San Francisco, CA, 2009
(click play botton to hear Alexei)
Portrait by Emile B. Klein, oil on panel, 11″x14″
(click image for hi-resolution)
Can a Virtuous Man Sing a Sinners Medley?
San Francisco songwriter Alexei Wajchman finishes a rendition of his earliest composition, a song chronicling the days of a 15 year-old hooker named Gloria, and the DJ in the studio begins asking him questions about influences – like Townes Van Zandt, perhaps, or Steve Earle – assuming that Alexei has borrowed the song’s stark imagery from such world weary legends. Alexei politely (but maybe impatiently) tells his host that the girl in the song, Gloria, is not a figment of an imagination fed by folk and country blues. In fact, Gloria spent her time outside the Mission flat where he grew up, in the days when pimps lined one side of the block and their women lined the other. As a boy, Alexei watched this street theater nightly from his bedroom window – pimps, hustlers, whores and homeless jostling for space on the sidewalk.
Years later, the real and the raw have left him no patience for the superficial. He’s too thoughtful to embrace the shallow diversions of life, yet he’s no wise old sage. He is still a young man searching for answers. The only thing he knows for sure is that everybody is looking for a meal – and the world, much bigger now, holds the same collection of hungry pawn-store prisoners. Alexei lets these people cry out in his songs, never doubting the depths of their hearts as he explores his own.
And he sings you that sinners medley with truth and insight.
Written by Isaac Pingree