CULLMAN HAS WRITTEN FOR THE PARIS REVIEW, ANTAEUS, CREEM, DETAILS, ROLLING STONE, THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, THE VILLAGE VOICE, AND VOGUE, AMONG OTHERS.

© Universal City Studios, 1979.

© Universal City Studios, 1979.


THE PARIS REVIEW

First Person
SAM SHEPARD

August 3, 2017
by Brian Cullman

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The violin was psychedelic green, green as a shamrock, green as Kermit the Frog, a take-no-prisoners green. I bought it for thirty dollars at a yard sale in Providence.

“The violin’s free,” the owner told me, though he counted the money more than once: four fives and a ten. “I’m just charging you for the case and the bow.”

His girlfriend, his ex-girlfriend, had painted it with acrylic paint one night when she was high, and then she’d painted it again. It was green to stay. Even when it was in the case, he could see it glowing in the dark. He’d wrapped it in newspaper and kept it at the back of the closet along with ice-skates and the broken Crock-Pot. He was selling those, too.

I had no need for a violin, green or otherwise, but it seemed like a good investment. When I brought it back to the dormitory, my roommate grabbed it, tuned it and was playing along with a Taj Mahal record within the hour. A week later, I still hadn’t figured out how to hold the bow. 

When I finally moved to New York, I thought I should learn how to play, and I looked up Peter Stampfel in the phone book. Along with Steve Weber, Peter was the founder of the Holy Modal Rounders, a psychedelic folk group that had figured out a way to combine old-time country and jug-band music with the sound of a zoo that’s caught fire. Peter played violin, banjo, and guitar, and he sang and played with the energy and enthusiasm of a five-year-old at a crackhead’s birthday party.

I turned up at his place on Eighth Avenue at the appointed time. His partner, Antonia, answered the door and looked at me for a minute. Her eyes might not have been focusing properly, so she had to hold one eye open with her thumb and forefinger while keeping the other firmly closed. She leaned forward, then stepped back.

“Do I know you?” she asked.

“No ma’am.”

She thought about this for a minute.

“Have I fucked you?” she asked. And then, before I could answer, “Do you want some Chinese food?”

I followed her into the house. I was still holding the violin.

Peter appeared in the doorway tucking in his shirt. He looked like he’d been awake for five or six days, and he looked infinitely pleased and amused by life. I knew that I wanted to grow up to be that awake.

Peter opened the violin case, closed the violin case and put it down in the living room. There was someone in there hunched down on the floor looking for something under the couch.

The someone was Sam Shepard. He used to play drums with the Holy Modal Rounders, but he didn’t anymore. He had long hair and a long face, and everything about him was lanky. He gave me a look, trying to figure out if I was worth sizing up. But then he smiled, and in that moment, I would’ve given him my last cigarette, lent him my dog or my car, no questions asked.

“We’re going for Chinese food,” Peter told him.

“You go ahead,” he nodded. He moved around the side of the couch and reached under. “I’m still looking.”

Peter and Antonia and I went around the corner to a small, badly lit Chinese restaurant. It was four in the afternoon, and there were no other customers. We ordered noodles, and Peter talked about Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers and about Ed Koch and about Archie comics.

“Do you have any records by Brenda Lee?” Peter asked me. I nodded. “You should listen to Brenda Lee. Her tone, it’s pure, her tone, it’s like a violin, you could learn to play just by listening to Brenda Lee sing. Not the Christmas crap. But everything else.”

Antonia stared at the noodles suspiciously and drank smokey China tea and hummed. The bill came to less than twelve dollars, and I paid it. They seemed slightly taken aback by this, but we were all happy, and outside the traffic lights were broken, and the sky was bright.

Upstairs, Sam Shepard was still rummaging around under the couch. He’d opened the window, and there was a cool breeze. Antonia went into another room, and Peter took out the violin and was trying to adjust the bridge. Sam Shepard sat back on his heels and shook his head.

“So,” I asked, “what’s under there?”

“Oh, man.” He pushed the hair out of his eyes and sighed. “If I knew, I wouldn’t have to keep looking.”


THE PARIS REVIEW

First Person
VOYAGE IN THE DARK

July 21, 2017
by Brian Cullman

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Photo: Dan McCoy, NARA, 1973.

Photo: Dan McCoy, NARA, 1973.

THE PARIS REVIEW

First Person
STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING

June 27, 2017
by Brian Cullman

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FROM THE COVER OF NONESUCH’S REISSUE OF MUSIC FROM THE MORNING OF THE WORLD.

FROM THE COVER OF NONESUCH’S REISSUE OF MUSIC FROM THE MORNING OF THE WORLD.

THE PARIS REVIEW

In Memoriam
DAVID LEWISTON, 1929–2017

May 30, 2017
by Brian Cullman

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A postcard of Albania, ca. 1910.

A postcard of Albania, ca. 1910.

THE PARIS REVIEW

First Person
MY ALBANIA

May 24, 2017
by Brian Cullman

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THE PARIS REVIEW

First Person
LOSING

April 26, 2017
by Brian Cullman

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Valais, Switzerland, as depicted in the University of the New World’s Winter 1971-72 General Bulletin

Valais, Switzerland, as depicted in the University of the New World’s Winter 1971-72 General Bulletin

THE PARIS REVIEW

On Music
MR. BERRY AND MRS. BLAVATSKY

March 21, 2017
by Brian Cullman

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Valais, Switzerland, as depicted in the University of the New World’s Winter 1971-72 General Bulletin

Valais, Switzerland, as depicted in the University of the New World’s Winter 1971-72 General Bulletin

THE PARIS REVIEW

First Person
FLOWERS FOR HITLER

October 19, 2016
by Brian Cullman

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Giorgio Gomelsky.

Giorgio Gomelsky.

THE PARIS REVIEW

First Person
THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS

January 14, 2016
by Brian Cullman

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George Martin, 1926–2016.

George Martin, 1926–2016.

THE PARIS REVIEW

In Memoriam
YOU CAN STILL HEAR IT

March 14, 2016
by Brian Cullman

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Willard Cummings, Barracks Concert (detail), ca. 1942.

Willard Cummings, Barracks Concert (detail), ca. 1942.

THE PARIS REVIEW

First Person
WHAT ARE SONGS FOR

March 20, 2015
by Brian Cullman

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From a fifties-era Pan Am ad.

From a fifties-era Pan Am ad.

 

THE PARIS REVIEW

First Person
THE GORDON

August 24, 2015
by Brian Cullman

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Photo: Morven, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Morven, via Wikimedia Commons

 

THE PARIS REVIEW

First Person
A NEW YEAR'S DRIVE

January 11, 2014
by Brian Cullman

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The Jaymetts Record

The Jaymetts Record


THE PARIS REVIEW

In Memoriam
SIT AND CRY WITH THE DOOR CLOSED

October 28, 2013
by Brian Cullman

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Tom Forcade, Mayer Vishner, Abbie Hoffman, 1971.

Tom Forcade, Mayer Vishner, Abbie Hoffman, 1971.

THE PARIS REVIEW

In Memoriam
FIFTH BUSINESS

September 11, 2013
by Brian Cullman

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THE PARIS REVIEW

On Music
THINGS BEHIND THE SUN

December 27, 2012
by Brian Cullman

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THE PARIS REVIEW

On Music
FREEDOM AND LIGHT

December 17, 2012
by Brian Cullman

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THE PARIS REVIEW

On Music
HELPLESS: ON THE POETRY OF NEIL YOUNG

October 23, 2012
by Brian Cullman

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ROOTSWORLD

HOLIDAYS IN THE SUN

February, 2016
by Brian Cullman

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