer, whose name, if it matters, was Kirby, happened to be washing the windows of the tallest building in town. It had taken him several days, and he was up the 1,678th floor. He worked from a little platform that was raised and lowered with ropes and pulleys that squeaked a little like Mr. Doctor Professor President Commodore Octagus.

As usual, he looked through the window, expecting to see a person or people not seeing him. What he saw through the window of the 1,678th floor surprised him so much that he just about fell off his platform. A horse! It was a regular office, with carpet desks, papers, and computers, and a horse! No people, just a magnificent reddish-brown pretty pony standing there.

And the pony was looking right at him! Kirby said "Hi!" before he could help himself, and then laughed to think he should know that he couldn't be heard through the thick glass. The pony nodded and whinnied to him. Kirby dropped his jaw and his wiper.

"Can you hear me?" He asked, hopefully.

The horse nodded and stamped, saying so much with soft brown eyes.

Because of the pony, Kirby felt excited and could hardly sleep that night. The next morning, he decided to make a Four-Part Plan to get the pretty pony. He got out large sheets of paper, rulers, compasses, protractors and lots of pencils and erasers. But, as he began to work at his kitchen table, he realized he needed more light to see his Four-Part Plan.

So Kirby found his buckets and wipers and in short order, the windows were spotless and gleaming. Sunlight came down into the rooms like waterfalls of happiness.

At work, the lonely window washer pulled himself back up to to the 1,678th floor and to his great relief, the horse was still there. He took out his Four-Part Plan from the back pocket of his window washer's coveralls, unfolded the large sheet and began to follow the steps:

STEP 1: Clean window again
STEP 2: Cut large hole in window
STEP 3: Invite pretty pony onto platform
STEP 4: Extra uniforms and hat

The lonely window washer had brought along two extra sets of white coveralls and a hat, which were the official uniform of all window washers. Once the pony was on his little window washer's platform, Kirby said "Now, be very careful up here. We're super high up and I wouldn't want you to fall off." Then he put the two extra uniforms and the hat onto the pony. From the ground, it looked like three men were on the window washing platform.

With Commodore-like squeaks, the platform slowly lowered to the street.

Just as he reached the ground, Mr. Doctor Professor President Commodore Octagus drove up in his squeaking black limo. "Kirby! SPOT-less!" he began to bark out his usual commands and then stopped. "Is that a... a.... horse?"Just then, one of two uniforms on the pony slipped and fell to the ground, exposing his muscular butt and long black tail, which swished excitedly.

Without a word, Kirby jumped onto the pretty pony and said to him, "I hope you don't mind, but could I ask you for a lift home?" In answer, the pretty pony galloped down the busy city street. People stopped and stared. A nine-year old girl pointed, said, "Iwanthimdaddy!" and began to stamp her feet.

"Fired! Kirby, you're FIRED!" Octagus shouted after him, but it no longer mattered. Kirby was so happy. He and the pony ran down the city streets, through the neighborhoods and parks and out to the country. It was a glorious ride on a happy sunny day. It was the best time of the lonely window washer's life.

In time, Kirby and the pretty pony were at his home. "Well, this is it. I hope you like it," he said kind of shyly. The pony swished it's tail and walked in. Kirby felt enormously happy, as if his heart had grown larger.

The pretty pony and Kirby lived happily ever after.

By the way, so did Mr. Doctor Professor President Commodore Octagus, who took over Kirby's job and discovered that, being high, as window washing often required, people always looked up to him.

The end.

January 14, 2010/Seattle 

Note: From time to time, I tell a bedtime story. Usually it's for Reid, but sometimes it has been for lovers.  I never have any idea of what I'll say, but usually the story has a start, middle, end and makes some kind of weird sense. I have stopped being surprised by this. Thanks to my son for remembering the details of this story that my rusty mind had already lost, and for suggesting others.

Tumey's List

by Paul Christley Tumey

Tonight, home from the gleaming
new shopping center, I am thinking of the poem
the one I didn't write
about that stand of trees
It would have been a lot better
than this, less artifice,
truer to a tree than to a tree missed
I would have said (I remember
walking home to your brown arms
late one night through them) the tall pinetops
were green chandeliers
The woods the most
haunted of mansions
where every night
the wind bands played to thousands of dancing
I would have said
we were all millionaires

The trees are gone now
The few acres I would shortcut
to work through to be in the woods
before I was in the weeds
They saved me but I could not save them
I swear I saw hobbits
and leprechauns in the gathering dusk
And once I made love to you
in the moonlight your back against
the strong thighs of a magnolia
They saved me

The town started ten blocks away
a hundred years ago, so
it's a confound progress did not commence sooner
I think the stand was an asset
in the erect tent portfolio of a banker tacit
He must have sold it for money
I cannot see anything else to be gained

In the early days of the construction
the magnificent old trees
there through the wars, the yellow fever, the fires, more wars, they
fell to obscene destruction
it took so little time
cars prowling like guards
on the border roads struck the fleeing victims, the ones
who squeezed under wire fences
and ran for their lives
Here's Tumey's List:
a brown field rabbit
the dream of a boy sleeping
in the arms of mother and father,
a box
turtle, a turquiose
lizard, a packet
of love letters and a pregnant
opossum, some rats
and a part of me

I saw them all go
as the forest floor melted with no hesitation
into concrete lit with a halogen glow
and rooted family split into visitations

I wish I would have written beauty
instead of this sad commencement of grace
I miss walking through you,
the shadows and light of my heart's trace

This poem is too much like our new shopping center
Tonight I browsed in FROZEN FOODS
where once the sap-ended pine needles made a bed
for this lazy fool to dream
The squirrels would have loved
aisle seven, SNACKS AND NUTS
I think I see the stream running
It's beautiful, you would have laughed --

People don't understand

They are buying dinner and maybe lunch
and perhaps cookies for the kids
and the man weeping in CLEANING PRODUCTS
is a weirdo what is he doing? looks like
he's stretching to pick swaying summer wildflowers
that are out of reach

-1987/2010 - Tallahassee/Seattle


by Paul Christley Tumey

I once stepped out
into the mushy forest,
I once did.
Everything is without logic.
The Han Nee Mulls
touched all around
and spoke:
"Put on this fur and
these feathers,
Change your diet,
and we'll all be
that much better."
Grizzlydigs! If only
I could. The fur fit
and I could live with
the sneezing and tickling -
"Take your eyes
away from the front.
Change your diet
and the manner of your hunt."
Yak! I stopped looking front
and that was quite a change,
But see the point?
My diet, I could not change.

Goodbye to the little Han Nee Mulls
scampering away
playing and laughing.
If my world ends --
It certainly won't be their fault.
I know we'll always be kin
For I hear the growling within.

Leominster,Massachusetts - 1986

The State of Things

 by Paul Christley Tumey

We throw our lives together in a messy way
Like panic at sea, confusion with life-lines
Grope: find my hand
It's there,
Holding down my highway line
Dividing devotion and despair
But in a messy, messy way

- Tallahassee, 1983

Fragment Found Inscribed on Tabasco Sauce Bottle Dug Up Underneath the Collapsed Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada

by Paul Christley Tumey

When the rays of the rising sun
Have shorn the spires of Shangrila
And when the shadows of the seventh son
Have thrice crossed every angle out
Then, children, the time to dream
Will have passed this night land.

- Boston, 1987

Deep Snow

A song in standard tuning by Paul Christley Tumey

(First verse)
G               Em           Bm
John Prine walked in deep snow

G           Em                   Bm
On time mail delivery to people we know.

G                      Em                     A                                  D
   He saw.......a lonely senior...... John Prine was sent.... a song.......

                    G                             A
from the vi---brating air -- called "Hello In There"

Em             G            Bm
John Prine walked in deep snow

(Fingerpick break)

(Second chorus)

D                         G
Was there a blizzard in your heart?

D                         G
Were things fall - ing apart?

D                       G
Did you have nowhere to go?

D                                       Bm
Were you walking through deep snow?

(verse two)

G              Em             Bm
Lou Reed dreamed in deep sleep

G               Em                     Bm
Deep sleep forget about her until you meet

G                               Em
  He spread........  his arms to fly

A                                  D                                     G
Lou Reed was sent --- a song --- from across the Great Divide

Called "Walk on the Wild Side"

Em           G              Bm
Lou Reed dreams in deep sleep

(Fingerpick break)

(Second chorus)

D                         G

There was a blizzard in my heart

D                                   G

Man, it was really coming down hard

D                  G

Now I have nowhere to go

D                                            Bm

I'm no longer walking through deep snow

(repeat 1st verse)

(Third chorus)

(Fingerpick break)


D                         G

Is there a blizzard in your heart?

D                                   G

Do things seem to be fall - ing apart?

D                            G

You need to find nowhere to be

D                                          Bm

I think you're waking through deep sleep

- Seattle, November 2009 - From a dream

Louisiana Boy

The catawbas croaked till morn
When we go in fishing?
Percy's asleep on his steering column horn
Dreaming, searching, not thinking and wishing

I stepped on a nail barefoot
But I had to hurry up
I worked the yard as hard as I could
If I was late Percy would have pups

He held up his charm of magic
But would never let me see it
When the sun sets it is tragic
All the catawbas go into a croaking fit

When we go in fishing today?
Truck ain't broke down or nothing
All the catawbas have pillars for bait
But Percy got drunk and started cussing

It was late afternoon so I went normal
Tried to keep tangent from the things I saw
This time the sun did it formal
I guess it felt like dressing up for no reason at all

- Boston, 1990

Constantly Being

A stick fell of me
It stuck in the ground
became a tree

A leaf fell of a book
Proved well
Memories need loving

Ten things I willed
To my past self
I am graceful in the rain

A word fell to my fingertip
I put it to my ear
Whispers my secret music

A splendid breath arose
To become rain-heavy cloud
And to breathe me out

- Seattle, 2010

My New Son in the Morning

by Paul Christley Tumey

Last night your mama
dreamed about you.
You're only three months old
but she could see
your whole life in front of you.

Welcome home son
We'll have a lot of fun
I'm your Daddy
You made me

Last night your mama
dreamed about you.
Your hair had come in
and your eyes had turned.
You could use your hands
and your heart had learned.

Last night
your mama
dreamed about you.

- For Reid, 2000

The Song of the Train

by Paul Christley Tumey

As I lie next to you,
the train comes.
Though I have lain with them open
since the owl last asked his question
and it is now time for the robin to report.
I close my eyes
to see better the train.

I see it on the horizon,
separating earth from sky,
sex from sex with a steel line
as thick as the tension in my spine
as I lie next to you.

I see pistons and fulcrums
steam and smoke
and I know that's my heart
pounding like a sledgehammer,
and smoke the light in my eyes
that see only the train on the horizon.

I am the train,
and I no longer lie next to you.
As you sleep on into the hot night,
my slotted wheels hug the silver track
and I sigh from relief with new purpose and direction
as urgent as the pounding of pistons and fulcrums.

The train calls
and the house shivers.
The engine and the cars clank on by
like slaves in a chain.
And you awaken and though the night
is so hot you find my warmth
and hold me close. I am the train.

And the train leaves,
sleep comes over me at last.
A part of me will always be on the silver track
and part resting in your holding arms,
and through my sleep I hear it strong
the song of the train.

- Summer 1986, Tallahassee, Florida