I met my love by the gas works wall Dreamed a dream by the old canal I Kissed my girl by the factory wall Dirty old town Dirty old town

Ewen MacColl did not write Dirty Old Town in 1949 about Ireland, in that while this great big giant love of Irish bands seems to have elevated the tune to the point where people think it’s Irish in origin, fat chance. (Fat chance, of course, being Scottish, right? MacColl’s folks were Scottish, fat chance eh?) The town that MacColl was referencing in that great tune was Salford. Salford was a part of the industrial revolution in England, now Britain. Britain used to make a lot of stuff. So did the United States of America. That all pretty much went away, this is what happens. So, MacColl grew up in Salford. The government thought he was a communist. His father had a hell of a time finding work because the entire country blacklisted him. Bastards. I know how that feels.

I’ve been blacklisted a time or two.

I don’t care what people think about me, I reckon I’ve done some pretty good time on this planet and I don’t need anyone’s approval. I made lots of stuff between then and now. By the time I met Rocio, I didn’t much care about carving out my mark on some big tree. I remember the day that Anna was conceived. Rocio pointed to a spot on the floor of the house we were about to rent there in Rowland Heights. I didn’t argue. Anna won’t read this, but she was made right then and there. Purposefully. We talked it over and decided to have a kid. And we did. Fat chance, eh? True, all true, I promise.

Dirty old town, dirty old town.

* *

“God,” I started. “This is the third time I’ve asked you for anything. Just let her be healthy and let her live. I promise I’ll do my best to raise her good. That’s all I can promise.”

Clouds are drifting across the moon Cats are prowling on their beat Spring's a girl from the streets at night Dirty old town Dirty old town

Tijuana, 1993, that’s where I was, washing my hands and all suited up. As though I could change a thing. That baby was coming out, to hell with anything else. They gave Rocio a shot (and I laughed and she still wants to kill me for that), and here we go. Of course, no men ever entered the arena, and there I was, the exception to the rule, apparently. On my behalf, look, I saw two Cesarean sections, both courtesy of my ex. I could handle a normal childbirth.

I held Rocio’s hand and she nearly broke it. We had a baby girl, in Las Brisas, Tijuana, that place isn’t even there anymore. Everyone looked at us beforehand like we were nuts. Here I was, a Gringo, we could’ve had her over there, on the other side. Rocio probably would’ve agreed to it. I didn’t want to.

Dirty old town, dirty old town.

The years, you know, they just fly by. Anna did most of her schooling here in Mexico. Now she’s navigating the U.S. system and it’s horrible. She gets a B in geometry and an F in physical education? “Sorry Dad, I forgot my gym bag.” And of course, my response? “Cramps. They come in really handy.” I would’ve used that excuse. I really would have. Cramps. Why not?

I Heard a siren from the docks Saw a train set the night on fire I Smelled the spring on the smoky wind Dirty old town Dirty old town

* *

So there I was, dressed out, and the doctor war starring up my wife’s gown. He nodded as though everything was going according to plan. I thought he was a clown. I mean, what else was he supposed to do? The nurse was too embarrassed to stay in the room, she left. My wife went into transition and almost broke my hand. I’ve had my hand broken before, so I know of what I speak. I’m amazed she didn’t break it.

I'm gonna make me a big sharp axe Shining steel tempered in the fire I'll chop you down like an old dead tree Dirty old town Dirty old town

We took Anna home that night. I had to fight with the staff. One day Anna might ask me why she was born in this dirty old town. Well, it’s your dirty old town, Anna. I wanted you to have one. I wanted it to be here. I wanted this dust to be yours, something you could hang on to. You’re going to be eighteen. I want you to have this. I was born in San Diego, but I hang on to Rowland Heights. Baby, you get Tijuana. All of it. I did this on purpose.

I met my love by the gas works wall Dreamed a dream by the old canal I kissed my girl by the factory wall Dirty old town Dirty old town Dirty old town Dirty old town

* *

Dirty old town, Anna. I just want you to have this dirty old town. If I can’t give you anything else, then I give you this.

More like this:


David Dodd Jan. 22, 2011 @ 2:01 a.m.

This is how the format should have looked:


Reader, I don't want to blog here anymore if the format gets screwed up. I'm very careful, and very giving, I try hard to be a good blogger here, but this is ridiculous.


David Dodd Jan. 22, 2011 @ 3:14 a.m.

Oh yeah, thanks for the spam too. Jeez. Daily double this morning.


MsGrant Jan. 22, 2011 @ 10:11 a.m.

I think someday she will understand what a gift you gave her - somewhere she can always call home. It doesn't matter where it is, all that matters is what it is. You knocked it out of the park juxtaposing "Dirty Old Town" with your story.


David Dodd Jan. 22, 2011 @ 1:03 p.m.

Thanks, Ms. Grant, I'm just frustrated that it doesn't format properly. Dirty Old Town reads so much better line by line. But you totally get it, and that's exactly the point. MacColl wrote these haunting lyrics about a place he supposedly hated, but there is a halting rationalization at the same time - we don't pick our names and we don't pick where we grow up.


nan shartel Jan. 23, 2011 @ 2:42 p.m.

please don't go away again for format homey....this read by an afficianado of ur work reads just fine...

u can personally format it...make some print bold and some italic ... even bold italic but it requires some work

an asterisk before and after each sentence will make it italic

2 asterisks before and after a sentence will make it bold

3 asterisks will make it bold ad italic

single sentences will be made by putting a place between sentences

i have to do that with my poetry...it bothers me that i can't space for stanzas

my little dots........r done to separate thoughts and create better flow...this Reader format require them

most formats require them

this is a beautiful and awesome blog today RFG...i've read it both places now...thx homey and here's a nip of Tequila to quiet ur nerves

mi corazón llora y soporte con usted sobre Ana David

acaricio esta historia

and if u DON'T write a SAROYAN book of short stories about ur DIRTY OLD TOWN i'm gonna whip ur butt!!!!

“Good people are good because they've come to wisdom through failure. We get very little wisdom from success, you know.” William Saroyan quote


David Dodd Jan. 23, 2011 @ 3:14 p.m.

William Saroyan is the most rejected writer ever, he's my hero :) I'm actually writing a novel that's a fictional account of my life from the time of my separation and divorce through the first few years of my life here in Baja. The stories are entirely true but I changed enough of everything (names, for example) to keep from being sued ;) If I get that one published I'll link it here. I have to wait for the publishing world to decide what it's going to do first. That's a scary world, Nan, they're all just looking at each other trying to figure out what to do next.


nan shartel Jan. 23, 2011 @ 3:32 p.m.

it's sad isn't it...i hear Lulu (which has always been a online book publisher)may be having input into KINDLE....check out Lulu...it cost nothing...they will print a small number for u...put ur book online and pay u if it's read

it's not a vanity publisher i know u wouldn't want that RFG....there r others like Lulu u might like better

thank gawd i've never wanted to publish!!!


nan shartel Jan. 23, 2011 @ 3:36 p.m.

i mentioned Saroyan because his stories (like Twains) ramble like the Mississippi with the movement and depth changing everytime u read a story again...i love his work 2


David Dodd Jan. 23, 2011 @ 4:09 p.m.

Actually, I was having a discussion with a writer about this just the other day. There are so many issues in publishing, especially revolving around digital print. Borders is in deep trouble, publishers are in deep trouble, agencies are losing agents because they can't make any money in this climate. Self-publishing used to be the kiss of death if you ever wanted a traditional publisher to notice you, but that's changing now. In another couple of years, the publishing world will take a definitive direction and I'll be able to make a rational decision on my own writing future.


bohemianopus Jan. 25, 2011 @ 12:54 p.m.

This is so lovely! Along with reading it, I can feel, hear, taste and smell the story. Don't worry about the formatting--it reads magnificently.

Fathers and daughters have a special bond--one that transcends explanation. I'm sure Anna will love her "Dirty old town" because it is a part of you--and of her. And THAT is paved with gold.

Of course, I always look forward to Nan's wise and entertaining comments, too!

Self-publishing is the wave of the future. I just bought a Kindle and am going crazy with all the stuff available.


David Dodd Jan. 25, 2011 @ 1:57 p.m.

Thanks :) I'm not much of a poet, but one thing that I find important about poetry (or lyrics in this case) is that the formatting sets up the rhythm. When I fell in love with Bukowski's poetry, for example, I found that his rhythm and not just his words made all of the difference in the world.


nan shartel Jan. 25, 2011 @ 1:11 p.m.

altho self publishing may be considered out of bounds professionally RFG...here's a list of popular self published book that made the grade

u may be surprised at what they r...i was

Self-published works that find large audiences are extremely rare, and are usually the result of self-promotion. However, many works now considered classic were originally self-published, including the original writings of William Blake, Virginia Woolf, Walt Whitman, William Morris, and James Joyce.

Spartacus by Howard Fast (during the McCarthy era when he was rejected by previous large scale publishers) Elfquest by Wendy and Richard Pini[11] The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield A Choice, Not An Echo by Phyllis Schlafly [12] The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles Poems in Prose by Oscar Wilde In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans Invisible Life by E. Lynn Harris The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte Contest by Matthew Reilly Eragon by Christopher Paolini [13] (The book was later published by Knopf) Shadowmancer by G. P. Taylor (The book was later published by Faber & Faber) Other well-known self-publishers include: Stephen Crane, E. E. Cummings, Deepak Chopra, Benjamin Franklin, Zane Grey, Rudyard Kipling, D. H. Lawrence, Thomas Paine, Edgar Allan Poe, Ezra Pound, Carl Sandburg, George Bernard Shaw, Upton Sinclair, Gertrude Stein, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman and Mark Twain.


nan shartel Jan. 25, 2011 @ 1:19 p.m.

this is what Lulu will guarantee

It's FREE to publish. You only pay when you print. You keep 80% of the revenue from your book. You own the content. Set your own price. Free ISBN. Your own custom storefront and free marketing tools make it easy to promote and sell your book. Global distribution on Lulu's marketplace, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and more.

since i was interested in LULU they have branched out to involve authors with Barnes and Noble, Amazon and more.....it may be worth some investigation homey

here's their link to learn more



David Dodd Jan. 25, 2011 @ 2:11 p.m.

Thanks Nan. Lulu is among my many bookmarked links in the world of publishing. Up until the mid twentieth century, it was very common for writers to self-publish and no one thought much about it. It became taboo only in the last sixty years or so, I suspect from traditional publishing houses that successfully spun such a campaign more for their own increases in profit than from any actual evidence that self-publishing provides a product that is somehow inferior to their own. Recently, that trend is once again reversing, but with a caveat.

The idea currently is to self-publish a good product, a product where at some point the author (or even an indie publisher) can take an actual book to an editor from a traditional publisher and pitch it to them for a broader circulation. We are seeing a market that is quickly increasing for e-books, but there is still a question of how long it will take before "most" books are electronic, rather than "some". Until then, an author would be wise to be careful what steps they take in self-publishing. Self-publishing is a viable option, but the care needs to be taken that the product is attractive to a potential traditional, big-house publisher, because that should still be the goal of every author until the dust settles from this digital revolution in literature.


nan shartel Jan. 26, 2011 @ 11:10 a.m.

u would know better then i RFG....i've never thoroughly investigated because i never entertained the idea of publishing

i'm sure u'll do whats best for ur own work ;-D


antigeekess March 10, 2011 @ 10:11 p.m.

This is nice. Just found it. And, it's like they said - don't worry about the formatting. It reads just fine the way it is.

And as dirty old towns go, I think TJ's kind of a nice one, too. :)


David Dodd March 12, 2011 @ 1:53 a.m.

Thanks, AG. Funny story, for whatever reason I was under the impression that the Reader was printing this one rather the other one (I don't pay attention very well, apparently). So, as I sent my daughter off to school for the U.S. this morning, I told her to bring back a couple of copies of the Reader, that there would be a story about her in there. Doh!


Joe Poutous March 12, 2011 @ 2 p.m.

One of my favorite songs.

Well done RF.


David Dodd March 12, 2011 @ 4:18 p.m.

Thanks, Joe. It's a great song - a bitter memory for MacColl, I'm sure.


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