Sunday, October 31, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
The music last night at the Front Porch Gallery ran along the lines of young guys killing their girlfriends, one for having a roving eye, another because she wouldn't marry him. Knoxville Girl and Banks of the Ohio. He took her by the golden curls and swung her round and round. He saw her drowning in the river; it was a dreadful sight. These are great songs in the tradition that today's television addict can't connect with very well. They don't have happy endings and they don't deny all but the superficial and cheery. They are the kinds of songs Carter Stanley loved to sing. I believe his audiences encouraged him to love them. It was then a world of very little entertainment that you don't create for yourself, as opposed to now when we're saturated with entertainment.
I don't mean to exclude myself from the category saturated with entertainment. I watch movies of my choice, not the choice of a corporate network. I have a lot of cd's, tapes and lps because I like to listen to the music I like, not music on the radio where I might like one out of ten songs. When I have my own music, I only listen to music I like. At the moment, I'm hearing Schubert quartets by the Melos Qtet. I watch movies, play music cds, paint pictures and read books, entertained to the max, just like everybody around me, in my own way, as everyone else has their own particulars. One of the things I find most interesting about this time is just about everyone is involved in listening to music quite a lot. I doubt any two people in the entire USA have the same cd collections. Might be some along the same lines, but not the same specific titles.
Last night at Woodlawn the music was right there, as always. It was a Halloween theme, songs with references to ghosts, fear, murder. Willard sang a song he wrote called The Shootin, about a murder where he grew up in eastern Kentucky 10 miles outside Hazard. I believe he recorded it with his band Alternate Roots. Willard writes a good song. In a way, it seems like Willard is about nostalgia, "the Norman Rockwell of Appalachia," though I tend to see him more as an artist whose theme throughout his life as an artist has been visual art, vocal art, guitar picking art, song arranging art, songwriting art, Willard uses the world he lives in for his theme. He has made a lot of pictures of people in the old-time ways, and he's made a lot of pictures of people in today's ways. His music is of the past and it's of the present. It's all about living in the mountains. Willard's musical expression is mountain music, old-time, bluegrass, the fusion of the two.
I can't forget seeing at the Hillbilly Show the slide show about BROC members who died over the last few years. The narrator had whatever it took to bill himself in the credits, The Voice of the Blue Ridge. He didn't even have an accent, a city guy who came here not very long ago, giving himself the title owned by Ralph Stanley only. I realize the guy has no idea about mountain culture or who Ralph Stanley is. He may have heard of Stanley and maybe even heard a song or two by him, but all it really told me was he's innocent of mountain culture, knows nothing about it, doesn't intend to, and thought he was being clever coming up with such an audacious title for himself, without an accent even. I accept that he can call himself anything he wants, though an elephant by any other name is an elephant. It doesn't matter to me. It's just that I'm in awe, like jaw dropped to the floor and bouncing a time or two kind of awe. It makes me laugh every time it comes to mind like it did seeing on the screen.
It's satisfying in the autumn of my life to see I'll end my days with the very last of the mountain people. They have been my guiding light for 35 years Monday. I came here to learn, arriving here one year and 3 weeks after seeing that God indeed is. When I saw that, there was no living as if I hadn't. Somebody I'd met in my first year here, who was here from Raleigh, told me it's good I came to the mountains so I can teach these people something. I knew Tom Pruitt and his nephews mostly through that year and knew for a certainty I had nothing to teach "these people." What teaching there would be could only go from them to me. I wanted to learn about mountain culture from experience, not reading about it. When somebody went to Jr to ask him to teach them to play bluegrass banjo, he told them if they can't figure it out on their own, they don't want to learn it. That's how he learned it, knew no other way.
Monday is my 35th year here and the one year date of Jr's departure. Melia, his 2nd cousin, and I will go to Jr's grave with some liquor, pour a sip on the ground and have a sip with memory of him and talk of him. We'll laugh the whole time. For me, Melia is one of his friends he left to me. All of his friends became my friends one year ago. They're a good bunch of people I'm more than happy to have for my friends. In some cases it even feels like family. Our celebration at the cemetery will be a reminder of my Whitehead citizenship as well. All these reasons and more make it a date I want to do something more than just remember it's the day. Jr shared with me some of the best liquor that's ever been made in this world. It feels right to have a symbolic drink with him in spirit. If souls on the other side can see into our world, he will get a kick out of our celebration.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
This picture I got by accident. It has no intent of the human mind in it. Somehow I pushed the button without intending to and have no recollection of when, though I recognize where. It's the ceiling light that shines on the musicians Friday night at the Front Porch Gallery. I like accidental pictures. They're even more free of conscious composition than a small child's first snapshots. In this, there isn't even a subject. The mind wants to make the lights and the track the subject, which is ok by me. I still like the picture as itself. Different shades of white and one black line.
Met Mary Lee this morning, grief counselor with Hospice, who was a tremendous benefit in the time of Hospice helping keep Jr out of the nursing home. She didn't help with the changing of diapers, etc. Her role was more working with the caregiver going through emotional turmoil, sorrow, fear, helplessness. Whenever I felt the need for someone to talk with who understood what I was going through, a phone call to Mary would have her there first minute she could get there. Her's was one of 4 cars that when I saw one coming up the driveway, it was the same as seeing an angel flapping white wings like a crow flying low up the driveway.
Once, I felt like I needed to dive deep with a psychotherapist looking for something I couldn't find on my own. I asked Mary to come and spend an hour with me. We sat on the porch, Jr inside, and I explained my need to dive deep with someone to ask me leading questions. At this moment I don't remember the issue, but do remember by the end of the hour I saw into what what it was I was looking to find. It was a significant discovery at the time. We mostly talked about frustrations, joys, sorrows. Primarily, I needed somebody to talk out my meanings to and Mary provided the understanding ear and encouraging words. In addition to that, she's somebody I like knowing. We talk easily.
We had a great deal of laughs this morning. We took a corner in the coffee shop on Main St, Backwoods Bean, and did our private talking there. Two men in the place were out of their minds with curiosity about our conversation. It was animated and full of good humor, obvious we were having fun. There was a time each of them, one at a time, walked within earshot of us to hear what we were talking about, trying not to be obvious, like getting off the seat in the bar, walking over by us like looking at a picture on the wall, then back to the seat. It was funny, not a problem. We talked loud enough that if they wanted to hear us they could. We weren't hiding anything. They were, for me, part of the good humor. It was totally innocent. The time came they were eaten up with curiosity so much they had to hear something to make sense of our conversation. They made it real.
There have been times I've gone to her office to talk about something that was bothering me at the time. Mainly, I think it was a need to talk about Jr with someone who knew my meaning. Like today, it was for my part mainly a chance to talk about Jr. I tried the best I could to explain to Mary my meaning when I say I feel Jr's presence all the time now. It's not like a ghost, a spirit, or even anything psychic, just presence. All that I learned from knowing Jr, which is considerable, is now incorporated into who I am. In that way, he is with me all the time.
I told her about keeping the interior of the car clean, because Jr liked it kept clean. He never cleaned the outside, and I don't either. It will always be "Jr's car." I love it that he passed his old-man chariot on to me as I'm entering my own old man phase.
It felt good being back in touch with Hospice. My awe for these people is tremendous. A year must pass before a caregiver is allowed the opportunity to volunteer with Hospice. A year is passed first of November, I said I wanted to do something volunteer, thinking of being one who gives a caregiver a break for some hours, which amounts to reading a thick book. She had some other thoughts in mind that we talked about for awhile, something to do with understanding the grief process, the journal aspect of the blog before, during and after, keeping a record of the feelings one passes through. While going through the whole process, writing a blog entry every day became my friend. It was a kind of archiving the subtleties of a universal experience like making the videos at the Front Porch Gallery and putting them on YouTube for whoever happens to see them. Sharing valuable experience that uplifts the spirit. I look forward to a future associated with Hospice.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Last night was Gerald Anderson night at the Front Porch in Woodlawn. He's a guitar picker and a guitar maker. Makes mandolins too. He has a good reputation for both pickin and putting the instruments together. He learned making guitars from Wayne Henderson, and works in his corner at Wayne's shop. He is a friend of Scott's and Willard's, like everyone else who plays at the Front Porch. Like the other musicians who have played there, Anderson expressed his liking for the small venue where the musicians can jam with an audience.
Today I'm uploading videos from last night to YouTube, reviewing each one before it goes up, remembering the music last night, the comfortable, friendly atmosphere among everyone present, recalling moments from concerts past at the Front Porch, and again reviewing my own gratitude to have this opportunity to hear incredibly good mountain music of the present moment; old-time, bluegrass, swing, ballad. All are good singers. All are excellent musicians all the way around. Scott and Willard are good hosts to their guests too. They support the guests with good rhythm, good musicianship, just plain good pickin. They hold up the guest musically, make him/her sound the best they can sound, never attempting to outdo the guest at picking or singing. Scott and Willard are never shy to make music. The music flows when they're behind it.
I was recalling a time, can't remember the year, 05 or 06, Scott Freeman entered the first mandolin competition at the Wayne Henderson Festival on Mt. Rogers. He imagined he would get second place, which he wanted, because the prize was a Wayne Henderson mandolin. First prize was an Anderson mandolin. Scott had an Anderson mandolin and wanted one by Henderson. He slipped up and got first. Another Anderson mandolin. No problem. Except he had an hour's drive full-tilt to get to the Blue Ridge Music Center on the Parkway where his band Alternate Roots was playing. They were scheduled to play first, but the other band, the Whoopin Holler String Band (The New Ballard's Branch Bogtrotters with Jake Krack of West Virginia playing fiddle) went ahead and played first due to Scott having to stay at the Festival to play at the end for winning the competition.
Scott knows how to drive mountain roads and he arrived backstage about one minute before they were to go on. Everybody was anxious. He walked in, they walked on stage and started. Scott was playing his new Anderson mandolin. In a break during a bluegrass song the band was playing, Scott smoked that mandolin. Steve Lewis on banjo looked over at him like, what flew up your derriere? Scott went on and on, cutting loose completely playing at the apex of his skill, and it was something to behold. One of those unforgettable concert moments. Playing the Anderson he won hoping for the Henderson, but not complaining.
Something else I hear the guests mention every week, in addition to what Gerald Anderson said about liking the small venue and making music with such good musicians as Willard and Scott. It frequently gets mentioned by the guest musician that Willard has been a "hero" to them musically, and it's a delight for them to have a chance to make music with him. Willard told me before the show that Edwin Lacy is getting transferred from Indiana to Bristol. He will be close enough that Skeeter and the Skidmarks can get going again. Willard said the particular combination of people in the band gave it a special energy. We spoke of how they played a few weeks ago, in the groove from start to finish. He called it a chemistry running through all the musicians in the band. His eyes lit up when he said they'd be able to play more with Edwin nearby. Skeeter and the Skidmarks do have an extra good energy in their music.
You can check out Gerald Anderson's website here: http://www.andersonstrickland.net/
Friday, October 22, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Greek poet of the late 19th century and the early 20th, Constantine P. Cavafy, lived in Alexandria, Egypt, in the Greek community there. Greek communities flourished in the Mediterranean port cities due to Greek shipping that goes all the way back to Homer's stories of the Trojan War and the adventures of Odysseus on his way home from the war. Cavafy lived a modest life and wrote some beautiful poems. One of his poems stays with me all down through time. Expecting the Barbarians seems to me a pattern that repeats often in perhaps every place. It is written around the belief that barbarians (outsiders, others who are not us) will come to save us, because we can't save ourselves.
What are we waiting for, assembled in the public square?
The barbarians are to arrive today.
Why such inaction in the Senate?
Why do the senators sit and pass no laws?
Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
What further laws can the senators pass?
When the barbarians come they will make the laws.
Through the course of the poem it is often repeated, "Because the barbarians are to arrive today." What is pictured as a kind of Roman government with red embroidered togas, bracelets amethyst-studded, emerald rings, canes made of silver and gold. "Because the barbarians are to arrive today / and such things dazzle the barbarians."
The perhaps capital city in the poem is ready to turn itself over entirely to the barbarians, outsiders, people from someplace else. Historically, I think of Genghis Khan, when he approached a city (medieval times) he gave them a choice. Give the mongols all their finery, horses, money, to keep them from killing everybody and burning down the city. It's never clear in the poem if the barbarians are a threat or if they will they create jobs.
I think of Bristol Compressors. Outsiders moving in to be management for the new factory. The town of Sparta went nuts. Outsiders coming to save us, because we cannot save ourselves. White liquid shoe polish writings on Main St windows welcoming Bristol Compressors, parties, the town government giving Bristol all kinds of tax breaks, electrical deals, a very expensive welcome package. Everybody jumping up and down. The barbarians are to arrive today. They're going to bring jobs and save us. They brought in management, hired a few workers, left before the end of their contract, refused to pay the fine for breaking the contract and that was that.
Teapot museum was an outsider from California, a rich barbarian offering his teapot collection to vitalize a small mountain town that didn't want it. All the town had to do was come up with enough millions to make the kind of museum he demanded. All the way along I'm thinking, you want the damn museum, you put up the money. We who don't want it don't have the money. Rich barbarian fell through, withdrew his collection and Sparta's attempt at a small museum fell through thanks to the ED (economic downturn). Mrs Rich Barbarian was quoted in the Winston-Salem Journal calling Sparta "a black hole," she who comes from Los Angeles Society, a bigger black hole. Maybe she knows one when she sees one.
The half of the county population here from other places, barbarians, outsiders, were behind the teapot museum for something to save us. The mountain portion of the population never could figure out what a teapot museum had to do with Sparta. The only tea ever drank here was iced tea with sugar. No pots, no fancy cups. Tall plastic glass with plenty of ice and a straw. That's tea drinking in Sparta. Sweet tea. Lemon maybe. Alas, another barbarian appealed to for our salvation when we can't help ourselves.
I've often wondered if this general belief that we of the county cannot help ourselves, that we need an outsider to come in and save us, might be based in that most foundation of Baptist beliefs, that we cannot save ourselves. Only Jesus can save us. It's a different kind of save we're talking about for Sparta, but I have a feeling we're held back by a general belief we can't save ourselves. It's so drilled into us from the time we're kids that we can't save ourselves, when in another context of the word save we can indeed save ourselves. I fall out of a boat, I save myself by swimming. If I say, I can't save myself, I go to the bottom.
Cavafy's poem changes when confusion starts, streets and squares clearing of people going home, "deep in thought."
Some people arrived from the frontiers,
And they said that there are no longer any barbarians.
And now what shall become of us without any barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Odd autumn. Half way through October and still have not had a night below freezing. All the trees are changing colors and shedding their leaves. The ground and gravel roads are covered in leaves now. The mountain ridges have the patchwork quilt suggestion of this time of year. Yet, up close the trees look ragged. The white oak across the road that is always the last one to turn has lost most of its upper leaves while the lower leaves are still green with branches full of brown parchment leaves dried and curled, still attached. Look up into a tree of yellow leaves and they're all drying up, a short time yellow then brown parchment leaves curled up, not falling, but staying in place. Leaves with color have their outer edges burned it looks like. They've just dried from the outside inward. It seems like nearly all the leaves have those brown edges of drying from the outside.
It's an unhealthy seeming autumn to me. Leaves don't turn until after a freeze. There has been no freeze. They turned colors from drought. I've never seen this. I stopped in the Chamber of Commerce today to see Pat and Bob. Pat was saying she's been seeing only all black woolly worms. I said I had too. And last year there were a lot of black ones, more than I'd ever seen before. The year before, the occasional black one. We laughed at how we both try to avoid woolly worms crossing the road and hate it when we nail one.
It seems to me notable that the woolly worm has this traditional forecasting quality, but nobody seems to know why or how it's interpreted. I'm guessing that over a couple hundred year period in these mountains without electricity the people saw a tremendous degree of weather changes, and maybe the woolly worm's color changing has to do with changes in all of them. This year there's no question about all the black woolly worms. I still see a little bit of the orange frost on them, and next year they'll probably be opaque black. It is a definite progression toward black, it appears, in all the woolly worms at least of our region. It makes me wonder what somebody who doesn't know what an eclipse is thinks when it happens. The Rider Haggard novel SHE is a story around spooking people who know nothing about it by predicting it using an ephemeris.
Pat said she'd heard a weather forecast saying we may have a steadily cold winter. Sounds like last winter, maybe moreso. The only thing I can say for sure is that no two winters I've seen here have been near alike. Each season from year to year is uniquely itself. Last winter was uniquely itself in an alarming way. Winters always came in waves before. Last winter was one long wave. The winter before it almost was. Going by the progression I've seen toward dryer and less cold all in one wave. The woolly worm was representative of the waves in the winter, a cold spell, then a warm spell, then a cold spell again. Now it's one long cold spell. It gets curiouser and curiouser.
I can't help but think about 5 or less years ago seeing the cross-hatched chemtrails in the sky over us. Nobody has been able to find out what all that was about. One of the suspicions, since it was done all over the country, was that it had to do with weather. Like daylight savings time was established so shopping wouldn't decrease so much during winter, there must be a corporate interest in perhaps keeping weather more uniform. Who knows? Obama knows. But he aint sayin nothin. He's one of them. How do you get to the top of the dog heap without being a dog?
Looking at popular movies as collective dreams of our society, and popular music too, I see a lot of destruction going on. Movie after movie of capitalism and all its props falling down after a reign of fascism until it implodes. Movies galore of vampirism now in the time of the banks putting the vacuum hose into our billfolds, sucking our blood. This foreclosure boom we're in is vampire teeth to our collective jugular. Dracula lives. He's moved from a Transylvanian castle to an uptown New York apartment with a summer place on Cape Cod. The king of the dead. And all the serial killer movies and best-seller books for so many years now. What's that about? Deranged white middle aged man tortures and kills white teenage babes. A very popular theme in our collective dreams.
At the same time in the collective dreams we have Eddie Murphy and a long string of really funny comedians, Larry the Cable Guy. There is a great deal of riotous comedy, romance stories, falling in love. All our human characteristics are represented in our collective dreams cataloged at the video stores the same as they were represented in the Greek and Roman gods and all the other gods around the ancient world. They were each one human characteristics; Zeus, the higher self, his brother Vulcan, who is the physical, and his other brother Neptune, the emotional part. Athena was wisdom, her symbol the owl. It looks to me like our collective dreams are in the veins of the gods and goddesses as we've become psychological thanks to the scientific method, independent of the gods. We're on our own to interpret reality.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
This evening was practice for the Hillbilly Show tomorrow night in Sparta. It's a great deal of fun for all concerned. We have a country band with Joe Irwin, who is running for County Commissioner as an Independent, singing 2 Johnny Cash songs. His voice naturally sings like JohnnyCash, so it's easy for him. Kermit Pruitt played electric guitar with him. Tomorrow night Kermit will lip-sync two George Jones songs. Audience loves George Jones and Kermit too. Lynn Worth and her feller, Eddie Bakeberg, ended the show with him playing guitar and Lynn playing banjo and singing Sixteen Chickens and a Tambourine very well.
It was fun for me to be among the bunch of people that were there, the people of BROC in the county, Blue Ridge Opportunity Commission. Our branch of BROC is the Alleghany Planning Committee. It's about a dozen of us. I like them an awful lot. What we do is what I believe churches are here to do, but they don't, for the most part. We raise money with the Hillbilly Show to give scholarships, pay electric bills and fuel bills for people who are not able, the general purpose being to help people of the county having a rough go of it. We have Hospice now because the medical community does not value the human touch. In like manner, we have BROC because churches don't do much to help the poor.
Over the last 5 years, the show has been getting better every year. There is no time wasted between skits anymore and the performers get better every year too. The music is always good. Ernest Joines plays mandolin, Billy Dancy banjo, Charlie Edwards guitar and vocals, and Gary Joines, bass, as The Darlings, the band on the Andy Griffith Show. A skit around the Andy Griffith Show happens when Jean Osborne sings and plays Charlene. When she's done with the song, I'm to run out as Ernest T Bass and talk to Charlene the way Ernest T does and chase her around until she runs off the stage. I wasn't sure I could let go of inhibition long enough to do what Agnes wanted me to do. However, as soon as it started, it was on. I can act stupid. That's what's called method acting where you be yourself. Like African Americans play African Americans well, I play stupid well. I just cut loose and got stupid.
It strikes me funny that we go through our days tying not to let stupid show, keep it hidden from self, and for self it's all denial. Naw I aint stupid. I'm just dumber'n shit. I like what Lao Tzu wrote, "Not-knowing is true knowledge. Presuming to know is a disease." That being the case, I'm overflowing with true knowledge. Since I've witnessed fluid mind's uncertainty every day of my life and watched mind abandon Jr Maxwell who had a brilliant mind, fast, good at figuring things out. He made his own capos of aluminum and black tape in his tractor repair shop. They worked so well for him, he wouldn't have a bought one. And I'm right there with presuming to know is a disease. It throws me back to school days, learning to affect the appearance of knowing, learning to sound like I know what I'm talking about. Learning that it's important to sound credible is a game of appearance. The appearance of knowing what we're talking about is something we study young that becomes incredibly important.
I love it on NPR, All Things Considered news always consults an "expert" in a given field. A guy told me one day he wanted to interview me on film because I'm an expert on mountain music. That one made me jump in alarm. I told him I'm not an expert on anything, especially not mountain music. I can't honestly say I know anything about it. I know who a lot of the musicians were and are, the names of a lot of tunes, but that's not knowing anything about it. People that know mountain music are people like Ralph Stanley and they can't tell you anything about it, because they are it.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
It's been a quiet and restless day without a car. Watched 2 movies, Larry the Cable Guy's, Health Inspector, which was actually funny in its demented way. Had me laughing at crazy things he says and his state of mind. His pickup's back bumper was covered with bumper stickers. One I especially liked said Gun Control Means Hitting Your Target.
The next movie was from Taiwan, the Nationalist island off the coast of mainland China. It's largely composed of descendants of people who left China to get away from Communism after the Nationalists lost the war and evacuated to Taiwan, like Cubans evacuated to Miami. The city, Taipei, is an advanced modern city along the lines of Hong Kong and Macao, but different. Hong Kong was under British control and Macao, Portuguese. Taipei is Chinese governed.The Taiwanese carry on the old Chinese traditions Mao cut out on the mainland.
The story in the film is such that I can't say it is a story. Relatively very little drama. At the moment of the movie's climax, we got a climax, and that was release of the building tension that was about the question, What's going on? Everybody was asking that question in their behavior. It was like the camera followed 3 different people living their lives, each in their own circumstances. Interesting visual compositions all the way through, the way doors and shadows fall on floors and walls. It was made with an artist's eye. Very little talking, just seeing the different ones in their places and times. It was called, What Time Is It There?
One of the people we watch, a young woman of maybe 20 went to Paris. She bought a watch from a boy we're watching of about the same age before she left, emphasizing she wanted a watch that kept two different times, Taipei and Paris, when he was out selling watches from a suitcase that opens into a display full of them. She wanted to buy the watch he was wearing, but he said it was bad luck. She insisted, he sold it. The boy's mother is the 3rd. She is in mourning over her husband who died at the beginning of the film. The boy is too. She hires a priest to try to conjure her husband's spirit back. The son thinks she's ridiculous. They eat together and seldom talk. The city is going on all around them wherever they are. Buses galore, swarms of yellow taxis, cars, motor scooters, bicycles, walking.
Today I've kind of felt in mourning for humanity. Tuesday at lunch Jim Winfield said something about killing being a bad thing to do. Ever since then I've looked at humans since the earliest tribes that carried spears and had bones in their noses, at war with neighboring tribes all the time. Killing somebody of another tribe is nothing. All over Africa killing is what's going on. We glorify it in war, make a very big deal of it. The Old Testament wars were genocidal wars like going on in places like Sudan where warlords and their armies get about in Toyota and Nissan pickups with machine guns mounted in the back, manned by teenage boys high on reefer mowing people down.
The Indian wars on our continent were genocidal like the Bible wars, chaplains preaching sermons about the glorious Hebrew killing machine, something akin to Genghis Khan in the far east. God's chosen army. Dying going on all the time everywhere and it's just numbers. Political murders are always ok. CIA and FBI murders, don't ask, don't tell. But if I shoot somebody, there's hell to pay for committing the most heinous of crimes. Younger, I believed human life important. From what I see all around now that I've grown up, I'm not so sure. If it is, we're still a long ways from getting it.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Listening to Thomas Mapfumo of Zimbabwe, southeastern Africa, maybe the poorest country in the world, there with Haiti and Albania. Sad situation there. Mapfumo's music I can't explain. Don't know the titles of the songs, the name of the album. Can't understand any of the words. It's like his voice is an instrument and doesn't pull my mind into it. He has a beautiful voice and delivery. It's dance music that has a casual sense about it the way reggae has its relaxed style. They're only similar in their casual way of flowing with the rhythms. His electric guitar players are real pickers.
Mapfumo's music is kind of understated, no sound assaults, just a relaxed flow of the rhythm and the girls singing, the thumb piano making it's particularly Zimbabwean sound and the electric guitar that plays along with it in the same manner. I think of it as a lilting rhythm his band makes. I actually prefer music where I can't understand the meanings of the words. I can hear the music in the voice. Much of Mapfumo's vocals are musical sounds like something a guitar or horns might do, though with the subtlety of the human voice to make all kinds of sounds at will. It's beautiful. It's the kind of music I can have playing while I write you and it's not a distraction. It's just the only thing I can think about, which is probably best.
Today the car broke. Serious problem. Can't run without fixing. Can't get to it till mid next week. I'm immobile for the time being. Hillbilly Show this weekend. Friday night rehearsal, Saturday night the show. Agnes wants me to be Ernest T Bass from Andy Griffith Show. That's going to take some doing. She thinks I'm as uninhibited as she is about cutting a shine. I don't really have any appetite for the stage, even if it's just running about being stupid. I'd rather be pulling the ropes for the big curtain. A good job for me. I can see through the opening between the curtain and the wall where I am with the ropes, a good view of what is going on onstage. I can see what is going on backstage, and can see the audience at will. This way I see everything that is going on, the entire experience. That's why I like to work the curtains.
I refuse to think about the car. It will be taken care of one step at a time, starting with getting it to the mechanic, tomorrow's project. I've learned after living this long that I don't have to worry about it. Worry just adds to it. Things have a way of falling into place when allowed. It's the way of let-go-and-let-God. It's been a rough day for the mind. In the course of the day I forgot too many important things I need to pay attention to. Things as dumb as stepping in front of a car without looking. Didn't do that, but might as well have.
I'm too ashamed of the stupid stuff I did today from forgetfulness to tell it. It was stupid. Yet, it worked out perhaps best for the long run. It's the same kind of frustration Jr felt, ashamed of forgetting things that screw up as a result. However, later I boiled some eggs and remembered to turn the heat off when it was time. Maybe I'll talk with Una about some ginko tea or something like that for holding the mind together. Like if I'm talking and get interrupted, it's gone. Gone forever. Until some time later in the day or the next day. Pop. There it is. I call it the white hair disease.
It turns out I find the forgetfulness somewhat of an adventure. I like a life with minimum drama in it, so I don't set myself up for many adventures. I like adventures like approaching a blank canvas and making something of it worth looking at, something better than a panel of white, which is quite beautiful in itself, can be a powerful visual statement. Google Robert Ryman. He paints white. Does it right.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Woolly worms are crossing the roads. My first year in the mountains Tom Pruitt told me the lore of the woolly worm, making certain I didn't think he believed any of it, just telling me what he's been told some people believe. Black at front and back and orange in the middle. The amount of black in the front told how long the first part of winter would be, then the orange is the mild spell in the middle of winter, how long it will last, then the black at the end tells the last part of winter. Already, I didn't believe it, because I'd never seen two alike. How do you choose the one to go by? This year all I've seen crossing the roads is solid black ones, which I would interpret to mean a long winter of steady cold like last winter. Having already said I don't believe it, I do find it interesting the woolly worms over the last few years seem to be more and more solid black. Don't take this for a face. I've not done a scientific study, just drive-bys, sometimes rolling a tire over one, sometimes not. I try to avoid them, but sometimes see one roll up into a fuzzy marble in the rearview mirror.
My friends Lucas and Judy Carpenter arrived Friday for the weekend. The leaves started turning that night. Then the next night more, and by the time they left today the mountains were almost in full color. It's an unnatural turning according to what I've seen over the years. We have not had a night below freezing. I was told in biology class that a membrane where the stem of the leaf joins the branch closes after a freeze, the leaf gets no more nutrients and dies, changing colors along the way from vibrant green living leaf to dried paper on the forest floor, nutrients for the roots next year after they dissolve into the soil after rain and snow. Talking with Jack Nichols today, he said it's so dry the leaves died from lack of rain. That's what I see the leaves doing, just dying. They curl up and turn brown after one or two days of color. Curious. Every Fall season is different like every winter is unique to itself, like every Summer and Spring. I've never seen this before. I suspect Jack has seen it before.
Uploaded 16 videos of Skeeter and the Skidmarks' show last Friday night. It took until today. I wasn't home much, in and out. In, I'd set one to uploading and leave, come back and start another one going. That was every one I'd recorded. I started at the beginning and kept on going. Everything they did was dynamic. They had the groove. They were flowing with each other musically and flowing with the audience too. Their groove encompassed the whole place, everyone concerned. During a couple of them, I remember Whiskey Before Breakfast being one of them, I started grooving through the camera, moving in a flow with the music. Sometimes I like to move the camera around while the music is going. Including the heads of the audience is the best learning I think I've had from the experience. It seems to add to the spontaneity of the moment. The 17th one was Dori's Work Song, put up last so it would be at the top of the list.
As usual, I was grateful for the opportunity to archive almost an entire show of Skeeter and the Skidmarks in the time they're preparing their 3rd cd 15 years after the 2nd. Their first round of playing a few months ago at the Front Porch, they were mighty good, but this time they were on top of it. They were feeling good together and the music was flowing. I wanted to get the entire show, but needed some still shots and a bit of rest for my arms. I'm better now at holding the camera still than I used to be. I don't want to hold it too still, however. I like movement of the camera. Makes the video feel alive, like it's a living eye seeing through it, which is indeed the case. I love this inadvertent role as video recorder of some of the best music going on in SW Virginia. I like things that just happen like this die. It just happened. I had no dream, no ambition to do such a thing. Never entered my mind until I did it. That tells me it's in the flow, that I'm in my flow. That's where I want to be.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
scott freeman, fiddle, edwin lacy, banjo
Here is a video from Friday night at the Front Porch Gallery at Woodlawn, Virginia. Skeeter and the Skidmarks are Edwin Lacy, banjo, Scott Freeman, fiddle, Willard Gayheart, guitar, Sandy Grover Mason, bass. Early 90s they made 2 albums, Hubbin It and Alternate Roots. 2nd hand copies of Hubbin It are available thru amazon.com. They didn't know they had a fan base and they figured they were over. All went on to different projects. Since computers, email, google, people have been finding them asking when they're making a new cd and how they can get the out of print ones. They decided to get back together and make a new cd.
Edwin took a job as a Presbyterian, I think they call them minister somewhere in Indiana. He comes back to visit for a spell and they record a few songs. Sandy comes up from Pilot Mountain area to be with them. They'd played a bit together and practiced on Wednesday, and Friday night they had that something that happens every once in awhile with a band, when they connect with the music and connect with the audience and the whole place flows together like the musicians and the listeners are one. They had that musical connection with each other from the first note. I'm putting up on YouTube probably 10 videos of Skeeter and the Skidmarks. Everything they did was great. Leaving out some they played last time they were here. I'd like to do both versions of them, but its not necessary. That's overdoing it.
I wanted to put up the entire show, but that, too, is unnecessary. I had to take a couple of breaks in order to get some still photos of them playing. They were playing well last night and they were especially photogenic as a band. Got some good pictures of all of them leaning into the music, like in the October 8th picture. In the first several weeks of picture making, I attempted to keep the audience out of the pictures, focusing on the show. Now I want the audience included, being sure to show heads along the lower part of the picture of people sitting there watching them play. They feel a lot better to me than the ones without audience being seen. When the music is over and the clapping starts, I often lower the camera into the audience where you see people clapping from above and behind them. Makes interesting visuals. I believe it was in the tune Running Through The Graveyard where I found Minnie the cat while filming the band. Drifted away from the band twice to get Minnie. She's part of it too. It's her home.
All day today I've been uploading the videos, though not frequently through the day. Went to West Jefferson yesterday to see the show Best Of The Blue Ridge at the Arts Council gallery that Jane Lonon created and maintained until by now it is quite a beautiful, functional and active center for artists of the NW NC region. Perhaps some from Tennessee and some from Virginia. Mostly, I supposed, people who have come to the mountains from other places. We have an awful lot of really good artists in the region now. I liked everything in the show. It was a beautiful show of a tremendous variety of art vision, each artist as different in their art expression as in their fingerprints.
Judging for shows like that is always subjective, just like at a fiddler's convention. I've judged contests of art and photography and I know how subjective it is from both sides. Musicians I know don't take Galax seriously. They compete for the fun of it and I suspect for their own measure of themselves, where they're at in relation to the others. Interesting to see where you place. But the judging is too subjective for it to be a true measure, but an approximation. Like when I've judged a show with 2 others, we spent a lot of time talking, coming to agreements that one rates the prize over another. Then we agree on one that suits all of us. At the end of a library photo show I can see the visual taste of the judge.
For example: I would have given the 4 prizes, best in show and 1-3, differently. Best in show and #1 I'd have reversed. 2 and 3 wouldn't even figure. There were several I found better than them. I'm saying this now in my own taste. I'm not judging the judging. Only pointing out how subjective it is. 2 different people and 2 different results. Either way I'd have not given a ribbon to my entry. It stood well in the presence of equals, in good company. As a measure of what I'm doing, it shows me I'm in the company of some pretty good artists. I didn't enter for an award and am not disappointed. I wanted to see it on a wall surrounded by other artists of the region. I wanted to see how it stood among them. I'm happy with how it stands among them, seeing them as my peers. I liked the entire show a very great deal. And I say Thank You to Jane Lonon for all she has done for the artists who chose to live in this region of the mountains.