Archive for March, 2007

shades of Hemingway / Part 1, the arrival…

March 31, 2007

It is a difficult story, yet I have promised to tell it and so it goes…  something like this… something like I have never experienced before, something like nothing I have since.  It so happens that what you are about to read is true and based on actual events.  The facts have been distorted, embellished and/or  fabricated to further enhance the contents appropriate to the theme.  No names have been changed to protect anybody.

Key West, Florida was our destination, fun and frolic was our agenda.  Nothing else mattered, we had four days and at the southern most tip of the United States, we could forget about our 9 to 5 existence, lay back with the natives and chill.  It was February, all the news we needed was on the weather report.

There is this high speed boat that leaves Ft. Myers Beach, gets you to Key West in about 3 hours.  We boarded with eager expectations, thrilled at our adventurous spirit, bound and determined to spare no emotional expense.  We were out to have a good time and damn the spectators that got in our way.

My friends, Keith and Laura, had made arrangements for Annette and me to stay in this little bed and breakfast a block off of Duval St. towards Whitehead St.  just at the zero mile marker on Highway A1A.  Supposedly a big deal but I had never been to the Keys before so location wasn’t a prime concern of mine.  And when Keith added that the place was supposedly haunted I could only chuckle within myself.  I didn’t believe in ghosts, UFO’s or income tax, for that matter.  But this place had been owned by a jilted woman whose late husband was a bigamist.  His first wife from Cuba supposedly came, claimed a large inheritance from the widow and kicked her to the street. As she stood on the front porch with her children at her side she vowed to the locals who had gathered to witness her eviction that she would always remain “in spirit”, or so the story goes.  Now you can hear her weeping late into the night… they say, if you have heart and the insomnia to listen.

Our arrival to the Key West Bight was met with a wealth of tourism which we were accustomed to and a layed back kind of atmosphere the type of which I was not.  Florida has to be the tourist mecca of the world.  Everywhere you turn there is some vendor trying to wrestle your vacation savings from you, though we were already savvy to that being from the southwestern part of the state.  Every gas station in Florida sells post cards, beach towels and suntan lotion.  But old town’s historicity assailed my senses more than any other Florida city I had been to.  Every story I had read about it held it’s own kind of oddity. 

For example, the old lighthouse was kept for 30 years by a woman named Barbara Mabrity who had taken over after her husband died.  At age 82 she was dismissed from service, not because of her age, but because she spoke out in favor of the Confederacy.  During the Civil War Florida was a Confederate state, but the fort in Key West remained under Union control.  Apparently Barbara’s sympathy for the cause didn’t settle well with the soldiers and she was given the boot.  I felt a tinge of excitement, not for the Key West party atmosphere (which I was all in favor of) but for the locale itself.  This island thrusts further south than any part of the continental U.S. and felt a million miles away from our cousins in “the north”. 

We hastened away from the ship with our luggage in tow, briskly walking past boat docks and vessels, trying our best not to look like we didn’t know where we were going.  Keith  directed us down Front St.  toward Duval while Annette and Laura lagged behind.  I was caught somewhere in between trying to follow Keith, listen to the girls and take in my surroundings at the same time.  Keith and Laura are seasoned travellers and have been all over the world… Hawaii, Amsterdam, France, Germany, South America, Mexico.  They have come to Key West several times for Fantasy Fest, and knew their way around.  We hiked several blocks from the seaport before we made our way to Fleming St. and turned right.  Sure enough, halfway up one block was our bed and breakfast.  We chugged up the stairs to the front porch, glad to shed our luggage and the humiliation of being new arrivals.   

The Marrero Mansion at 410 Fleming St. was built in the 1880’s.  A cigar manufacturer, Francisco Marrero, commissioned it to lure his new bride, Enriquetta, to move to Key West.  Successful in his endeavor,  they had 8 children there.  It wasn’t an overly large “mansion”, but with a quaint front porch and french doors that led to a parlor inside we were more than satisfied with the accommodations.  Keith and Laura stayed in a suite downstairs, #13.  Annette and I had a room upstairs,  #16.  Enriquetta’s ghost is said to prefer #18…   

After a brief rest,  the four of us ventured out to take in the sights up and down Duval St.  We stopped by Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville and were told that we “just missed” him… which we didn’t believe.  But we enjoyed the booze and atmosphere almost as much as we would have if Ol’ Parrothead himself had been serving them up.  Late into the evening our boat ride and alcohol began to catch up to us.  We sauntered back to Marrero’s and went to our rooms, content with our partying ability and looking forward to a full day in this tropical paradise on the morrow.  We joked that we’d lie awake and listen for Madame Enriquetta but Annette was asleep before her head hit the pillow.  As I began to drift, I thought I heard… not a woman crying but the rat-tattat  ding! (carriage return)  rat-tat-tat ding! (carriage return) of an old Royal typewriter. 

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Ladies and Gentlemen, For Your Listening Pleasure…

March 25, 2007

I have to admit when I started liking Jesse Winchester it was for all the wrong reasons.  His album, Nothing But A Breeze, contains a song that references drug use and at that time I was fully compliant in that area.  It garnished a lot of airplay on the FM station we used to listen to, and we bought the album thinking that there would be more of the same on it.  Kind of like a Cheech and Chong in lyrical form or perhaps even a Steve Martin type format.  What we got was a classic album with the likes of Ricky Skaggs, Emmylou Harris, Nicollette Larson and Anne Murray in accompaniment that I was not to fully appreciate until some time later.

Jesse seems to be that kind of an entertainer.  One that sneaks up on you, tugs on your heart strings and pulls you right back on your sensibilities.  As our ears matured we delved into earlier efforts and found that Jesse had released four albums previous to the gem we had “discovered”, Let the Rough Side Drag, Learn to Love It, 3rd Down and 110 To Go and his self titled debut album, Jesse Winchester.  What we found was a virtual treasure trove of music that soothed our souls and struck a emotional chord that hearkened back to the days of southern charm and chivalry, the likes that we had never heard before. With 5 albums under his belt I started to wonder, “Why hadn’t I been exposed to Jesse before?”  We started thinking we were “music elitists”, knowing something that none of our other associates had even heard about, let alone came to appreciate as much as we had.  Jesse’s music was something to be savored… something to wrap your ears around and make your own.  Most of the music being listened to was more or less soundtrack stuff… back ground music against the mundane pursuits of life.  It didn’t elevate you to the plane Jesse’s songs did.

But ofcourse, as I have stated previously… I am a hopeless romantic and Jesse’s music caters the love struck or lovelorn.  Nothing But a Breeze contained songs that other artists recorded, but didn’t carry the emotion that was conveyed by the songwriter himself.  As I studied his catalog it became more apparent that Jesse was an acquired taste, and I started to resent others for not seeing his poetic verse and smooth delivery as clearly as I did. 

Then came the release of, Talk Memphis in ’81 and things seemed to come around to my way of thinking.  The song, Say What, became the biggest single of Jesse’s repertoire to date and garnished nationwide airplay.  Finally, I thought,  Jesse will get the recognition he deserves.  My tastes would become vindicated and I would have the pleasure of muted “I told you so’s” to any and all who would listen to him.  But soon the listening faded and it was seven years before Jesse recorded another album.

In that time frame my tastes travelled to other artists, but Jesse’s music was always on my mind.  I discovered Humour Me quite by accident.  I was at a record store thumbing through various selections looking for something new, by chance checked under “W” and there was a single copy with Jesse’s picture staring back at me in black and white.  I snapped it up immediately and rushed home to play it.  With renewed interest I dug up all the old music and the timeless efforts of this Dixieland troubadour flooded back to my senses like a friend from home catching me up on the latest town gossip.

About that time I had read a book called “Written On My Soul” by Bill Flanagan.  It contained conversations with Rock’s greatest songwriters.  Tom Petty, Neil Young, Bob Dylan… I was particularly taken by what Dylan said on the subject of great songwriters.  He said, “Are you going to include Jesse Winchester?  You can’t write about the greatest and not mention him.”  In that moment I came to appreciate Dylan all the more because of his equating Jesse to his level.  But the author said in his side note that he had to limit himself, which only caused me to wonder why… and resent the fact that Jesse was still relatively unknown.

By 1996 I had purchased my first PC and discovered the world at my fingertips.  One of the first topics I began to search out was Jesse Winchester.  By that time nearly 8 more years had passed and I wondered if Jesse was still around.  Curiously enough, there were some in the music industry that knew his whereabouts, one even forwarded one of my inquiries to Jesse and it wasn’t long before we were e-mailing each other on a regular basis. 

By 1999, 11 years after my trip to the music store,  Jesse released another album, Gentleman of Leisure and began touring again.  I was fortunate to see him in Greenville at a small night club that seated maybe 300 people.  The club owner introduced several people in the audience, other songwriters and people in the music industry.  People that understood and appreciated the man I had been a fan of for over twenty years.  Earlier on, one of my friends questioned whether I was actually in contact with Jesse, thinking perhaps I was writing to an agent or some aide instead.  But I managed to meet him after his performance and when I introduced myself Jesse recognized my name immediately.  As we stepped out of the theatre into the main lobby there was a line of perhaps fifty people waiting to get an autograph and I was privy to each and every conversation Jesse had with his fans.  One woman in line must have had 10 albums plus a stack of CD’s that she asked Jesse to sign and he patiently did each one then thanked her for buying them.  I was in awe… not only was I standing next to this man who had unbeknownst to me touched so many other people with his abilities but his grace and mannerisms belied the common perception of celebrity.  Jesse was truly touched by all the adoration of his fans, greeting one and all with geniune warmth and humility.

I’m still in contact with Jesse through e-mail.  I have seen him perform two other times, once in Iowa City (my hometown) and once in Tennessee.  At the world renown Bluebird Cafe in Nashville they don’t have an emcee, entertainers just introduce themselves and begin their set.  Jesse’s introduction was simply, “Ladies and gentlemen,  for your listening pleasure…” and the audience applauded in response.  Each time I managed to greet him back stage to re-assure him of my approval and each time Jesse thanked me for my efforts in travelling across country (approx. 900 miles, 1200 miles and 900 miles, respectfully) to see him, knowing that I hail from the Sunshine State. 

I can’t seem to get him to come to S.W. Florida… but I’m working on it.

peace.

  

sunrise… sunset and the we in between

March 20, 2007

You know, the cool thing about being on this planet is the fact that we can share things with each other no matter what part of the world we happen to be in.  Like Elvis, the Beatles or Rocky… these names travel without us and bring the same image to mind.  Poor, unknown southern boy becomes King of Rock and Roll,  4 lads from Liverpool conquer America and the world, 2nd rate boxer gets his shot and becomes heavyweight champion… oops, that last one was in a movie.   But the point is, we share images no matter what our walk of life.

I was in Key West a while back just taking in the sights when someone mentioned the “sunset festival”.  We were feeling pretty good about ourselves so we made the trek from old town down to the water to see what all the fuss was about.  There were hundreds of people milling about watching street performers, making the vendors cash boxes ring and obviously waiting for some main event.  We stood on those large patio stones like we were searching for a downtown bus when everyone’s attention turned towards the west to watch the sun go down.  And just for a moment we all were silent, sharing something beautiful… a fiery gem dipping itself into the cooling vat known as the Gulf of Mexico.  

Right around the same time my love and I went on a little cruise to the Bahamas.  We slept out on the deck of our vessel and watched millions of silver blue glitter paint speckles stretch across the night sky canvas.  Later as she slept, I watched the full moon sizzlin’ like an Alka Seltzer as it dropped into a glass that was the Atlantic Ocean.  Minutes later the lazy sun arose from his bed at the opposite horizon and I marvelled at it’s brilliant tardiness.

I recall one hazy morning in S.W. Florida while driving to work disgusted at my nothingness I turned a casual gaze to that same golden medallion rising out over Route 80.  Low whispers of cloudy fingers split across the line that separates heaven from hell at the precise moment of his full extension making it appear as if there were two suns, one on top of the other and their union was glorious.

I can’t recall how many times I’ve been at the beach, sipping a glass of something appropriate and watched the life giver bid another fond adieu as he slipped to the other side of the world… while beachcombers, fishermen, friends, lovers and strangers all stared in awe.

What a gift we share… this life.  And whether you hail from the United Kingdom, S.W. Florida, Montana, Australia, Singapore or somewhere in between… as we watch that same sun retire, look up and wonder at that same moon together… you have to admit it is inspiring in any language. 

Watch for it tonight, wait for it tomorrow… tell me what you think,  I’m ready to listen.

peace.

Hello Hillary

March 18, 2007

Hello Hillary,

          Just a quick note to say hi and ask how the impeachment plans are coming.  Things seem a little rough around Washington these days, what with the demonstrations and the call for those Republicans to step down.  Makes me wonder who is running things in the White House now and what the Democrats plan to do to make it better.

          I am not really a news watcher but I have been getting in on some of the commentary programs on Sunday morning, things don’t look too good.  I guess when the Democrats took over control they didn’t tell us that clear thinking might get caught in the mix.

          I for one was never for the war in Iraq when we learned much of the information we based the attack on was either fabricated or exaggerated, but now I wonder if setting a timetable for our “dignified retreat” is such a good idea.  Oh, I know I’m probably going to get yelled at by the extreme left but let’s look at it logically. 

          Since the war in Iraq there have been no attacks on American soil by terrorists.  Our heightened awareness on that possibility is made ever more acute by the fact that there are still  plenty of insurgents left to fight “over there”.  So… if we weren’t fighting them there we might be fighting them here.  Some claim that is fairly lame logic and that we should pull back and see, but the mobilization of troops and equipment takes careful planning and time.  We might not have that much time  in the future.

          Also setting a timetable just goes against the grain of good reasoning.  Imagine you were the police force looking for a criminal.  Would you set a timetable for his capture? 

….

           Elmer Fudd:  “We’re gonna catch that wascally wabbit by sundown!  hahahaha”

           Andy of Mayberry:  “We’ll throw him in the jail cell and throw away the key…  once we find the key, that is.”

           Barney Fife:  “Gee, Andy… what if we don’t catch him by sundown?  What if he just lays low until tomorrow and then starts his high jinx all over again?”

           Officer Obee:  “Ain’t no criminal that smart!”

           Gomer Pyle:  “Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!  I’ll bet this one is!”

           Opie:  “Say, Pa… tomorrow when you haven’t caught the bad guy, can we go fishin’?”

         Andy of Mayberry: “Sure, Ope… let’s practice up on our whistlin’ ”

They all go whistlin’ the theme to The Andy Griffith Show and head off into the sunset…

….

           Perhaps we think terrorists aren’t that smart, either.

           Hope all is well with the campaign.

           Sincerely,

John Q. Citizen

         

Viacom needs a hug…

March 17, 2007

Poor Viacom…  the rich get richer.  The rich and the powerful get greedy.  Viacom is a media giant that touches just about everything we enjoy in entertainment.  The company has enough money to pull America out of debt and put us into the black.  They have enough money to start their own  country.  They have so much money they don’t call it money any more, they call it dividends  and their stockholders are worth billions of dollars.  So why are they complaining?

Google purchases YouTube and increases their share of virtual usage many times over.  Now Viacom says what users are doing is illegal and they are suing for a billion dollars.  Intimidation?  You bet!  Greedy?  Certainly so!  What can a new money venture (Google) do against the old money (Viacom) mega-conglomerate?  How about a virtual hug?  I mean… like the ’79 song by Olivia Newton-John goes…” would a little more love make it right?”  It can’t be because they need the money…

In my mind, YouTube may be exposing people (young people) to outlets in entertainment and a genre that they may never consider.                                                                         

 Take for example a 1949 movie classic, “The Lady From Shanghai” with Rita Hayworth and Orson  Wells. My friend, damewigginsoflee.wordpress.com/  has this posted on her site and I might never have considered it unless I had seen it there.  Now after a little research, I am intrigued and want to go further with it… actually see it, in other words.  I probably would have never thought of it if not for that post on YouTube.   YouTube inadvertently advertises for Viacom, but garnishes no revenue from it.  Now when did free advertisement become a bad thing?

So my point is, YouTube (rather than infringing on the making of the almighty dollar) may actually be generating income towards Viacom!  I know a short little clip can’t be diverting too much money from their coffers and may be piquing interest in future purchases!  Why would they be against that?

And why rock the boat, Viacom?  Don’t you have enough of the world’s attention?  Let’s see here… Comedy Central,  BET, CMT, MTV ( 1& 2 ) Nick @ Night, SPIKE,  TV LAND, VH1, Paramount Pictures & Dreamworks… the list goes on.  Music, television, movies… Viacom has it’s controlling hand in much of what we watch and listen to, except on the Internet.

Perhaps we (the Internet generation, or IG’rs) should boycott,  It might be a difficult thing for some people to do but stop and think for a minute.  Imagine Viacom suffering one week of no revenue, I’ll bet they’d feel that right in the old pocket book.  And we might be better off reading a book for that week, rather than watching television.  We could go to a park, have a picnic and skip the movie that Saturday afternoon.  Perhaps toss a frisbee around or muster up that ancient ritual called conversation around the dinner table.  Maybe have friends over for charades or some board game that is collecting dust somewhere.  Bring out those old records, CD’s or itunes and jam, but don’t buy anything new for that week.  And tell your radio stations, movie theatres, television broadcasters and those who buy advertisement all over the ancient medium that Viacom controls that we aren’t going to support them.

Or maybe Viacom just needs a hug, after all…

We are the consumer, we  have the final say… (and scroll down)

peace.

Dave Matthews Band – Everyday

March 17, 2007

Dave Matthews Band – Everyday

we all need this

respect your elders, and admire them… it is the begining of wisdom

March 13, 2007

By now you have no doubt heard about the mugger from New York City who brazenly attacks old women, one of which was 101 years old.  It has caused quite an uproar all over the country and rightly so, we have to be asking ourselves where has common decency gone?  Not that any mugging is acceptable, but to force your will upon these harmless individuals has got to be what one article claims was “the lowest of the low”.

It used to be that an elderly person was treated with dignity and respect but more and more I see young people behaving like they have no conscience, no morals, no reverence for the aged.  Our society puts no importance on it, our hearts and minds are not trained to recognize them as a valuable resource.  I wonder what the generation that comes from this one will be like.  Will senior citizens become likened to so much garbage,  only to be cast aside and forgotten?  Perhaps that time is already upon us.

We are talking about a generation passing that saw the Roaring 20’s, the Great Depression and World War II.  They saw the first movies being made, heard the radio play songs of the Golden Age, listened to music on 78 rpm records and saw black and white television in it’s infancy.  They knew of communism and McCarthyism, Korea, the Bay of Pigs and 3 assassinations of our nation’s leaders.  They witnessed the New Deal and polio vaccines, the Empire State Building and the Hoover Dam.  They even saw electricity, the telephone and mass transit become staples of the American landscape. 

Our grandparents and great-grandparents watched Bogart and Bacall, Hepburn and Tracy, Gable and Lombard and listened to Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and the Lennon Sisters.  They watched Joe Louis beat Max Schmeling, they watched Jesse Owens win the Olympics, they watched the incredible Jim Thorpe play football and John Glenn circle the earth.  They cheered one and all with the voice of their generation, one that certainly mattered… a generation that persevered and came off victorious. 

They saw all of that and so much more…  now are they to be reduced to brutalization by some cowardly crack addict walking around in a man’s skin wasting the air that he breathes?

We are shocked now, but will that wear off?  We are outraged now,  but will we soon become complacent?  I hope not.  But change begins with you and me.  We have to teach ourselves and our children that when we treat others and particularly the elderly with respect we are in turn respecting ourselves and our heritage.  As the Bible says, “it is the beginning of wisdom”.  We can’t tolerate the belittling of the human family, because really… we are all brothers made from the same stock.

I hope we will take pride in the elderly and renew our affection towards them.  I hope that our society will view them as national treasures, time keepers from an era passing too quickly by.  I hope there is a renewed sense of pride and accomplishment in our senior citizens, a geniune warmth in their reflection upon the rest of us.

 … and I hope they catch the bastard that did this shameful thing.

 peace.

the definitive 200?

March 11, 2007

Just when you think it is safe to assume that the top albums of all time have been listed and laid to rest, along comes another poll.  The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and N.A.R.M  (National Association of Recording Merchandisers,  no wonder!) got together and announced their choice of the 200 albums EVERYONE should have in their collection.  Sounded like a marketing ploy to me but I bit on it and checked out the web site at:  http://www.definitive200.com/index.html  just to see where my tastes came in amongst the “experts” choices.  As I have written before, I hate best of lists… and this one smacks of boosting sagging sales and political correctness but I have nothing else to do today so here goes my critique,  tongue placed firmly in cheek…  (hey, that rhymed!)

#77  Johnny Cash… At Folsom Prison 

A good choice for anyone wanting to get into the charisma of the man, some good tunes, and perhaps a turning point in his career, but not his best effort.  If I were to put together a time capsule of unlimited choices to be opened a hundred years from now this one would make the journey, but not as the single representative it is here.

#1  The Beatles…   Sgt. Pepper

No surprise here but #2 was! 

#2  Pink Floyd…   Dark Side of the Moon. 

A great album and always at the top of anyone’s list, this collection continues to be fresh every time I hear it.  Some music is period piece but not this album, it’ll rock on for decades to come,  In fact, that time capsule I spoke about?  Future rockers will already have this album burned in their brain disc,  ( a future apparatus that will require no outside gadgetry but will be embedded directly into the brain and controlled by thought) and wonder why it is in a time capsule in the first place.

#7  Carole King… Tapestry

“I feel the earth move… under my feet.”  But I don’t think this album should rank over Bob Dylan’s early efforts.  His first five albums should easily rank ahead of this one, though I do have this and love it.

#22  The Who… Who’s Next

Can you believe it?  Twenty-one albums proceeding this one?  easily a top ten but NO!

#97  Celine Dion… Falling Into You.

Okay, now here is where we get ridiculous!  She has a definitive voice, no doubt, but rank her over John Lennon’s… Imagine?  (#144)  or Bob Dylan’s…  Bringing It All Back Home?  (#195) and no mention of Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton or Linda Ronstadt?  But hey, I see at least 3 albums by the Dixie Chicks!  and Beyonce’? please!  Tu Pac?  Eminem?  Now where are we headed here?  This is a commercial effort to say the least and it gets worse!

No Moody Blues, no Steve Miller Band, no Alan Parson’s Project, no music by The Band? No Cream, Jefferson Airplane, or Bryan Adams?   AND NO ROY ORBISON?  and of course, no Jesse Winchester.

 Is there any wonder that these best of lists SUCK? 

But check it out for yourselves,  I know there are some glaring omissions that I have overlooked and I would love to hear your take on this “definitive” list…

but I only had a few minutes here before I smashed my 32″ monitor in disgust.

peace.

Amazing Juggling Finale

March 10, 2007

Amazing Juggling Finale

   .amazing indeed! and the soundtrack ain’t bad either!

often imitated… never equalled.  enjoy!

hopeless romantic

March 9, 2007

I have to admit it from the start… I prefer the company of women.  I don’t think that makes me any less macho or a real feminine type, I mean… I work construction, for cryin’ out loud!  I enjoy time out with the guys and talkin’ with the guys and doing the things that a group of men do, but I find more stimulation with the fairer sex.

Now I know right away most heterosexual males are going to say, “Who doesn’t?” but I mean mentally as well as physically, socially as well as philosophically.  Women are more prone to be emotional, they temper their thoughts and actions with feeling and I find that beautiful… 

Men want to fix things, they want to work out problems, find solutions and move on.  Men are hunters, leaders, and adventurers.  Men are thrill seekers, men are conquerors, men want to be kings of the castle and modern day Don Juans.  Women, for the most part, want to be loved, nurtured and protected.

I know there are exceptions to the rule and please don’t think I am being a “typical man” here, but women blossom when they sense they are loved, but like a flower they need attention, assurance and care.  I think men forget that, I know I do sometimes and it freaks me out when I discover how simple a relationship can be… give a little, get a little.  Give more receive more in abundance.  I love being a man when I feel the love of a woman, it makes me complete… I am fulfilled.

For the past two days during lunch (at different times and places) I heard this Bryan Adams song play.  The first time I heard it (yesterday) I thought, “Oh yeah, that song… what a good song… blah, blah, blah.”  Then I heard it again and I had an epiphany like 76 trombones leading the big parade… I really do love a woman and perhaps I don’t live up to every decree the song makes, but I am willing to work on it.  I think that is what makes for a lasting relationship, don’t you?  Two people willing to work out their differences and make allowances for each others shortcomings must be doing it for love, that is the only motivation that makes it all worthwhile.

So Annette, when you read this… if you read this, I love you.  Thank you for making me a better man.

enjoy the video…

peace.