Ashley Noelle

Image Source: Ashley Noelle

Blue, blue windows behind the stars,
Yellow moon on the rise…

Kate and Alex, having survived the wedding and skipped the reception, were back home together on the couch, Neil Young: Greatest Hits on the stereo, air conditioner going full blast. She packed a bowl and inhaled deeply, the flame from the lighter curving over the edge and practically into the shaft, and passed it on.

“Well, that was not the greatest time of my life!” Kate said.

“Ah, young doomed love,” Alex said. “Makes the heart go pitter-pat, doesn’t it?”

“Seriously,” Kate said. “I mean, I like them? But really, there’s nothing there.”

“This wedding was…..helpless, helpless, heeeelllllllpless,” Alex sang along with the chorus. “Nothing there. And those vows! ‘Oh, I’m so glad God brought us together!’ Um, no, a bottle of Cuervo and a slippery condom brought you together, hon.”

“BAAHHH!” Kate said. “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

“Purity is a many splendored thing,” Alex said. “And believe me, I’m not at all slamming genuine faith. But I know the bride all too well, and let’s just say that her Jesus has a lot of blind spots.”

“Her own personal Jesus, as it were,” Kate said.

“Yep,” Alex said. “You should see the psalms all over her Facebook wall. Which psalm is ‘Get thee obliterated and pregnant whilst thy boyfriend is on a business trip and thy will still be more righteous’ again?”

But only love can break your heart,
Better be sure, right from the start

“Great point, Neil Young!” Kate said. “So their whole marriage is built on a suspect platform of holy matrimony? I’m shocked! What about the sanctity of marriage?”

“Man, this stuff is good,” Alex said, holding in a toke. “Yeah, this marriage is about as sanctified as a Kardashian wedding. Meanwhile, some of our best friends can’t legally marry. How fucked is that?”

“Don’t let Old Frothy Santorum hear you say that!” Kate said. “Agreed, though. It was a nice church, at least. I really liked the chandelier and the window.”

“Yeah, we should do that in here!” Alex said. “I can imagine the slant of afternoon light coming in.”

“That would be kind of a reverse Amish all-seeing-eye,” Kate said. “A peephole for Jesus!”

“Shit, you’re right!” Alex said. “I’d melt in a pool of sinful mush.”

“Wouldn’t want to mess up the rug,” Kate said.

“I guess the light slants wherever you want it to, Jesus window or not,” Alex said. “And it still keeps me searching for a heart of gold…”

The afternoon went on, and Kate and Alex talked, smoked and drifted in and out of naps while new marriage bloomed, old love was shoved under the rug and the world spun on a slanted axis.

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Image Source: Ashley Noelle

Somewhere in Oklahoma
7:00 AM

Downpour on the roads.

Lila split last night. Came back to the apartment after work; nothing left. I didn’t have much of anything of my own there, so I left a check for two months rent, grabbed my clothes and split myself. Can’t stand the thought of hanging around Austin by myself.

Christ, I’m a cliché now. I’m pulled over at some abandoned gas station in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma, having driven all night, riding out a cloudburst writing obnoxious sap in a journal. But damn, this sucks.

Someone leaves you, they don’t just take themselves and end a relationship. They take an entire time-frame. It’s everything. Everything that was on the radio, every place you ate at, all your mutual friends, all your plans, everything. And all of that stays, but it’s not yours anymore. Like someone steals your car and offers you a ride in it.

And I’m not feeling sorry for myself, but…

And I don’t hate her, but…

So I’m writing this now at 24 and dumb. I wonder if I’ll read this when I’m 40. I wonder if it will be like seeing 15 year old film of the guy who does the weather report, when he was thinner, darker hair, fewer lines and creases, different wardrobe. I wonder if I’ll even remember who she was or what was on the radio or what that restaurant was.

I can’t wait to get there, because it hurts like hell now.

Image Source: Ashley Noelle

I am of proud American stock. Cherokee stock. My people have suffered greatly. But we remain proud.

My great-grandmother survived what we now call the Trail of Tears. Her American government passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, forcing her people to give up their land in Alabama. Many stayed, believing the land was theirs. But the government enforced a treaty that was not signed by the leaders of her people, and she was forced by bayonet to march from Fort Wayne, Alabama, to Tahlequah in the Indian Territory, or what is now Oklahoma, in 1838.

Many thousands of Cherokee died of cold, hunger and disease during the march. And when my people arrived on their new land, which they never wanted, they had nothing.

My great-grandmother survived this injustice, and remained proud of her people. And now I remain proud as we survive these difficult times. The depression worsens by the day. Henry picks up work where he can, as a blacksmith and a grave digger, but with eleven children, it is hard to provide properly. We have not enough for food, nor an extra stitch of clothes, so often Henry and I go without.

In the cities, men set up shanties in camps called “Hoovervilles” after the former President. They walk past bread lines that stretch for blocks, and in every window is a sign saying NO WORK. Both the President and Mrs. Roosevelt have said on the radio that they wish to bring federal aid to help feed children, and would that it were so. I do not mind going without myself, but leave us provide for our children.

But I remain optimistic that things will change. This country is great, in spite of shameful chapters such as happened to my great-grandmother. And her people are great. Strong, proud, people. Pride is in my Cherokee blood.

Image Source: Ashley Noelle


Arlene McKenna felt that blissful rush of adrenaline before every show, but this time it was different. Much more pronounced. This show had been a long time coming.

pace…pace…drag…pace…pace…light a new cig with the old…stomp…pace…pace…drag…

First solo show. First step away from the band, the past, the shared legacy and the bitter end. It’s all me now…


Nervous energy was nothing new, but it was always contained within the band cocoon before. Now it was all Arlene McKenna. No band to hide within, no safety net. All me, and I can. not. wait.


She peeked at the crowd inside…full house. Damn, this was really happening! Arlene continued pacing, practically stomping through the sun-baked bricks of the patio outside Guthrie’s Coffee and Books. She picked up her Martin from the picnic table, strapped it on and started playing downstrokes, gently at first, not wanting to snap a string before the set, then harder and harder, finally giving in to a full Richie Havens/Pete Townshend banshee strum.


Arlene slowed down for some finger-picked arpeggios. House of the Rising Sun, just like when she was first learning how to play. A min, C maj, D maj, F maj…pace…A min, C maj, E maj 7…check the tuning, pace…

The past was gone …as Steven Tyler would say, ha ha… and her body of work would always be compared to what came before. But for Arlene that was the best part about stepping over the scorched earth and moving on. Then and now. Them and me. And now it’s all me.

She caught herself playing and singing the end of “Love Is All Around.” You’re gonna make it after all, da da dat daaahhhh (toss the hat, Mary!) dat! Perfect.

Now, just remember to breathe. It’s the first show. But it’s just the first. Breathe. Relax. Have fun. PACE! STRUM! STRUM! Let it flow…breathe and let it flow. It’s all yours now.

All yours…


Arlene McKenna stepped through the door, into her own new world, and counted off the beginning of her first set as her crowd roared.

-This piece was born late on Saturday night, 1/21/12, when Ashley Noelle asked if I could come up with a piece based around her magnificent photography. I was flattered and honored to be able to do so, and I suggest you click through and check her work out for yourself. I hope you will be as inspired. Thanks, Ashley!