“I smoke marijuana because it keeps me from killing people,” is likely Willie Nelson’s best known quote. Willie has written terrific songs, many now country standards like Crazy, Funny How Time Slips Away, Night Life, Hello Walls, Pretty Paper. Getting deeper inside Willie’s head: “Ninety-nine percent of the world’s lovers are not with their first choice. That’s what makes the jukebox play.” and “We create our own unhappiness. The purpose of suffering is to help us understand we are the ones who cause it.” and “You know why divorces are so expensive? They’re worth it.” Willie delivered these classic lines describing a cowboy in Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys, written by Ed and Patsy Bruce, “Them that don’t know him won’t like him and them that do sometimes won’t know how to take him. He ain’t wrong, he’s just different but his pride won’t let him do things to make you think he’s right.” Willie turns 78 today. Hear his sweet and sparse cover of Roy Acuff’s Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain live.
Monthly Archives: April 2011
American writer Annie Dillard, born on this day in 1945, has written some of the best poetry, fiction and non-fiction I’ve ever read including Tickets for a Prayer Wheel, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Teaching a Stone to Talk and For the Time Being. Annie said, “I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try and put myself in the path of its beam.” and “This old rock planet gets the present for a present on its birthday every day.” and “If Man were to die, wheat couldn’t survive him more than three years.” and “Ecstasy is a soul’s response to the waves holiness makes as it nears.” and “Nothing moves a woman so deeply as the boyhood of the man she loves.” Her latest book, The Maytrees, came out in 2007. Watch Annie speak at Harper’s Magazine 150th Anniversary in 2000. She’s very funny.
From the Kuching waterfront in Sarawak, Malaysia, today’s busker, the final one of Amazing Buskers Around the World Week on readreidread, plays the traditional sape with a haunting and lonesome trill. Sape music is usually inspired by dreams and there are over 35 traditional pieces with many variations. The overall repertoire is slowly increasing.
Quick definition of pop song: any popular song from any era regardless of musical genre.
This month we need to use the Wayback Machine to reach the Pop Song of Month. It’s Roger Miller’s biggest hit, King of the Road, which reached #4 on Billboard in early 1965. Watch how Roger swings it.
Notions about bums and hoboes usually had a highly romantic aura to them in the first half of the 20th century, getting their first mass airing in 1929 with Harry McClintock’s tune, Hallelujah I’m a Bum. During the 1930s Depression, riding the rails was no longer just the purview of bums, becoming a relatively common experience, yet retaining a cultural mystique that fascinated people. One of comedian Red Skelton’s best known characters was Freddie the Freeloader, a loveable bum.
The King of the Road is a loveable bum – friendly, wise, lazy, a little larcenous, knows the ropes and the rails, has tasted the wine and reads the symbols. He always carries a piece of chalk to leave behind appropriate symbols for subsequent hobo visitors. Still, he’ll do a couple hours of “pushin’ broom” to get a roof over his head for the night.
I can identify with the experience because I “rode the rails” a time or two in my callow youth but for different reasons. My Dad was the Texaco fuel consignee in Shoal Lake in the late 1950s and 1960s. His office and fuel tanks sat right next to the tracks. The fuel came in by tanker cars, delivered more or less to the site where they could be pumped into the storage tanks. Using a huge heavy pinch bar, Dad and I manoeuvred the full tank cars into exact position, always with some short two by fours nearby in case the car gained its own momentum and had to be stopped.
Standing on the Texaco loading dock when a fast freight sped by, I could smell the hot cinders in the track bed mixed with the acrid aroma of diesel smoke and the swirling dust in the train’s wake, the howl of its whistle echoing in my ears as it disappeared in the distance.
Working with Dad next to the tracks gave me a familiarity and comfort with trains. From that sprang the idea of hitching a ride in an empty boxcar down the tracks to Strathclair ten miles away, hoping the train stopped, then jumping out and hitchhiking back to Shoal Lake. When I was around 12 or 13 I secretly did this a time or two on my own but found it much more satisfying with an accomplice. My cohort-in-danger shall remain nameless but suffice it to say when his parents discovered our escapade and shared it with mine, my train-hitching days ended abruptly and sternly.
I do not recommend this activity to anyone.
Nor do I recommend the following wine and present this as a public service. I have been filling a sidebar on my blog with descriptions of various bum wines lately and here offer the next in the series: Thunderbird 17.5% alcohol by vol.
Look for the pigeon feces and you’ll find this old bird. As soon as you taste this swill, it will be obvious that its makers cut every corner possible in its production to make it cheap. Self-proclaimed as “The American Classic,” Thunderbird is vinted and bottled by E. & J. Gallo Winery, in Modesto, CA. Disguised like Night Train, the label says that it is made by “Thunderbird, Ltd.” Anyways, if your taste buds are shot, and you need to get trashed with a quickness, then “T-bird” is the drink for you. Or, if you like to smell your hand after pumping gas, look no further than Thunderbird. As you drink on, the bird soars higher while you sink lower. The undisputed leader of the five in foulness of flavor, we highly discourage drinking this ghastly mixture of unknown chemicals unless you really are a bum. A convenience store clerk in Show Low, AZ once told me that only the oldest of stumbling Indian drunks from the reservation buy Thunderbird. Available in 750 mL and a devastating 50 oz jug.
The history of Thunderbird is as interesting as the drunken effects one experiences from the wine. When Prohibition ended, Ernest Gallo and his brothers Julio and Joe wanted to corner the young wine market. Earnest wanted the company to become “the Campbell Soup Company of the wine industry” so he started selling Thunderbird in the ghettos around the country. Their radio ads featured a song that sang, “What’s the word? / Thunderbird / How’s it sold? / Good and cold / What’s the jive? / Bird’s alive / What’s the price? / Thirty twice.” It is said that Ernest once drove through a tough, inner city neighborhood and pulled over when he saw a bum. When Gallo rolled down his window and called out, “What’s the word?” the immediate answer from the bum was, “Thunderbird.”
WARNING: This light yellow liquid turns your lips and mouth black! A mysterious chemical reaction similar to disappearing-reappearing ink makes you look like you’ve been chewing on hearty clumps of charcoal. http://www.bumwine.com
Hoboes invented a code, a language to use among themselves to indicate the status of various places, people and events. Many carried chalk to leave the symbols when needed. Watch my six-minute video on the meaning of hobo code symbols.
The homeless are the new hoboes. Once they were quiet middle-class people. Now, forsaken, they are in your face on the street. The innocence and fearless swing of Roger’s fine ditty echoes back to a different time, transporting us into a tiny room that smells of cigar smoke, sweat and mold. A dirty sink has one tap that drips onto a rich brown stain that looks like chocolate. Pigeons coo and walk among their own feces on the windowsill. The clang of the midnight train, chuffing and screeing, draws the King’s ear as he smokes in the dark, propped up on the thin pillow on the saggy mattress, a fifth of a fifth of T’bird by his side. He listens and listens and dreams of anywhere but here.
To Australia today for a fine rendition of the Inspector Gadget Theme played on beer bottles by Sydney’s Bottle Man.
Day Four of Amazing Buskers Around the World Week on ReadReidRead goes to the streets of London
Next on Amazing Buskers Around the World Week we go to Washington, DC for this kitchen sink performance.
Since today’s Amazing Busker’s performance is brief, I’m adding a bonus, sort of. This is the Worst Busker Ever followed immediately by an appropriate review of his show.
Since Carlos was such a large influence on my early shamanic thinking, today I honour his day of ascension in 1998 after 72 years. He knew about it for years in advance. Don Juan showed him his death. Instead of quoting Carlos – he wrote a dozen books to do that – here is a short story I wrote called Carlos, Neil and Me. On a high hill in southern Saskatchewan next to a stone buffalo effigy, I met Carlos Castaneda. He was alone and naked except for a guitar. He sat cross-legged on the dry dun grass and strummed, trying to remember the words to some old Neil Diamond song. The sun was in his eyes. He clenched them shut against the heat, the fury, the bullshit! He asked if he could have my car. I told him it was rented. “Rented!” he exclaimed. “Everything is rented!” with a wave of his hand to express inclusion. “We’re all rented!” I gave him the car. When he started it, that old Neil Diamond song was playing on the radio.
“I am…I said, to no one there,” sang Neil.
Carlos left me two bags of groceries and drove away.
“Everything is a circle,” said the buffalo effigy.
It’s Amazing Buskers Around the World Week on ReadReidRead. From the streets of Frankfurt, Germany, hear this amazing performance on a Hang drum! Similar to the steel drum, the Hang instrument is a percussive steel drum known for its melodic “singing bowl” like sound qualities. It was introduced in Switzerland in 2001 and presented at the Frankfurt Music Fair.
This is a very bloggy thing for me to do but I’m reporting on what I did this weekend. I rented a Ford Fusion from Enterprise (a company I recommend) and drove 800 kms in rural Manitoba since Friday morning, visiting two cousins, making new friends and seeing old friends. Friday I drove to Dauphin, MB, north of Riding Mountain National Park on the edge of which lives my cousin Vonda. We share the family spirit connection.
I spent two weeks of every youthful summer at Aunt Ina and Uncle Derk’s farm just north of Riding Mountain near Vonda’s farm. The shape of the mountain, basically a bit of end moraine left by the receding Ice Age now furred with rich green forest, loomed on the horizon and left an indelible impression. It felt warm and generous being next to that familiar shape again. Here’s a wide view of Riding Mountain bulging along the horizon. This is Friday’s sunset outside my hotel room door.
Vonda’s farm sits at the mouth of a deep and wide valley that opens out of Riding Mountain Park about two miles away. On Saturday afternoon, armed with bear spray and her dogs Rebel and Hawkeye, we took a long walk along the top of the valley through stands of oak and poplar. A creek swollen with melting mountain snow burbled down the valley.
At one spot above the dugout and a small slough we heard an amazing sound coming up the valley wall. It sounded like ducks maybe or crows reading James Joyce or grouse at a lek dancing and singing. It was very horny, urgent, unrelenting. It turned out to be frogs mating as this vid I found demonstrates the sound and its source. Image it loud and incessant arising from an unknown place 200 feet below on a warm, still afternoon.
This is a shot across the valley with creek on left, slough in centre and pasture above. The frog song echoed up and across the valley.
After a hearty home cooked meal and bottle of wine, I spent another night at the Canway Inn, which I don’t recommend. Dauphin has better lodgings. Sunday morning I drove through Riding Mountain National Park on Hwy #10. The speed limit is a leisurely 80 km through the 60 km park. There was little traffic, saw a couple of deer and enjoyed the pace away from the hive.
Highway #10 eventually got me to Brandon where I visited my cousin Duncan and his lovely companion Christine. Brandon is rambunctious with housing development in every direction, as a tour from Duncan proved. Many of the new streets don’t have streetlights, some the streets aren’t even complete before the houses are ready. The place is “growing” so quickly that the city of my birth has become a tawdry example of unremitting urban sprawl and big box stores dumbly built on a floodplain in a valley, many now threatened with flooding by the mischievous Assiniboine River. Ha!
Luckily Brandon has rich and living heritage and I always find a new example of it every time I visit. We were driving down 2nd Street near Princess and a row of old two-storeys caught my eye. Three of them had the same elaborate Eastlake Stick style bargeboard under their front gables. Brandon has other fine examples of the style. I jumped out and snapped all three.
Brandon’s finest example of the style is the former Paterson/Matheson House at 1039 Louise Ave. You can read more about this pile on my Houses page.
I’ve long admired the old stone fence next to my cousin’s house in Brandon. One of its sections needs a good stonemason to get it vertical again.
I drove out Highway #10 south of Brandon to Riverside Park, a favourite stopping place next to the Souris River. The park is no longer beside the river but in the river. The Souris is flooding its banks frequently this year. It empties into the Assiniboine near Wawanesa. This is a picture of the flooded park.
And here the mighty Souris floods on
As I was leaving the park in the ditch two wild turkeys were strutting around, feathers fanned and fierce. The weather was cooperative, it’s too early for serious highway construction to become obstruction, too early for wood ticks and there wasn’t much traffic for a holiday weekend.
I enjoyed the driving but part of the weekend was to test the intensity of my wanderlust this year, at least giving it an initial airing to see how far its range needs to extend. Still pondering that. The familiar scenery, the memories associated with the region and the wonderful spirit of the people made the trip a double dose of spring tonic for me.
To end here’s a shot of the mixed forest along the top of the valley next to Riding Mountain.
It’s Amazing Buskers Around the World Week on ReadReidRead. First meet Claudio Montuori, known as The Birdman. He performs in Lisbon, Portugal
At the end of Part 1 of my essay Sacred Places and Consciousness, I stated Part 2 would be posted today. That’s not going to happen. I apologize to my readers. The time has gotten away from me and I haven’t completed the second section yet. I will post Part 2 over the next two weeks. Thank you for your patience.
Meanwhile, look for my next Pop Song of the Month and Why coming Friday, April 29 plus more unspecified internal and external fun.
Incredible debut of Jeff, just Jeff, after his quadruple accident encountering a motor boat rotor, two sharks, three sting rays and a gay lifeguard in one afternoon. His left sleeve is empty and the web is riff with rumours and circumcisions about just what’s left of Jeff south of his belt.
Despite his topical theme, Li’l Richard dives from #3 last week. Internet gossip squirted about his 4% undetectable hairpiece and 11% undetectable sideburns but couldn’t maintain Li’l’s top three standing. I’m sure that Li’l old bear can take it!
What faith these girls display from the tips of their bouffants right down to the deft toes of their pennyloafers. Their inspirational songs about being used by Jesus have rocketed them into the Top Ten for the first time. Ruthina, the Faith Tone on the left, sometimes faints from the hairspray.
Witness Jay Snell yearning, hear him parade his sins before your very ears, meet him behind the tent afterwards. He jumps two dozen other albums into number 6 this week.
Combining eccentric forms of dance and defence has long been the purview of many evangelicals and Mike Crain has found his niche market. Using God’s power to break garden decor asunder, Mike jumps from 22 to 5 this week.
They are back for the fifth time and the Top Ten can barely contain them. Some are beginning to talk Brailettesmania! Their ever-singing hearts have propelled them into the Top 4.
Blind Willie Sutherland, the one in the glasses, little orphan Audrey and Pastor Knackers all share their innermost secrets in song. The mix is unredeemable but the record keeps flying off the shelves. Holy-hearted business lands them at #3 this week.
After 69 weeks being on top, the Frocked Four have been dethroned. Having dismounted the top spot, the group’s future remains in doubt. Four solo careers may result. Still number 2 isn’t exactly being on the bottom, is it guys?
From out of the blue, young Greg Kendrick has grabbed number 1 away from the group he describes as “my mentors.” He only has 69 weeks to go to exceed their record. Go get ’em Greg!
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