Google+ Followers

Saturday, June 30, 2012


skeeter and the skidmarks

scott, edwin





edwin, sandy, willard

Skeeter and the Skidmarks did it to it again Friday night in Woodlawn, Virginia. We're in the third year now of the Fiddle and Plow series at Willard Gayheart's frame shop and gallery, the Front Porch.
It felt good to hear them again, not only to me, but to all the audience. Tonight it was mostly people who go regularly, but for one new woman who was liking what she was hearing. We who go almost every week have developed a fondness, even preference, to hear Scott Freeman and Willard Gahyeart with Edwin Lacy and Sandy Mason Grover. They are the original Skeeter and the Skidmarks from the first half of the 90s, reunited after several years Edwin was away at Presbyterian seminary, then stationed in Indiana. He came home a few times for activities with the Hungry Hash House Ramblers, a band with Scott and Doug Rorrer and Taylor Rorrer. When he went away, Scott and Willard put together Alternate Roots, a superb band that found Steve Lewis for lead guitar and banjo on their last two of four cds. Driving home I listened to an Alternate Roots tape in the car, Katy Taylor singing Killing the Blues, Out of the Blue, fine Alternate Roots songs with Randy Pasley on resonator guitar.

Alternate Roots is over, due to one thing and another. It's not good etiquette to ask band members what happened. A band is like a marriage. Their dysfunctions are not an issue to talk about. To say that one reason was it, everyone knows is just one of several reasons, possibly the straw and the camel's back. Skeeter and the Skidmarks is back. Edwin is back, stationed in Bristol this time. Takes him about as much time to drive there as it does me. He may have 15 minutes more. Skeeter came together for us, gave another stellar show of music that satisfied everyone who was spending their Friday nights listening to Scott, Willard, Edwin, Sandy, our friends. Every week we hear Scott and Willard open with a couple songs before the attraction. We of the audience have a warm affection for everyone in this band personally, individually. We're the core of their fan base. We're the ones who love them like family, good family. An interesting collection of people. When we run into each other somewhere else, our bond is Scott and Willard, the Front Porch music. We are the ones who love their music so much we return week after week.

Because I let Scott use a corner of my music store in Sparta one afternoon a week to teach kids from around here, he gave me a pass to Alternate Roots shows. I went to 14, and drove with my friend Jean when she was living, to Hilton's Virginia, for their last show at the Carter Fold. One of my favorite moments from that night was outside during intermission, talking with a man from the area about the Carter Family. The ground there was sacred. In the clear night I saw the Clinch Mountains in the light of the half moon. My first view of the Clinch Mountains the Carter Family and the Stanley Brothers made into a place as reverential as Wordsworth's Lake Country. For me, the Clinch Mountains are legendary, a place the Carter Family came from and the Stanley Brothers. Both Carter Family and Stanley Brothers bring tears to my eyes from the beauty of their songs and the singing, as well as my love for their tradition and the mountain culture that is theirs. That was a very special night for me. The Carter Family museum it cost 50c to enter that was AP Carter's store where he lived upstairs after Sara went to California to be with her Blue Eyes.

I feel privileged every day of my life that my parachute landed me in the Central Blue Ridge, the fountain of American music, a place where every weekend offers a great selection of places to go dance to old-time or bluegrass, or sit and listen. Local music that doesn't cost a lot for admission, and is good music. Whitetop Mountain Band, Crooked Road Ramblers, Slate Mountain Ramblers, Mountain Park Old-Time Band, Zephyr Lightning Bolts, Big Country Bluegrass, just the first ones to come to mind. The Blue Ridge Music Center, noon through 4, on the breezeway of the giftshop a different group of musicians Sun thru Saturday. Willard and Scott play there on Thursdays. Willard and Bobby Patterson play on Tuesday.

That music center is a gift from the USA Department of the Interior to us, the citizens. It seems like an awful lot, when nothing has been the rule since Reagan. It's such a sensible use of taxpayer money, money the working people worked for that they rendered unto Caesar against their will. The 1% don't like it when something happens to benefit anyone not of the 1%. Take the tax money from the people and put it into excessive military force to police the world protecting the  financial interests of the international corporations with bank accounts offshore, dodging taxes. In this time the way it is, I can't help but be in awe that the Dept of Interior trickled something down to us. It may have been approved before the Reagan administration. That's the only way I can see it happening. But I have a jaundiced view of the world; it's never as awful as I make it out to be. Hiroshima was a blast. Does the man who gave the order, and everyone down the chain of command to the one flying the plane carry a karmic debt. Did "wartime" absolve them from karmic return?

I digress. The music center is a jewel in these mountains in what it provides for us. I don't go a lot, but have gone quite a number of times over the years. I saw Alternate Roots play there. Alternate Roots was and still is my favorite band. I came to a place where pop music wasn't it any more; I'd found the pre-pop music of these hills, field recordings of old-time musicians living out in the mountains, unknown outside their music circle. I learned to appreciate local musicians in these mountains. I learned their musicianship is the equal of radio and tv musicianship, even better, because no corporate influence. I tell Scott, Willard and Edwin they are my new Rolling Stones. And I'm not kidding. I've always appreciated the Stones' musicianship, their unit as a band, the lyrics, the music. That's how I feel about Skeeter and the Skidmarks now. When Scott lights up the mandolin and the fiddle, it's awe every time. Same with Edwin's banjo. Sandy singing her Carter Family songs. There were times Willard's guitar came forward with some pretty strong rhythms working with Scott and Edwin. They had a nice, smooth flow. Each time they play, they approach the music differently. Sometimes a rhythm assault, sometimes like folk music. That's how I characterized in my mind their sound this time, nice, smooth flow. A good flow and it was smooth.


Thursday, June 28, 2012



Hearing myself talk over the last couple days I hear old-time preacher Millard Pruitt in the pulpit. He lived in a place where he could die any day over several years, and kept on going, heart attack after heart attack; his doctor's medications kept him going. In the pulpit, he could set everybody in the house to crying when he talked about himself dying. He'd start talking, the people in their regular seats looking at him, waiting for the spirit to hit him, he talks about dying and tears run down everybody's faces. Then he had us where he wanted us, paying attention, and he went on with his preaching. I don't talk about dying in a way that makes people around me cry, or to get attention. Somebody asks how I'm doing, with meaning, and I give a brief outline of where I'm at in that regard. l don't pull tears or dwell on it. Yet, it's my theme of conversation in these days. I don't like to talk about it, because it's such a wierd thing to contemplate, passing of the ego with the body, all the physical and psychological and ego gone, self-identity goes poof, left with innermost spirit, the true self, the soul. I am curious to see how my innermost self operates in spirit form without ego. Will I recognize myself? Will I even be aware of self? About to take a look into the unknown some day, some time, whenever, I can't help but be curious. It's like getting ready to go to a party, imagining what it will be like, who will be there, assessing it beforehand. Get there and find out it is entirely different from anything I imagained.

I'm glad I don't see dying the way I was taught it in the Baptist religion. You don't know if you're going to heaven or hell, even if you're saved, aint got no assurance of nothing. You don't even know if God likes you. God the Judge on the throne slamming down the gavel: GUILTY! GUILTY! GUILTY! God the guilt provider. Better watch out, because God sees everything you do and is judging you as you go along, every detail, even your thoughts. There's no place to hide from God. Then there is the devil, worshipped by Baptists as a force right up there with God. Millard Pruitt, preacher above, told me that the devil created briars. I said, The devil is not a creator. That doesn't matter. He created briars. I hear baptists I know and they want to talk about the devil, the devil's power, the devil's influence. American Baptists are so focused on the devil in this time, I believe they're giving "him" power by focusing so much in that direction. Baptists are taking on the ways of the devil, approving shooting a doctor through his kitchen window because he performed abortions. Baptists believe that's right behavior. The devil believes it's right behavior, too.

I will not let a preacher or a belief system or anyone of any authority put guilt on me. Used to. Used to all the time. Then I learned better. It makes people mad who believe they have some sort of authority over me. They believe we need guilt to keep us from sin. I don't believe that at all. I believe guilt is used by the few to control the many. It's used by parents and teachers to control children and by preachers to control sheep. I believe it's a sin to attempt to make someone feel guilty over anything. I've been told by someone who embraces guilt for self and controlling others that we need guilt. It's good for us. Whatever. Going by the law of karma, everything we do comes back to us, the good, the bad, the indifferent. We almost never recognize when something comes back to us. For example, my doctor talks down to me, which automatically, without me even aware of it, makes me attempt to speak with authority in my voice to sound like I know what I'm talking about, to counter his projected belief that I do not. What came to him from talking down to me was me speaking up for myself. When somebody hurts you, what's your first thought? What you're going to do back. Can't stand to wait too long, so the return manifests fairly soon, if not immediately.

We get the payback right away from our expressions. We don't notice that the "debt" is paid in full, most often in just a few minutes, or a day or two. We go about feeling guilty over a debt already paid. Some people carry a lot of guilt and will carry it to the grave. Who, then is our judge? Not God. We judge ourselves, we punish ourselves, we demean ourselves in guilt, and for no reason. If you want to call the law of karma God, that's ok, put it all on God. God doesn't mind. But I have found an understanding of the law of karma, everything comes back, that for the first time I've learned what the word "sin" really means. Church told me a sin is "missing the mark," kind of like shooting an arrow at a target and missing. Rather vague, subject to interpretation. Taking away an objective way of looking at this theme, which is entirely subjective, I see that when the return is to our liking we call it good, good luck, good fortune. When it is not to our liking we call it bad; "If it wasn't for bad luck I wouldn't have any luck at all." There's no "luck" about it.

For duality sake, Christendom made "hell fire" the opposite of heaven. The Chinese saw the duality as heaven and earth. I'm more in line with that one, spirit and physical. Hell is an invention of the human mind. I can hear the baptist reaction; I better watch out, cause the devil already got his hooks in me for questioning authority. Baaa, baaa, black sheep! This is where I have the hardest time around Baptists, who like to keep me reminded of the devil. Yet, at the same time I know the Baptist religion well enough to see that it really does have a spiritual dimension available. I'm not able or willing to do the straight and narrow tightrope for any preacher. When I go to the liquor store, I park in front. I've also seen a lot of self-calling in the Baptist religion. Originally, in the Baptist way, God chose who would be a preacher. Since that old way is gone, now preachers call themselves and lay it on God. Self-called preachers I don't trust at all. That's not entirely true. Some have "it," the spirit, and some don't. I get it before very long getting acquainted with one. I have to say of the Baptist religion as I would say of the Catholic religion, or any other, it has it and doesn't have it, both. Just like me or any other human; has it and doesn't have it. Duality in action.

I don't believe in the "straight and narrow" way. I go with the meandering way, the way of water in a delta. The closer water in a river gets to its transcendence, the ocean, the land is flat and water meanders here and there into several small rivers to the sea. I don't know where I am in my flow from springs in the mountains, over waterfalls, through rivers, some places fast water, some places slow water, rough water, smooth water, then in the deltas it moves slowly and meanders this way and that, seeming to be without direction. Sometimes a delta is even a kind of labyrinth for the water flow. But the water flows and keeps on moving. This image pictures my own spiritual path a great deal better than a tightrope. Walking a tightrope is a clever trick, but it doesn't allow for the flow of the spirit as a metaphor. For me, the way of the spirit is something to relax into, not to intend into or will into or force into. It's about relaxing into the flow of the spirit (the Tao) like a leaf on the water in a mountain stream. And, like along a creek or a river, a tree has fallen into the river from one of the banks. Debris floating down the river gets caught in these places that stagnate and get nowhere, until a storm comes and unties the knots of stasis, setting everything free to continue on their journey. Maybe sometimes our emotional turmoils untie some of our interior knots.

That's my interpretation. A Baptist preacher would likely say I'm listening to the devil, which makes it all the better for me. "The devil," of course, is anything not Baptist doctrine. Though I throw off on the Baptists, it's like talking about family. It's from the inside, so it's ok. Nothing has ever struck me like some old-time Regular Baptist church meetings and Primitive Baptist, as well. They're the same, except Regular Baptists have notes in their song books and hold by doctrine predestination (Primitive) or free will (Regular). I've heard convincing arguments for each one, and just as convincing an argument for not-both. I do see "predestination" in my life, karma, and I do see free will. I have the power to do what I want to do. With free will we learn to control what we want to do until it's safe to self and others. In predestination, God picked me, I didn't pick God. That's how it worked out for me. I do both. I also don't worry over it. It's splitting hairs and it's getting too serious. I don't see that the spiritual path is about serious. I am seeing more as I get older that the spirit is light-hearted like a chickadee and flows like a kayak in a river with consciousness guiding it around and over rocks, making decisions along the course of the river, avoiding hang-up places and walking around waterfalls. I can't see it any way other than both. I can't join either one of the churches, because I cannot lock down to the doctrine. I don't believe the virgin birth either; another doctrine. Therefore, I stay on my own with my Master to guide my kayak, rolling on down the river's meandering course to the sea of love, transcendence, piercing the veil.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012


     brian kenny, flag

I'm of at least two minds about leaving this world, this dimension, whatever it may be. One is I am curious about the other side and sometimes a little alarmingly ready to have a look. On the other hand, it's not like watching a movie for 2 hours and turning the light back on. I have to leave this playground I've taken so seriously for so long, sometimes despised it, overall loved it. It makes me look out the window at the leaves of an oak sapling swaying up and down lightly, home. I think of leaving my friends and baby Vada and I feel sorrow, pre-grief maybe. I know a few of my friends will carry a deep sorrow for some time, as I have done for a few of my friends in the past. It is a great sorrow to lose people important to us, the biggest drama in life. This human existence is a puzzle without end, which makes it so interesting and keeps it interesting. Buddhism says it is a life of suffering. It's true. I see the suffering begin in a baby new to a body, bump head on a chair leg, it hurts. Much more suffering follows. We get used to it. Even if we were meditators we'd have suffering of varying degrees in our lives all the time. We have plenty of the other, joy, for balance. I say "we" when I'm not so sure it is entirely "we." I'm actually seeing it these days like joy is the nature of the soul, our innermost, or real self. All the self-centered focus locks onto suffering and sorrow, gray clouds around the soul, a foggy mountaintop.

A moment stays in my mind from half dozen years ago, opening the inside door to the library, a woman I knew on the inside was going out, she opened the door with an exaggerated welcoming gesture and said, "What have you been doing since your store closed?" I said, thinking as fast as I could to condense several months of experience into a phrase, "Getting some joy back into my life," which was literally what I was doing. Her face fell almost to the floor. She said, "I've never had joy in my life." My heart sank for her. I knew she meant it. I knew her husband, more than likely a model of her daddy; jumped from one frying pan into another. I have felt for her ever since she said that. I did not know what to say at the time. I felt a need to hug her and say, "I'm sorry for you," but didn't know her that well, the entire library staff was watching. I could have hugged her in front of them if I'd known her better, a gray-haired old hippie biker chick. One thing she gave me: she showed me I have a way of taking joy for granted, like it's easily accessed. It had never occurred to me there might be people who knew nothing of joy. So little is as it seems, I wonder why I try to assess or understand anything.

Big Mama Thornton is singing in my head, Let's go get stoned. Why the hell not! After a lifetime of taking everything seriously, I'm seeing there's nothing serious about any of it. The redbird is jumping about in the rhododendron the other side of the window. A crow calls in the trees across the road. Katydids inside my head. That's one of the nice parts of living in the midst of what we call nature. In the city, ringing in the ears can be maddening. In the country you don't notice. It's katydids, treefrogs and crickets outside singing with the ones inside, making me one with nature. I look around my world of the mountains I love thinking about leaving them and feel sorrow, a kind of pre-grief, the anticipation of grief. I have to feel it now, because there won't be any feeling it later. When the angels are leading me up the tunnel of light to music of the Bell Spur String Band, I doubt I'll be looking back and missing the mountains. So I'll miss them now, while I can appreciate them. I have songs in my head, How beautiful heaven must be, sweet home of the happy and free, fair haven of rest for the weary, and Peter Tosh singing, Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. And, farther along we'll know all about it, farther along we'll understand why.

Do I sing these songs to myself to comfort myself? Probably. There are other good songs in my head that are not about the other side, like Peter Tosh's African. Don't care where you come from if you're a black man you are an African. Beautiful song of black identity, black pride, beautifully conceived and Tosh sang it well. I say I look forward to the other side, but when I really think about it, it makes me want to put on some beautiful music I love or a movie I love or read some Chinese poetry. This tells me music, drama and poetry I value most in this world, the stuff my house is full of. I have ingested so much of it into my record of experiences that it has become part of who I am, a big part. For me, living in a world of people informed/educated/led by television is like living in a foreign country with people of another language and another culture. I am a stranger to television culture in that I don't keep up with it. But the fact is, I live in television culture because everybody around me to all coasts are the children of television. Now, grandparents were born in front of the tv.

On the news, at the coffee shop, here and there, everywhere I talk with people, the ongoing paean is what's the matter with this world? Let's start at the beginning. This is television culture. It started 60 years ago and grew into this world where prison construction corporation stocks only rise. Police state looks really secure on tv: arresting niggers with attitudes and no tshirts on COPS. Like the Randy Newman song, Rednecks, keepin the niggers down. Steven Seagal arresting black guys who ask for his autograph in handcuffs. Nobody white with any power or desire for power cares that we have the most outrageous prison system on earth as long as the prison population is mostly black. For the black American man prison has become an initiation into manhood, a bootcamp that develops unbreakable bonds. Like a white man I know said to me, "I can't trust you cause you never been in prison." The black men of America have that kind of a bond in a network all over the land, the convict brotherhood. Pre-television, we were moving toward unity, toward "integration," allowing people their rights. Half a century into the time I think of as Led By Television, division has been the emphasis until we're on the verge of civil war again, this one everybody against everybody. Seen from outside television culture, Americans are going collectively crazy. And they're taking me with them, because I'm one of them; it's their culture, it's our culture, it's my culture.

While we snoozed in corporate entertainment and got fat on corporate fast food, the international corporations that keep their money free of taxes in Cayman Island banks took our government from us, our democracy, our constitution and gave us police state, systematically over a period of 30 years, on tv where all that is fake is real, and all that is real becomes fake. It's a fake belief system. During the time of the African civil wars, it was a truth that whoever held the radio station held the power. Here, it aint none of us hold no tv corporations. We don't even know the people that own them. We couldn't even get a job at their country clubs. You think they give a shit about us? :) Of course you don't. Only as long as we keep the garbage and sewage under control. The excesses of Capitalism foreseen to take it down are happening. Capitalism is undergoing what looks like rising tides due to ice melt splashing against the foundations of skyscrapers built by the economic system that melted the polar caps. Kinda like one of the movies made by the gross now, The Day After Tomorrow or 2012. I'm thinking these movies are symbolic of the self-destruction of Capitalism by greed. That's why it's called a "deadly sin," it leads only to self-destruction.

The country I grew up isn't the country I live in anymore. Probably wasn't then. It was the time of the Ugly American when I was learning about our righteous history of wars where we never tortured prisoners and we gave aid to the colonial world of po' nigras (and kept them in poverty at home). It wasn't long after high school I began to see it wasn't like it was told in school, certainly not like told in church, not like told on tv in any kind of way; a sham, a show, light flickering, pixels changing color, a vapor, a scent on the breeze for a second, illusion within illusion. I came into this body a few months after Pearl Harbor, a time of pulling Americans together into one great cheering squad. It took. A dozen years ago our government imploded the WTC towers, rallied us around terrorism, and now is imploding itself, allied as in wedded to Capitalism. They took down democracy and all our values with it, they being our corporate government, taken by quietly systematic coup under smokescreen while we were watching tv spellbound by pop culture. I'm sorry for my country. I can't say I'm sorry to be leaving it before people like me are rounded up for FEMA camps. I saw the very tail end of the Old South in Charleston, South Carolina, the tail end of the old-time ways in the mountains, and the end of democracy in America in this lifetime. It's been both joyus and sorrowful living in Prozac Nation.


Monday, June 25, 2012



       mama's in the bathroom

As one who takes everything for subjective, I see objective being a condition created by the human mind to help understand the subjective, taking it apart, naming the parts, dividing the seamless infinite, the continuum of Now into millenia, centuries, decades, years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds, tenths of a second, hundredths of a second, thousandths of a second, the nanosecond (a billionth of a second). Terms that everyone can agree on, the definition of reality, essentially meaningless. Is reality, thus, meaningless? I think so. Yesterday I saw Vada, 1 yr, standing by the edge of the coffee table, using the edge with her right hand for balance. She saw Justin's Marlboro gold pack box. She picked it up with her left hand like a cell phone, held it to her ear and said, "Hello," leaving out the l's, something like Heh-ho.

I held her up to see the mounted deer head on the wall; she'd pointed to it while we were going around looking at pictures on the walls. She looked at the deer face-to-face and said, "kit-kit," her word for cat, kitty. I got it that she saw its face covered with hair, a different kind of face from ours with ears that stick up, and big round eyes, like kit-kit. She's differentiating "reality" out of the seamless continuum, one image, one word at a time. I'm seeing her learn this "reality" by every experience in the course of a day. She feels sleepy, she wants to hold her blanket. It was the first time I'd noticed her make associations, the cigarette pack for a cell phone. Same shape, same size. I believe she knows it was not a cell phone, but saw the association and played with it, a toy. She saw the deer head with hair on its face and associated kit-kit. It seems like she's walking, one step at a time, out of the seamless void where there is no depth of field, something like seeing the forest, not the trees. They would be there only like in a dream that sees everything inside the eye's frame, as "unreal" as a movie, light on a screen. Each thing she pulls out of the seamless vision is differentiated into its form, given a name and understood as real. This table that helps you stand up is real. It has a name. It is solid and heavy; you cannot walk through it. It must be walked around.

She has to learn in this new body that sharp corners on tables hurt, that you can't walk through a table. She's learning to separate objects from the continuum one at a time by name as she learns them, and I see going on in her eyes immense curiosity about everything she sees. I blew bubbles for her outside on the deck. She said, "Buh-buh." She imitates sounds so well, no matter whether it is a sound like clicking the inside of one's cheek or a word, I can't help but see her as a translator at the UN so fast she can translate simultaneously with the original. Sounds are so interesting to her, she reminds me of a musician finding new notes, new chords, new runs. She's connecting sound and object. Learning the names to things, she is also learning which sounds have no meaning beyond the sound itself. We, the adults, are teaching her to differentiate "reality" from the seamless continuum as we were taught it, one thing, one word at a time, as we collectively believe it in agreement with everyone else. I think it's called enculturation, a Margaret Mead word. Then, in another language everything has a different sound. Like gato and kit-kit.

Yesterday I had several hours with Vada, watching her, seeing her have a new experience every second, delighted discovering reality at so fast a pace. It's like the world she's new in is opening, revealing depth of field to her, separation of what she sees into particular shapes that have names. She sees a bird fly over. Mama says, "Bird," and points. Vada looks up and bird is gone. She does see them, though, and knows mama means those things that flicker in a straight line across that big expanse of sky. It fascinates me to watch her about like it would sitting in a class with Noam Chomsky the professor, which I've never done, but imagine it would blow my mind every class. Baby the professor teaches me by experience, blows my mind every time I'm around her. I see her watch the bubbles hop on the breeze and drift down to the table, pop-pop-pop. She would watch until the last one went out. It took me back to my own disappointment seeing bubbles pop when I wanted them to last on and on, delicate crystal balls floating like dandelion parachutes surfing the breeze.


Saturday, June 23, 2012


dori freeman

edwin lacy and scott freeman

edwin lacy's left hand, scott freeman, mike gayheart, dori freeman

edwin lacy, willard gayheart, scott freeman, mike gayheart, dori freeman

edwin lacy and scott freeman

dori freeman

The house band was all together last night at Willard Gayheart's Front Porch Gallery in Woodlawn, Virginia. The evening's show was to feature Dori a week after her performance at the Wayne Henderson Festival last Saturday. The audience last night, about a tenth, a pie slice of last week's audience, pulled for her while she sang, the same as the audience at the big outdoor fest pulled for her like somebody watching a nascar race, pulling for his/her favorite driver. I don't mean to state this as objective fact, because it is based in subjective feeling, I believed I felt the audience around me pulling for Dori, wanting her to be as good as her promise in the first verse of the first song. It felt the same to me in both audiences. It may have been just me, but I was seeing in other people's faces and eyes remarkable satisfaction that she had indeed fulfilled her promise. I don't believe Dori knows it yet, though I don't want to underestimate her either, but I am having a sense that Dori has a charisma she's not aware of yet. I say yet, because it is so inevitable she may, in fact, know it by now. The audience last night had light in their eyes listening to her singing. The spirit in the place last night was light-hearted and open, similar to the spirit at the Henderson Fest.

What I'm noticing, connecting the dots, is the people in the audiences, self included, feel a sense of awe in her voice and her delivery, together. Not because it's big like a contestant for Miss America, and I don't see it that Dori has a feel for manipulating the audience, or a will to, with charm or cleverness. It's the same in her songwriting. Her songs are beautifully worded, but don't call attention to their beauty. She tells the story that tells itself without the distraction of attention called to self. Dori doesn't call attention to herself as she sings, like Sara Carter in that way. The song tells itself; she's simply the voice it needs to manifest itself as song. She brings the song to life. My feeling is that it may be this quality of her singing the audiences take to so attentively. She doesn't distract from the words. Dori appreciates the words, one of her favorite old-time songs being Gold Watch and Chain, a beautifully worded song. When she sings, she is sharing with us her love for what the song has to say and how it says it, wanting to make it clear so we can hear the song with her understanding of it. In this time of emotive singers, the singer's dance becomes the purpose of the song. The words are there to support the performance, instead of the other way around.

Dori sings in the mountain tradition, all attention given to the song, focusing on the performance in the quality of musicianship and voice. By quality, I don't mean a given sound or style, I mean from the heart. That's where you find quality in mountain music, any music. Bluegrass banjo picker Jr Maxwell told me there's no music in it when it's not played from the heart. For several years now I've listened to his meaning in the music I hear. Dori contains her emotion in relation to the song's words, to the singing of the words, words she has chosen to sing because they say something she wants to share with her voice. Dori the songwriter hasn't had enough time yet to write the songs she will write, but she's catching up fast. She's been on a run recently writing songs. Songs that are worth listening to. I have to say it over and over, like the chorus to a song, the songs she writes are more beautifully worded than the songs she covers. A Gordon Lightfoot song sounded dull next to one of Dori's. Her images are fresh, something on the order of her manner of singing. It is an interesting style she has that is not forced. Joni Mitchell is a good example of a mental style created to draw attention to itself. 

Dori will grow as a songwriter, the same as she will grow as a singer and guitar player. I see in her the potential to one day be in the league of singer-songwriters Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch, Iris DeMent--if that's what she wants for herself. I don't mean to say I want her to go in any direction but of her own choosing. I'm just saying what I see possible. It's like saying she has an IQ of 200, let's see what she does with it. It seems awfully far away in her beginning to have several albums of songs of her own composition and a continually growing fan base. Dori's singing is relaxed like her talking, poised with her own presence. In this way I have to compare her to Lucinda Williams, as I hear Lucinda Williams. I hear a songwriter of Dori's freshness, whose songs have something to say worth listening to, in words and images artfully conceived without showing it. Dori is an artist like her dad before her, like her grandpa before her. When your fan base starts off with some of the finest musicians of the Central Blue Ridge, audiences will follow. The regular audience at the Fiddle and Plow series Friday nights at Willard's gallery is the next ring of her fan base. After last weekend, her fan base grew another ring. Last night, just about every one of the half dozen new people who'd never been there before bought one or both of her cds. It's that charisma, again. I was looking at some of them while she was singing, and they were all awe-struck. I don't mean in a fall-over-backwards way, but the light that flashes in the back of the mind that says: wow.

I've been searching for the source of her charisma on stage. I think that's it right there, that she turns on that light in the back of the mind that says wow. It's not a wow for any one particular item, but for the combo, excellent songwriter, excellent singer, excellent band, excellent visuals, becoming an excellent guitar player. Last fall she had a big decision to make about whether or not to go back for more school. She chose not to, evidently dedicating this time to working on her songwriting, her singing, her performance in front of an audience. In my own personal way of seeing things, I support her in her bid to use this time to develop her writing and her singing. This is not a time for her to be bored for the next three years. Three years from now she'll have her solid place in the music world of SW Virginia. She already does, it's just that not many people know it yet. But it doesn't do to project the future. Those projections of potential are all in my mind. I don't mean them to be objective fact or anything, really, other than reporting thoughts I have around Dori's singing when I listen to her. I don't want to send her to Nashville in my mind if that's not where she wants to go. I don't want to project Songwriter of the Year at SPBGMA onto her if she's not interested in that direction. If she wants to go to Hollywood and be the next Lindsey Lohan, that's ok with me too. It's just that I think I see Dori setting her focus on some kind of success as a singer of her own songs. If she never wants to leave the Galax area, I'd be all for her. If she wanted to go to Nashville, I'd support her. If she wanted to get married and have babies, I'd be all for it. What she wants for herself is what I want for her. I'll be pulling for her like I pull for Earnhardt Jr in a car race. She's found her light, she's found her voice, she has support from all around. 

Dori, I'm sorry, I don't mean to give you the big-head. Just reporting it as I see it.      


Thursday, June 21, 2012


roller rover, by william wegman, 1986

Over the last year I've been watching a baby come into awareness, a day at a time, everything new, drawn to the familiar, mystified by everything, curious, uncertain about everything, directed through the day by diaper changes, getting picked up, fed, put to sleep, played with. At Vada's birthday party, it was a time when she was discovering standing on her feet. She wanted to stand on her feet like everybody else. With 20 or so adults there, every time she managed to get on her feet, somebody would pick her up afraid she'd fall. The look on her face every time she was picked up was a kind of frantic PUT ME DOWN, she was standing up. All day long she spent her time by herself climbing a chair leg to stand up, then somebody picked her up. I'm so fascinated by her, I sit and watch every move she makes, enchanted to see somebody coming into a body with no mind, seeing the mind develop through experience. Yesterday I noticed that she is privately interested in the sky. She was sitting on the deck playing, rolling a ball, and every once in awhile she'd take a break and look at the sky like she's trying to figure out what it is. It's blue sometimes, white sometimes, gray sometimes, bright, dark, different about every time she sees it.

Three years ago I was taking care of a friend and watched dementia come in and take over, saw mind gradually slip away. Finally, in one week I saw his mind go away like a bathtub that takes a week to drain. It just went away. At the end of that week he had no mind. One day, a couple weeks into the state of no mind, he said, "I've got to go to the doctor!" I asked what was the problem. "Something's wrong with my mind!" At the end of the sentence, he forgot it. At the same time that I hated to see my friend fade away without mind, and return to the state of a baby needing diaper changes, needing every kind of care from feeding to cleaning and watching closely, because he'd lost his defenses with his mind. He had become dependent as a baby. Nothing was familiar anymore. All was new. One time he fell out of the bed. He said he had parked his car on the roof, stepped out of the car and fell through the roof. He was worried about the car on the roof, that it might fall through. No, your car is in its parking space where it belongs. That was the end of it. For him, the car on the roof was as real as the car in the parking space was for me.

Almost 3 years after losing him, Jr remains most affectionately in my mind during his last months as mind and self-sufficiency were slipping away. Though his mind was gone, I could still communicate with him. I knew the soul was there, the subconscious was there. I came to see the subconscious as something like a basketball, for a model. Around the surface of the basketball electrical chargers dance everywhere. The electrical charges are mind. When the dance of mind is done, the subconscious is still there, the soul is still there. Only surface mind is missing. I saw that most clearly one day when he was down to just a few days to go, 3 of his friends had stopped by to visit at the same time. We were all in the bedroom looking at him in the bed, just barely awake. He didn't recognize any of them. I started telling them about how he was doing and he spoke up with rational mind. He'd been hearing what I'd said and corrected me. That hit me powerfully. I never talked about him in front of him again. I realized he is aware on some level. Though I couldn't see the awareness, I knew it was there and honored it as if I were seeing it.

It's the same with baby Vada. I believe she understands what is being said to her. Her mother and daddy believe she does too, from their experience. I've found that my cats and dogs understood what I was saying when I spoke to them in sentences and paragraphs. They knew exactly what I was saying. I know because their behavior afterward indicated clear understanding. Vada's behavior after being told something in sentences suggests she understood. Pre-language, I've an idea babies and our pets read us telepathically, to whatever degree I can't guess. Probably a different degree per individual. In the baby is a subconscious, the basketball; and the soul, possibly the air in the basketball. The soul carries experience from the previous lifetime and the other lifetimes past, it carries experience from one individual to the next. It can just about be assumed that some of the inexplicable things we know have come from a previous lifetime. It's from the zone where everything is seamless and can't be categorized, elusive to put a finger on, like mercury. Like if somebody in this lifetime is afraid of driving a car and refuses to learn to drive, it leads me to suspect that individual may have died last time in a car he was driving that wrecked. That's not a certainty, but a suggestion. It has happened to a lot of people all the way around the globe.

My friend Sandy Hayes, who lives at Boone, had a pain in the left side of her upper back all her life. Not a sharp pain, but it was always there, for no apparent reason. In a past-life regression she found that she had been at the Sandy Ridge massacre conducted by General Custer, a Cheyenne (if my feeble memory serves well enough) woman, running from the mayhem, carrying her baby, was shot from behind in that spot of her back, and died. She found the connection in her name too. That moment of being killed trying to save her baby was evidently very powerful for her, she still carried it. I've learned how important it is to a given lifetime how we leave the body, from a little bit of experience in that seamless place where it's difficult to interpret, and from reading about it. In Jr's time of leaving the body I was aware of the importance of how one leaves the body. I wanted Jr's soul memory to carry a peaceful, quiet passage in his own home, in his own bed with no worries.

It was important to me to be able to give him that. I was communicating with his soul in the later weeks, like a mother communicates with a baby's soul in the early weeks. My own reason for not wanting him in a nursing home, was that I wanted him taken care of by somebody who understood him and cared. It was important to me that I regard him and everything I do with complete integrity of spirit, because he was still there, despite no mind. The hospice nurses complimented me over and over on the quality of my care. It was because the man I respected to the sky was still there, completely there, just missing those little electrical charges we call mind, and I was there to help him in his time of leaving the body to have it as comfortably as possible, taken care of by someone who cares. Same as coming in, we need to have someone who cares. I believe going out requires caring too, for it to be best. I could not tolerate leaving him to poorly paid people who work in shifts. There, he was the same as a small load of lumber. I thought of nursing homes the lumberyard for the dying. I could not allow Jr to be regarded indifferently in his important time.

My feeling around baby Vada is that I want her passage into this lifetime comfortable and happy, laughing instead of crying. I am aware she is bringing with her several lifetimes of experience. It's a strong suspicion I have that Vada was born a happy baby, because she found the two souls her soul already loves to the max. When I'm with the three of them, it feels to me that they have all three found each other, and they're all happy. I'm glad for Vada that her entry into this lifetime is a happy one with people who care as deeply for her as she cares for them. That's what we want for all babies, though some don't get it. I'd love to watch her grow up, but am satisfied to see she is in loving hands that will always take good care of her. It has been and still is a learning for me that I can't help but see having divine guidance. First, I watch someone I care about fade away mentally and die. Second, I see someone born (not literally) and watch this new person develop mind from that seamless no place into differentiation of shapes, objects, words. I see her gaze around at all these strange colors and shapes and movements in curiosity. I've noticed her recently looking at the sky trying to figure out what it is, often. I've seen fade-out and fade-in. Death, where is thy sting? appears right now to be a facet of my learning from the experience. Go to sleep there, wake up here. There is no death.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


     xue jiye, china

My horoscope said big change is coming in the next days. It's not something to dread or look forward to. Looking frequently at my horoscope I don't ever see how it relates to a given day. There is one consideration, that one's sign changes over time; so by now, mine must have changed a few houses. Maybe I'd do well to stop looking at Taurus and move on the Gemini, check it out for awhile. If it's not it, then the next one, Cancer. I doubt it would be moved more than 2 houses. Maybe I'll read them for awhile to see if anything they say resonates with my days. I've heard that is the case, that our sign changes along the way, due to one thing and another. It could be an interesting study to read 3 horoscopes a day to see if any of them connects. I have no feeling on whether any of them will bear results. I've found horoscopes are better read after than before. After, it's a matter of connect the dots. Before, it's opaque with abstract words about principles and processes. I deal better with a lifetime horoscope from birth time with rising sign and all. The horoscope of my birth place and time is more clearly me than anything I could describe. I've paid enough attention to astrology to see that it is better at explaining the past than predicting the future. Only because it requires interpretation. It's that saying, hindsight is 20/20 vision.

Arianna Huffington, of Huffington Post, and before that she was wife of excessive wealth, and a good writer, wrote what I thought was a good biography of Picasso. It was written from a moderate feminist perspective, which I regard a valid perspective, and she used his astrological chart in exploring his character. I thought finally somebody has seen the value of astrology in biography writing. Probably several do, but only Huffington did it up front. Some male worshipper of Picasso, who wrote a 4-vol biography of him scoffed at Huffington as a fraud. Male critics came down on her pretty hard at the time. They kicked her out of the running for a writer to be taken seriously. I appreciated her approach to Picasso's life. Horoscopes tell it well. The part that seems unfair about the feminist perspective is that he was mean, even vicious to the women in his life, a Spanish dominator. Seen from a woman's way of looking at that part of him is very different from from the male perspective of the time, esp the southern European, Meiditerranean, macho man who shows his macho dominating women. Even now, that's a strong ethic, but pre WW1, it was powerful. It was the way things are, period. A man beating up his girlfriend had his rights. The woman had none.

I, a man from another place, another time, another belief system, do not respect Picasso in that aspect of himself. It's culture that I don't know anything about, but I can't say I respect it in him. I respect his ability as an artist and his ability to work regularly as he did. Nineteenth Century men were not necessarily kind to women. It was a man's prerogitive if he wanted to treat his wife or girlfriend well, but it wasn't looked up to by his male peers. Reading a biography of Gauguin, the French painter, I came to dislike him so much for his passion for little girls, including his own little girl, I quit reading it on his return trip to France from Tahiti. The men on the ship came to hate him so much they wanted to throw him over the side, and seriously threatened to. That's when I quit reading it and about threw the book in the trash. It does nothing to diminish my appreciation of his paintings, it's just that the measure of my respect is disrespect.

Saw news today of a man in Texas who responded to his 5 year old daughter's screams and found a 40 year old Mexican employee raping her. He beat the guy to death with his fists. Who would need a gun or a knife in such a moment? It wouldn't take long for him to kill him by hand. I was glad to see that the grand jury assessment was justifiable. If ever there were a justifiable killing, that one is it. If I'd come up on some guy with a little any little girl I know, or any child, I'd do the very same, on the spot, no time lapse between seeing what's going on and the assault. I'd be like a dog, you'd have to kill me to get me off him. Because I know what it does to little girls who grow up into women carrying guilt for something they had nothing to do with. For being a defenseless child in a man's world. I don't know that it needs saying, but I tell all my women friends with pre-pubescent girls to teach them about boys, that many of them are mean and sexually repressed; girls make easy targets, because girls can't fight back. I recommend martial arts as a spiritual experience and self-defence. It's not that I want them to or intend for them to, but to get the parents thinking defensively for their girls if they're not yet aware of the need, which starts right away.

My two favorite little girls in the county are safe by their daddy's reputation, but a stranger from the outside is another consideration, as in the Texas case. If I were to catch a man with one of my babies, he certainly would not be moving when I stopped, and nobody could drag me off him until he was out. I wouldn't mind if I had a heart attack beating him. Something like that takes a man outside his self-contained, under-control self. It says pedal to the metal, all you got, don't even think about it. Send this mutha straight to hell with his pants around his ankles. I don't think of such a slaying justifiable as much as necessary. How could I live afterward without at least attempting to kill him? Even on the spiritual path where murder is the numero uno no-no, I'd have to appeal to God with the two-handed Time-Out gesture, then I'd tear into him like a dog without heed for anything. When it comes to God's eye, I daresay God got the picture. King David, God's favorite, killed thousands of people. God sees the heart. I believe God would give the man in Texas a comforting hug.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012


     andy warhol by nat finkelstein

Had a great big shit happens moment last Sunday. About every Sunday I watch the race at Justin's. This week we were not able to watch it because the tv was temporarily out, not working. It just happened to be the day Jr Earnhardt won his first race in 4 years. It so happens he is the driver Justin pulls for in every race. Not only did Earnhardt win the race, but led much of it, drove a stellar race. Justin is disappointed every week Earnhardt doesn't win, for 4 years, and now the Sunday the tv is out, Jr Earnhardt won the race. That's what I call a shit happens moment. Not "it" happens, as they say on tv, but shit happens. It is as natural a law as gravity, evolution and Murphy's Law (paraphrased: if something can go wrong, it will). It's too bad the natural law of shit happens has a word in its name the white middle class is afraid of. Makes you sound low class, like you don't have an education. The way I see it, it's too bad for you if it takes not saying shit to show your education. All I can say is, an education aint much if all there is to it depends on the use of one word. You can do stupid stuff all the time, talk down to children, shun the working class, hoop&holler with a beer can when a football team makes a touchdown on tv, and then go about thinking you're taken for clever and astute for not saying shit, and for correcting others who do. When they look in the toilet after they're done, I know they don't think, "manure." They look at it every day or two, but get all tore up when somebody speaks the forbidden word.

A moment came to mind from childhood. A neighbor kid was in the house and I was showing him information I'd found on American Indians, plains Indians in particular. I forget what form it was in, like book, comic book or whatever else. At the term "buffalo chips" he asked, "What's that?" My mother was in the same room, so I leaned toward him and whispered, "shit." Mother said, "You could have said manure." I couldn't give her an answer, because I was thinking: I could have said poopie, ca-ca, doo-doo, number 2, but shit is what it is. However, like Steven Seagal says just before he shoots somebody, "Wrong answer." Gulp it down, say, "OK." OK in that time was the same as "Whatever" is now. I can't help but think it an absurdity to forbid the word shit. It is NO BIG DEAL. It is just a word. Even for kids. Babies play in it and are taught it's "dirty," not so much in the physical way, though it is pretty much the essence of dirty, but in a moral way, like it's BAD, it's NOT OK, but you're supposed to do it. Icky poo, don't touch. Babies don't know it stinks. They're taught it stinks by adults. I don't believe it would "stink" nearly so much to us if we were not taught from baby on up that it stinks. I believe it can be taught that keeping clean of it is practical and healthy without making a great moral issue of it. Of course, in our time, we do it indoors, so it becomes an intimate issue. So we can't say it. We can't talk about between-the-legs nastiness. Bad manners. Dirty.

I learned in the time of taking care of Jr Maxwell when his dementia was so far along he had no mind at all, no conscious mind, no memory, living totally in the present. This was a large part of why I found watching him closely so fascinating. He was living totally in the present moment, no thought of past or future. Like a baby in that way. Everything new, chairs and tables just objects without names or purpose. And that was the time he shit like a baby, as it happened, wherever it happened. Before that phase started, I said that's where I draw the line. Nursing homes is where they clean up shit. That's more than I can handle. The first time was horrible. Incredibly horrible. The smell was overwhelming. The second time was easier for me, didn't smell nearly as bad. By about the 5th time I didn't smell anything, and it was no problem to deal with. Put on latex gloves and when I'm done, peel them off, drop them in the trash bag, done. I never learned to like it, didn't try to. Gradually the nastiness went out of it for me. I dreaded cleaning it up, but in the time of actually cleaning up after a shit storm, I had a routine set, one step at a time, The washing machine paid for itself in that time.

I look back at that time not feeling gross and nasty, like I would be an Untouchable in India if I touched it. I'm not in India. They can do it their way. My way is to get done what needs doing, what Woody Allen calls, "Whatever it takes." I have to confess too, that each time I had to approach such a mess, I tended to walk in a tight circle in the living room for a few minutes thinking about the steps of dealing with this particular incident. When I got it lined out in my head, I went to the kitchen closet for the bucket and sponges, the tools. Warm water from the bathtub faucet. There was nothing sacrifice about it for me. It wasn't dirty either. It was one thing and one thing only: shit happens. I was taking care of a friend I respected to the sky, someone I believed God had given me for a teacher, the only man I've known with wisdom. In him I learned wisdom cannot be found in the academic world, in the world of books, in second-hand learning. Wisdom is experiential, comes directly from experience. The spiritual path is a path of experience, first-hand direct experience. It would only be right for a man of wisdom to be found living as a farmer, a sawmiller, a bulldozer operator. His work had always been solitary, as farming is. A man with a good mind for figuring things out and all day every day to think and assess experience is a lot closer to wisdom than a PhD in Philosophy, and I don't mean to throw off on Philosophy or PhD. That's knowledge, information, which I have no problem with. It's just that knowledge is not where wisdom comes from.

Cleaning up after the only man of wisdom I knew, who had become a friend over the years and had no one to help him stay out of a nursing home. He was mortified of going to one. I had the time, Social Security to cover my own monthly expenses. I wanted to help him have the right to die at home in his own bed, as he wanted it. By then I had become a friend he could trust. I wanted to show him how I valued his trust, how I respected who he was/is. In the time his mind was going away, he said to me, "I wish I could pay you for what you're doing for me." I said, "You paid in advance. Five years of sharing with me the best liquor made in this world is worth a lot. You're paid in full." Initially, I meant that to be a joke, humor, something light-hearted to say, something to make him smile. I heard the truth in it as I heard myself say it. I think he did too, at least his version of it wherever his mind was at the time. It was my way of telling him I wouldn't do this for money. This has nothing to do with pay or gratitude or anything not present tense. I was there because he needed help, no one else was either able or willing to help him stay out of a nursing home.

Our birth dates and death dates are all that are left of us in the future. I wanted my friend's death date to be at least where he wanted it to be. It makes me grateful to see that I have become who I have become. In youth what I imagined I wanted to become involved position, money, things. I see now that what I have become to some degree is in the world not of it. By now I couldn't be "of it" if I took lessons in it. Memory isn't good enough to retain any of it. It's been my Dream as far back as I can remember to reach that place, not really knowing what it is or how to get there. I'm finding that just living my life, taking care of buisness, gettin-er-done, enjoying my life, I feel very much in the world, not of it. I don't think it has anything to do with not drinking, or not this, or not that, or not anything from a long list without an end, the list of You Better Not, but everybody does. Withdrawing from "the world" it is necessary to have at least something like an oxygen tank to carry on the back until varieties of wants have fallen away. "The world" has to do with desire for money, for status, desire, desire, wanna, gotta, needta. In this time of my life I don't want anything I don't already have, unless it would be a new tank of gas every few weeks and enough food to get by. I'm glad when things don't work out as intended to know about the natural law that sums up why.


Sunday, June 17, 2012


edwin lacy, mike gayheart, dori freeman, scott freeman, steve lewis

         dori freeman


Up early this morning and on the road to Mt Rogers, the Grayson Highlands State Park where the Wayne Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition happened all day long. I went as a volunteer in the tshirt selling tent 12:30 to 3:30. I wanted to be there to see Dori Freeman's performance by special invitation from Wayne himself, who has known her all her life. I was able to get my lunch first thing, a good chunk of chicken and get situated by the time Dori would be on. She had an orchestra with her. Scott Freeman, her dad, played mandolin, fiddle and guitar. Edwin Lacy played old-time banjo. Mike Gayheart, Dori's mother's brother, played bass. Steve Lewis played guitar. Dori played her Henderson guitar and sang several songs of her own composition, and several others from people like Peggy Lee and Gordon Lightfoot, and several others. Dori's singing brings Sade to my mind. She doesn't sing like Sade, but has a hauntingly experienced winsome quality that makes the association in my mind. I loved her singing the Peggy Lee song with banjo, guitars and mandolin. The audience was attentive to every moment of her performance. She had them with her from the first note. It was like she was the star of the day. Several people walked from back in the crowd to the front in a cluster under the speakers to have a closer look and listen to what was happening on the stage.

It was an all-star band of her dad's and grandpa's musician accomplices. All of them have known Dori all her life or close to it. They are the musicians who recognize in her a peer. They love making music with Dori. Like my way of supporting her was to go hear her perform, the musicians in the band were supporting her musically. She ordered a guitar from Wayne Henderson last year and was playing it in two weeks. Unprecedented to the max. He always takes ten years, thereabouts, to get to your place on the list. The guitar and the invitation to perform at this year's festival were Wayne's support. She was buoyed up all day. It was a performance worth getting up and driving an hour for. I was happy for Dori all the time she was on the stage, happy to see she had found her voice, happy to hear the music the whole bunch of them made, all of them my favorite musicians I've listened to almost every week for the last two years. These are musicians I respect to the sky, for their musicianship and for their integrity as human beings. Best for me was seeing that Dori gave a stunning performance, and next best was seeing the audience paying such close attention to her. For one thing, we were hearing music, the real deal. Dori's singing seemed to surprise the audience at first, it not being bluegrass or old-time, and they seemed to me to be right there with her, took to her refreshing new sound.

Dori introduced several new songs she'd written. I've heard everything Dori sings, I think, or almost. Consistently I feel like her own songs are better worded songs than the ones she covers. Dori not only writes a good song, she writes a good story too. I've seen three of her short stories, and I'm here to tell it that Dori Freeman is a gifted story teller. Her writing is that of somebody who has spent years honing a style, this when she was 19. The last time we talked, she said she wanted to be a writer first. Singer she likes, but writer first. It's looking like her music, her singing, is taking hold with quite a lot of gigs going, good ones. She can make music on weekends and write during the week if things balance for her that way. It's silly to project somebody else's way, especially Dori's, someone whose intelligence I admire, someone who can make her own decisions. It's looking like that balance may work out for her. Her stories that I've seen impressed me by the maturity of the writing, the skill, the insights, her sophistication with language. This is a young woman who thinks about things. She thinks deeply. She has intelligent and experienced counsel in her dad, Scott Freeman and her grandpa, Willard Gayheart, two of southwest Virginia's finest musicians and songwriters. She is buoyed up by support all around her, especially in her family. I get the impression the music community of southwest Virginia is delighted to have Dori's refreshing new voice in their midst.

They said the attendance broke a record this year. It was a happy crowd in perfect weather. No winds, no rain, no cold. A clear, comfortable day. I worked the tshirt tent for three hours after Dori's performance, and then I came home. Missed the Gibson Brothers and the Kruger Brothers, the big lights of the show. Gibson Brothers are awfully good. Kruger Brothers too. But I didn't want to stick around any longer. It was only Dori I wanted to hear. I'm also partial to music of this region of the mountains, the central Blue Ridge. Big name chart bluegrass bands I can take or leave. I like the bluegrass of this region. Kruger Brothers live in Wilkes County now, but they're stars in their own firmaments. There was an hour that fiddler Rita Scott was in the tshirt tent, Rita of Appalachian Mountain Girls. I'd rather listen to Rita on a fiddle than the Kruger Brothers. That's only about me, not about them. They are excellent musicians. Also in the tshirt tent I met another volunteer named Layla. First Layla I've met. Great name. One of the great rock anthems. Even beyond Angie. I had a good time talking with the people that came by. Layla had a fresh spirit and a silver ring in her right nostril.

The most interesting inter-personal moment was a time talking with a woman here from Washington DC and Oregon. We talked at length and she started looking familiar to me. I asked her if she went by Wayne Henderson's shop one day about 2 years ago. She indeed had. I said, "You had a camera and took pictures." "Yes." I told her why I was there, delivering Jr's cd to Wayne, and we had a good laugh over meeting again when we didn't even meet then. I probably recognized her because I liked her. She had a charming energy about her. I've no idea why that moment of her walking in the door at Wayne's shop stuck with me so I'd recognize her a couple years later. While we talked, I could see that image in my mind's eye like it was the present moment. I was glad to find myself grown up enough to allow myself to leave before the big expensive acts, the stars. I just wanted to go home. Had a good time the whole time there. 8 hours since leaving home, I was ready to make the hour drive home. I didn't need to go to the party at Wayne's house afterward. I needed to be on the road.


Friday, June 15, 2012


     charm city devils

The jukebox in my head has played over and over this week, MAN OF CONSTANT SORROW by the Charm City Devils. Heard it the first time on the return trip from Bass Pro Shop at Concord NC with Justin, listening to the Serious (or whatever it is) satellite radio riding up the interstate, the hard rock channel. It's not what I listen to for pleasure, though I do like it maybe more now than back when I only listened to rock. I've slowed down somewhat over the years of dealing with gravity 24/7 such that I resonate a bit better with somebody like Gaither Carlton playing a fiddle and Kyle Creed pickin a banjo, and banjo pickers from an E Kentucky 2cd set that I luv. Because old-time resonates better with my spirit in this time of my life, it doesn't mean I don't hear it when Five Finger Death Punch delivers the next thing in rock. There's no way around it, the 4hr round trip rocked. I liked hearing it quite a lot. It was a good review of what's happening now in that arm of rock. Mostly names of bands I'd never heard before. Korn is still making music, yet what I heard lacked much of the vitality of their earlier sound assaults; though how far can you go driving your audience through the back wall with a bass sledge hammer like driving a spike twenty feet long through oak. They played some Rage Against The Machine, a band from just before I dropped out. I don't listen to them much for pleasure, but when I hear them, it's in full appreciation. Tom Morello rules.

Haven't listened to current rock in a lot of years, like a couple decades. Bands like Garbage and Mazzy Star were some of the last bands I paid close attention to. Too much stuff started coming on. Too much to keep up with and a huge variety. It seemed to me like a new wave of Punk. Initially, punk was about making music the way you like to hear music. Anything went. Sex Pistols, the Damned and so on, set the standard for "punk" the hard-driving sound assault that it became. Which I liked then and still do. In the 90s, thereabouts, give or take a decade, every kind of thing started coming along, every kind of singing, every kind of music making. Punk again, this time closer to the original intent. It seems like a dynamic time in rock, but in this time of my life it's way too much and it's all youth-specific, which is ok by me, the best part about it; rock has a spontaneous vibration of heedless youth. Stories are told, feelings felt. Rock is a living music that changes every year, new people coming into it continually bringing fresh ideas and reaching for the next thing, the next sound yet to be heard.

Best of all, no matter if the parents grew up jamming in the front row at Rolling Stones concerts, the rock the kid listens to is guaranteed to make the parents say, "That's not music." Listening to Elvis in 1956 when he swept the world, my parents said, "That's not music. Glenn Miller is music." Many years later, an old hippie I knew who had grown up into a yuppie wannabe said to his teenage boy, in my presence, who was listening to Adam and the Ants, "That's not music. The Beatles are music." That knocked me on my ass. I couldn't help it, had to laugh out loud. "Did you hear what you said?" Of course he did. Of course he's right. That's not music. I went within a moment to remind myself that I will never get like that unto the day I die, even if I'm over a hundred with dementia for 20 years. It's why I went to a rock concert on my 60th birthday (Papa Roach) and 70th (Thrice), so I will never hear myself start a sentence, "The kids these days." In my late 50s, two sentences began with those words, catching my attention each time, not sounding right. After the 2nd time, I made a vow to myself it won't happen a third time. Going to the concerts is a reminder, as well as a celebration. It puts me in a world of the kids these days where I see they are just like the kids of my days or any other days. It's people being people and everybody is happy. Bump into somebody and it doesn't start a fight. I can swim among them as happily as among white-headed people at a Ralph Stanley concert, and enjoy both to the same degree.

I feel blessed in that way when I look around at my own generation. My generation is the 50s. In high school I saw Chuck Berry in concert Jr year and Sr year. I saw Chuck Berry's gold 1957 Cadillac with fins and venetian blinds in the back window in traffic downtown Wichita, Kansas, from the sidewalk as he drove by. The license tag said C BERRY. It was the Alan Freed Rock & Roll Show that lasted two years before he was taken out of the picture by the anti-rocknrollsquad. Saw Bill Haley & the Comets, Buddy Holly & the Crickets, Ricky Nelson, Fats Domino during high school years. Elvis played in KC when I was 14, but it meant taking a bus into a part of the world I was not familiar with at all, downtown Kansas City at night, taking the bus back and walking a half mile from the bus to home. I wasn't brave enough at that age. It was the time of duck-tails and hoods with their collars sticking up; zip guns, motorcycle chains, switchblades, rumbles. I wasn't into that scene. It was Los Angeles and New York, but it was in KC too. Something like an Elvis concert would be a hood magnet. Just what I didn't need, to get my throat cut by a gang of high school dropouts in black leather jackets with zippers all over them, a teen crime statistic. A Dave Gardner comedy from the time: He had zippers up his sleeve and zippers on his back and a tattoo on his arm sayin Mammy You The Most. The comedy part was one thing, but on the street it was quite another for a kid, esp for a kid with no experience outside church and school.

Both Justin and I love the old song Man of Constant Sorrow, and we're running down the road hearing what we don't believe we're hearing. We looked at each other at the same time, his hand automatically went to the knob and cranked it up. It was a jam. I said farewell to old Kentucky, the place where I was borned and raised. Later, at the house talking about it, we checked the YouTube to see if we could find it. Neither of us remembered the name of the band. When he said Charm City Devils, I said, "I remember seeing Charm City. That's it." Sure enough, it was. I loved that they did it right. They did it just right. I was glad to see that great song translated into rock for the next generations. It doesn't get more traditional American music than Emory Arthur, Ralph Stanley, Bob Dylan and the Soggy Bottom Boys singing that song. It goes way back. I don't know if its origin is known. Probably is. Ralph Stanley owns it. It's his song and always will be. Even though this rock version does it right and makes a teen male anthem of it, they have not taken it away from Ralph Stanley.

Joe Cocker took She Came In Through The Bathroom Window away from the Beatles, but the Charm City Devils have not taken this song from Ralph Stanley. It's still his song; they just added their name to a list of very well done versions of that beautiful song nobody dares take on unless they can do it right. Fiddler Whit Sizemore sang it on one of his Shady Mountain Ramblers albums. It translates very well from genre to genre. It has universal meaning and speaks from the heart. I've looked at it every day on YouTube since hearing it first time. I like both the videos of it. One is a collage of flashing images from early black and white silent movies. Awfully good video. The other is a black and white of the band in a small space performing like on stage. For the band, this is the break they've been aching for. I'm happy for the band without knowing anything about them but their name. I'm grateful to them for doing it well, for doing it right. It seemed to my ear like they do the song with a nod of respect to Ralph Stanley. I don't know how to make it more clear than that. It's not something I can put my finger on, just a hint of a feeling. Last week I told Justin that Thrice concert ruint me. He said, Ruint you? I said, Now I want to hear everything full volume. I meant it. The concert and the drive with the satellite rock station woke up the dormant rocker within. I might put on some Marilyn Manson and let Caterpillar go outside for a while.    


Thursday, June 14, 2012


An hour in the coffee shop talking with someone from Bogota, Columbia, who was staying in Raleigh visiting friends. He had read Tom Wolfe's book, I AM CHARLOTTE SIMMONS, and wanted to see Sparta, the town Charlotte came from in the story. We had a good conversation. He knew English well enough that he was easy to talk with. He had a good mind and I saw right off I didn't need to explain anything. Except one time I spoke a sentence that had American connotations that didn't translate literally in the words used. It came up when I was saying of Charlotte Simmons, in her world, mountain culture, WHO you are is important. In the world outside the mountains, WHAT you are is important, and who you are counts for nothing. The who and the what threw him in translation. I saw it right away and did a clumsy job of attempting to explain, but got it across rather quickly. That's what I meant by him having a quick mind.

I explained it something like, Charlotte came from a culture that values WHO you are; your character is your value. She was thrown into a world where only WHAT you are has any value, and who you are is of no interest to anybody. In her case, who she was to everyone around her was what she was, a hillbilly. At the time, she didn't know hillbilly was a good thing. She learned. Two local women I know, women I think of as my friends, and I believe they think of me as their friend, separately told me in the time Wolfe's novel was getting it's little tiny bit of attention, told me of their similar experiences when they went off to college, one to Greensboro, one to Chapel Hill. The one in Greensboro came home and never went back. The one in Chapel Hill cloistered herself in her dorm room, pulled the shades and became good on her new guitar she'd saved money all summer to buy. Both are fiercely independent individuals. If these experiences sent them down the path they've been on throughout their adult lives, I can't say it was a bad thing. These are women I believe of integrity, who think about things and are slow to point the finger of blame. I think of them as some of the best people I know. I mean best where an ethical approach to everyone in their everyday lives is concerned.

The part I was wanting most to tell the reader from Bogota was interrupted when someone came in, sat between us and started conversation with me. It shut out the guy from Bogota. I felt a little awkward about it, but it was just one of those American moments of thoughtless interruption. We'd covered about everything we needed to say about the story. I had wanted to tell him about the Winston-Salem Journal sending a reporter to an English teacher at the high school in Sparta to interview her and some high school girls on what they thought of the book that none of them had read or heard of even, including the interviewer. What they had to say about the book revealed that none of them had read it, esp the one doing the interviewing. The article was pathetic. Junk journalism. The conclusion of the high school girls and the female teacher, remembering not one of them had read it, was that girls from Sparta aren't like that. Like what? Charlotte lost her precious virginity to a frat womanizer she was a momentary conquest to. It knocked her for a loop. A big loop. It sent her into deep depression, introspection, doubt, fear, loneliness, guilt out the yin yang. Sparta girls aren't like that? How do I know two, when I don't know very many people, relatively? I probably know a few more who have not told me their stories.

I ordered a copy of the novel from amazon and loved reading it. I like Wolfe's writing. I like the way he makes characters, his straight approach to the language, description and characterization. I felt like he wrote it to make a movie. It was written like it wouldn't take much to translate it to screenplay. It would have made a good movie. However, it looks a little bit microscopically at the big university jocks and the underbelly of university life as it was lived in the 90s. These are the children of the rich. Doesn't look good for the controlling 10%. In the time the book was new, it was as he described it. Heroin was the drug of choice among sorority babes. Sorority chicks and jocks an ongoing tailgate party. Charlotte the mountain girl, and mountain girls aren't necessarily innocent, was innocent as a baby in the atmosphere she'd entered without a clue. She landed on her face like a surfer overwhelmed by a wave she lacked experience for. That's not the end of it. The end of the story is that it doesn't happen again. She takes charge of her life after realizing that's what she has to do. It's part of growing up. I felt like Wolfe used her story to illustrate how far we have come in America from our origins as people who believed in God and education and personal integrity.

I AM CHARLOTTE SIMMONS is a story of decadence in the upper echelons of society, something like the people in Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories, the decadence of entre deux guerres in the big European cities. The decadence illustrated by Georg Grosz in Zurich and Berlin during and after WWI. ECCE HOMO (this is man) is Grosz's book of illustrations. It's amazing. Wolfe was showing the decadence of the American rich in the 1990s, how their particular decadence manifests in the universities. The part Wolfe chose to leave out was how the black athletes rule the school. He chose to leave that one alone. That's a whole 'nother novel. Of course, it would be racist to point a finger at it. That would be a good one for a black writer to approach. It's probably been done a dozen times and I don't know it because I don't keep up with contemporary fiction or black fiction or Southern fiction or any of it. At this time in my life sometimes I like to read a contemporary Chinese novel from the mainland. It was taking a break from Chinese fiction to read Wolfe's book, which was an interesting leap from China now to America now and back to China now. Wolfe's novel would be either tremendously shocking to the Chinese sensibility or terribly avant garde. The same here. To some it was shocking, to some it was liberating to see a writer get right down to it without inhibition.

Getting past all the surface flash, the talk, the "language" was raw, straight-forward and how we talk. The sexual carryings on; it's what we humans do. Wolfe was just pulling back the curtain of denial to see what it was hiding. It's what he does. He's done it since KANDY COLORED TANGERINE FLAKE STREAMLINE BABY, shows Americans a part of ourselves we know is there but pay no attention to. Then Tom Wolfe writes about it and the decent thing to do is not to read it.
There were certain things I wish he'd done before he published it. Especially have somebody who knew the language here rewrite his "hick" language. For mountain accent Wolfe used the standard teenage boy imitation of exaggerated hick talk. It was corny and diminished the book for me, somewhat. Not a lot. When Charlotte was riding in her dad's pickup from Galax to Ennice, Wolfe described the road from Elkin to Twin Oaks. As not half a dozen people in this county read it, it doesn't matter at all, like the mountain accent. Charlotte's parents heated the house with coal, when in this part of the mountains we use wood. Some people use coal, but I personally don't know of any. None of that part matters.

Wolfe discovered Sparta via Roaring Gap, a country club in this county for the richest people in the South. So he didn't know anything about Alleghany County or Sparta except for what some outsiders have told him. He got enough. He got it that mountain people value who you are. That's all he really needed to connect with for the story. He connected with that very well. I Am Charlotte Simmons is so good a story about a mountain girl, I can't help but see it a shame he didn't pay more attention to the culture she came from. However, that's the only part of her culture that mattered for the story. It still made a good read. In Wolfe's defense, it's fiction. It does not have to be like anyplace. I was sorry the conversation was cut off with the man from Bogota when we were having good conversation. What he read of Sparta in the novel, and the Sparta he saw and heard about from somebody there who had read the book, gave him considerable insight into Charlotte's Blue Ridge Mountain home. I was thinking later that the what you are / who you are insight was good enough for him. He didn't need his mind cluttered with the story of what people who hadn't read it said about it. I'm glad I was able to provide him that insight. It felt like in the flow of the way things go that our conversation had come to its conclusion. Brief is good. He liked the novel so much, our conversation gave him a new way to look at it, a little insight into the ways of thinking among the people Charlotte came from, mountain culture.