These Happened

4

September 24, 2022- The little girl, no more than two, came up to me while I was sitting in my “director’s chair”, at the large music festival. She tried to climb on my lap, which, as I knew neither her nor her mother, I gently declined. Her mother came over and led her back to the spot where she was preparing the child’s stroller. With mother so occupied, the girl came right back, and tried again. This time, both mother and I explained that this was not something she should be doing. There was no yelling or finger-wagging, just gentle dissuasion. Conversely, while the mother said I should have ignored her daughter, that, too, is something one doesn’t do to a person who is experiencing so much, for the first time in her life. I feel that I have a duty before the Creator to lovingly assist other people, especially children, to the best of my ability.

Earlier today, a small group of us honoured a revered community leader and beekeeper, on the first anniversary of his passing. There was a man who embodied loving assistance to all he met. Even the bank manager, who oversaw his mortgage, was given instructions on what to do with his house-upon the occasion of said passage. Hopefully, those instructions were followed and the home sold to the certain type of family who would honour its feng shui. The bees themselves were carefully dispersed to various other apiaries, prior to GK’s passing.

I went from the memorial service to VortiFest, in Sedona, particularly to meet up with a friend I had not seen in 2 1/2 years and to possibly see other friends from the Synergy/Apotheca complex. The centerpiece, for me, of the music festival, was an appearance by Camille Sledge, the scion of Sister Sledge, and her band, Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra. Camille, as it turned out, was off, touring with her mother and aunts, so PAO’s superbly talented instrumentalists managed a delightful and rousing 45 minutes of non-vocal ear candy, and got many of us, up and jumping around, much as they and Camille did, when I first heard them, four years ago.

That set was what brought about a brief encounter with a Sedona friend, that puzzles me, even as I write this. She greeted me, danced around for a bit, then spent the rest of the set alternately acting like she was scared to death of me and that I no longer existed. I will refrain from trying to explain that, other than I am aware of certain threats to her safety, from someone other than myself. He could have been around and have made his presence known to her. For a good part of the rest of the Festival, she was escorted by other men, including one of the security detail members, so who knows? For my part, I would not harm a hair of anyone’s head, much less a dearly loved friend of three years.

My newly re-connected friend served as a reality check on the whole matter, cautioning against personalizing the incident, in any way, shape or form. I followed her advice, knowing that forming a narrative, based on incomplete information, is worse than a fool’s errand. So, I headed homeward, ahead of the mass exodus that was sure to happen after the last set of the festival. Even having parked in a smaller lot, across the highway, I would have been stuck in the scrum of traffic, had I stayed to hear the last, excellent band.

Besides Afrobeat, there were two other fabulous bands that I did encounter: One was the festival founder’s group, simply named “Decker”. The other was a group called “G-Love”, which offered several peace-themed tunes, that were nonetheless rousing, and which had what seemed to be 2/3 of the audience standing and bouncing, in front of the stage. I chose to sit for most of that set, getting up mainly to take video of three friends who were wearing lighted costumes and were engaged in performance art. There was a third band, which performed well, but their vibe was a bit on the angry side. Turns out, they had a shortened set, due to some misunderstanding with the festival organizers. The final band, Arrested Development, a hip-hop group, also performed well, though I heard their offerings only as I walked back towards my vehicle.

So, that was Vorti-Fest, and my Saturday. This is also my 3000th post, on this platform. Goodness and ill abound in this life, and I do not hesitate to bring you both, in the right measure. My feelings right now are well-covered, if obliquely so, by Paul Simon’s “America”.

The Sunny Picnic and A Crazy Squirrel Song

0

August 20, 2022-The joyful minstrel, at Rafter Eleven, made songs up as she went along, including one about “There’s sticky glue, on my mailbox, where your name used to be”. She prefaced it all with Ray Stevens’ “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival”. Having been to Pascagoula, I can see every bit of such things as are described in the song-not happening. The city is a bustling shipbuilding center, or was, when I visited-but why quibble? Ray’s songs were a staple of my teen years, as counterpoints to all the heaviness in the music of the late 60s.

It was a lovely musical set, with romantic ballads and country-tinged novelty tunes, well juxtaposed. From there, I drove through a short, but intense, thunderstorm, and sat talking with some friends at Synergy-mostly listening, though, as they inveighed against designer drugs and pondered what benefit, if any, there was to psychotropic substances. Personally, I will pass on all of those things. My mind is active enough, without external help.

These activities were preceded by the annual American Legion Post 6 picnic, at Goldwater Lake. Fortunately, the day was sunny and mild, until well after the picnic was finished. So, during the time under the ramada, a few lingering conflicts between some embers were resolved, awards were given out to long-standing servants in the Post and I won a nice prize. The food was well-prepared and the mood, overall, was very pleasant. The lake itself is slowly rising, though still a long way from being in what I would consider a healthy state.

It’s been a fine day, and night, as I drove back under partly cloudy skies, with the rain being done for the day.

Incorrect

4

April 12, 2022- Gilbert Gottfried died today, at age 67. His was a classic New York voice, brash and direct, thinly masking a huge heart that cared for many of the same people he was “trashing”. My encounters with his work were relatively few: There was Iago the Parrot, in the animated “Aladdin” movies of the 1990s; an occasional Groucho Marx or Jerry Seinfeld imitation, on a talk show seen in a doctor’s office waiting room and there were his appearances on various celebrity roasts-each mirroring the work of his role model and mentor: Don Rickles (who he also would tear apart, on certain routines). The word is, Gilbert could take it as well as dish it out, in the Noo Yawk style. There is no one left who is quite like him, on the stage of comedy. He traded in political “incorrectness”, to remind us all that no one is perfect.

I have personally evolved into maintaining a modicum of “political correctness”, primarily out of common courtesy. Certain words, especially racial or gender epithets, have never been in my repertoire; others, when I felt forced by peers, in young adulthood, came chokingly out of my mouth-in private conversation. I felt sick afterwards, and those pejoratives were soon gone from my very consciousness. Then again, my sense of humour is dry, situational. I would not be one who could pack the house-or clear it, when deemed necessary. Gilbert Gottfried could do both.

For most of us, the ebb and flow of courtesy towards others is a balancing act-between offering the respect that human beings inherently deserve and the admonitions that are frequently needed. It helps to be generally nonjudgmental, as well as to have the moral compass that offers judgement when it serves a purpose.

Gilbert Gottfried lived by making that distinction.

A Picasso Immersion

2

March 17, 2022, Newnan, GA- The conflict in Ukraine brings up images of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, at least for me. Thus today’s visit to the Picasso Immersion, at the Pullman Warehouse Exhibition Hall, in Atlanta’s Five Points area, was particularly poignant. Guernica, for the unitiated, is the large painting in the center of this montage of Picasso’s cubist works.

Picasso’s works, from 1890-1960,were largely his reaction to the horrific World Wars, Spanish Civil War and what he saw as the rise of materialism. Pablo Picasso had his own mind about the political reality of the day and would depict those he regarded as corrupt and decadent, in a monstrous manner-representing Francisco Franco, for example, as a pile of inedible food, in Guernica, itself named for a village in northern Spain that had been bombed by Franco’s forces during the Spanish Civil War.

Picasso was a varied artist, though, and was able to represent people beloved to him, in a more conventional manner. He wrote poetry as well, such as the autobiographical “A Lonely Road Is That I Walked”:

“I walk a lonely road, the one and only one I’ve ever known.
I don’t know where it goes, but I keep walking on and on.
I walked the lonely and un trodden road for I was walking on the bridge
of the broken dreams.
I don’t know what the world is fighting for or why I am being instigated.
It’s for this that I walk this lonely road for I wish to be
ALONE!
So I am breaking up, breaking up.
It is the lack of self control that I feared as there is something
Inside me that pulls the need to surface, consuming, confusing.
Being called Weird, I walk this lonely road for on the verge of broken dreams.
And so I walk this lonely road and so just keep walking still” – pablo picasso

Like e.e. cummings after him, Picasso created in a self-deprecating fashion. He was somewhat devoted to his children, who were the only people allowed in his studio, while he worked. From the 1920s until the end of World War II, he hobnobbed with the avant-garde, in the south of France, only occasionally returning to Spain, for short periods of time. He reacted to what he saw as crass materialism, by becoming a Communist after World War II and continuing to depict members of the economic and social elite, in unflattering ways.

Picasso has always been a source of fascination to me, although admittedly an acquired taste, and requiring of considerable pondering and rumination, as to the meaning of his surrealist work. This immersion event has whetted my appetite for exploration of other great artists of our time and of earlier eras.

There was no corned beef and cabbage for us, today. The crew gathered for St. Patrick’s Day dinner, at a Taco Max in Dunwoody, north of Atlanta, and enjoyed fairly copious amounts of guacamole-along with rather good Mexican dishes. The children have their own take on everything, much like Senor Picasso. I hope to see them reach for the stars and not suffer undue hardship. It was a rare, but most enjoyable visit with our Dunwoody family.

May art, and creativity, ever be honoured and encouraged.

That Which Matters Most

2

February19, 2022, Bullhead City- The large dining hall, filled with picnic tables that are meant to encourage families to sit together and strangers to follow suit, getting to know one another, at least in cursory fashion, is the enduring draw of Great American Pizza and Subs, in Golden Valley, AZ-about a twenty minute drive from this thriving town, itself just across the Colorado River, from Laughlin, NV.

The family-owned establishment, open Thursday through Sunday, draws people from as far as a hundred miles away. It is, as the name implies, a place that celebrates patriotism and a conservative view of life. I happened upon Great American, by chance, this evening, and put politics aside, for the sake of a fine meal-a robust “conservative”, meaning “small”, calzone. Taking up one corner of a large table, and spotting a family of seven looking about for seating, it was easy to invite them to take up the rest of the space.

We had a pleasant conversation, centered on what the adults and children noticed of the posters, paintings and other memorabilia which filled the walls and mantles of the great hall. These ranged from the serious (A warning to all patrons to mind their manners) to the whimsical (A Billion Dollar bill, featuring the likeness of Donald J. Trump).

The most important things, though, were the welcoming ambiance and the quality of the food. The rest, however tightly held people’s convictions and tenets are at any given moment, there is much in those areas that will neither be remembered or matter, fifty years hence. Kindness, generosity and respect for dignity stay in the person’s mind and heart for ages.

Echoes of Amy Winehouse

0

February 12, 2022- The songbird’s voice was reminiscent of Amy Winehouses’s. If I had wandered into the room with my eyes closed and had been living under a rock, for the past eleven years, I’d have sworn Amy was in the room. As it was, the gentle, forthright soul who was belting out tunes, over the cacophony of eclectic instruments, including her own beatbox, bore a slight physical resemblance to the late, long-suffering British master of R&B. The two other women in the room, each a talented musician in her own right, just stood and watched in awe. The rest of us, men of varying ages, were equally cognizant and appreciative of her presence, even as we were focused on our own instruments and as three of the younger among us were increasingly engaged in an improvisational spoken word trialogue, the decibel level of which was rising by the second-yet did not cancel out one word of Shawna’s powerful delivery.

For my part, I was more or less ephemeral, by choice. It had been a long while since I had sat in with the group, and many of the members were new. Shawna and her mate were the only ones I recall from last year. The others, true to the spirit of the establishment, were politely cordial, but a step short of welcoming. This is a loosely closed circle, which lets people in momentarily, and only gradually over time will accept the unfamiliar. Each member seemed to select one or two others, with whom they would interact. The rest were ignored. I was just glad that the hostility, encountered on my last visit, had gone away.

Shawna and her partner, who declined to introduce himself, once again, were otherwise gracious and accepting of all in the group. The hosts, keeping to the front of the house, eyed everyone a bit warily, understandable, given the noise level at times, but were cordial enough, as we entered and left. I’m actually glad that they abided the scene-no one was destructive, or particularly vulgar in their speech. Nine young men showed the utmost respect for the lone woman singing and playing several instruments, in their midst, as did I-the only elder in the room. May it never be otherwise.

It was, despite the reticence of its members, a fine evening of music and catharsis. It also gave me the realization that I need to bring my drum with me, on the rest of my forays. In that sense, this was the first step on a journey of a thousand miles.

Is Life Formulaic?

2

February 4, 2022- In the 2019 film, : “The Rising Hawk”, a small party of Ukrainians fends off both a much larger Mongolian force and their turncoat Ukrainian allies. This is reportedly based on an old Ukrainian legend, of a heroic fighter who lived into his nineties and his wife and helpmate, who in this telling is the daughter of the turncoats’ leader. It is a somewhat farfetched, and rather formulaic, action film, with people switching sides when convenient for the plot and brute strength displayed at exactly the right moments. It’s also a sign of the cinematic times that the film uses plot twists from at least three other films.

There are a few political movements, current in a few countries-including this one, that seem to be dependent on plot formulas turning in a certain direction, at just the right moment. It is no accident that the leaders of these movements have established their standing with a fair audience by borrowing shopworn tactics of demagogues past. There is a lot of wishful thinking on the part of those who believe that the world ought to unfold in a prescribed and orderly manner, as prescribed and ordered by a certain elite. Life, however, is not formulaic. There is an urban myth that Benito Mussolini made the trains in Italy run on time. Another credits Adolf Hitler with the humming of the German economy, by the late 1930s. Neither tale is true. Economies on a national scale have numerous moving parts, not credible to any one person-or clique. Effective strikes and slowdowns by labour movements can bring even the most hardheaded tactician down to size.

The film itself, ironically, demonstrates the humanity of the tough Mongolian leader, seen crying at the death of his son. There is also enough brutality on both sides-or on all three, if you will, to once again show the futility of war-even as there is a nod to valour. Finally, there is a split-second switch of fealty, near the end.

Is life formulaic? No, as it happens. Free will most often seems to get in the way of the best plot lines.

‘Notice All, Whether Large or Small’

2

December 29, 2021, Santa Fe- In many rancheria homes, of Spanish Land Grant-era New Mexico, a rattlesnake skeleton is embedded in the middle of a bench (banca), that extends out from the wall of the central living room. It is not certain, as to the origin of this practice, but Georgia O’Keeffe observed it, in her “town home” at Abiquiu, Mew Mexico.

I had the pleasure of visiting the O’Keeffe Museum, in central Santa Fe, this morning. After being awakened by a voice that was neither male nor female, I noticed that it was 7 a.m. and that a light snow had fallen overnight. Cleaning off the car with what was little more than a feather duster, left by the previous owner, I found the streets bare and traffic rather light. A fine breakfast at French Pastry Shop and short walk around the lobby of La Fonda Hotel began the morning in earnest.

There was a fair crowd at the O’Keeffe Museum, as the doors opened at 10 a.m. In keeping with Georgia’s advice to her students to pay as much attention to the small and subtle, as to the large and boisterous, each of us took turns in looking at the paintings, sketches and ceramics, in each of nine galleries. Most of the offerings were the work of Georgia O’Keeffe herself. There were a few photographs of the artist, by her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, who also provided scenes of New York City, as did their mutual friend, Ansel Adams, who, like Georgia, is more associated with depictions of nature. A more contemporary student of Georgia’s work, Josephine Halvorson, is the first artist-in-residence at Ghost Ranch, where Georgia spent most of her time, after the death of her husband. Josephine has a gallery of her work in this museum, being the only artist other than Georgia O’Keeffe herself to be thus honoured. Josephine painstakingly studied Georgia’s life and work at Ghost Ranch and provides scenes such as the one below.

Of all of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work, her Blue Paintings appeal to me the most. Many of them were marked “Do Not Photograph”. There were at least a couple which were recordable, though. Here is one such.


Not all of her work was earthbound, however. On a plane, between New York and Albuquerque, this scene was captured in her mind and made it to canvas.

In contemplating this scene, I recalled my own first airplane flight, from Newark to Atlanta, in 1969, and a similar feeling of being in a very different realm.

Once finishing a satisfying visit to the O’Keeffe, I paid a quick visit to my friends at the coffee house, Henry and The Fish, bought a birthday present for a friend in Prescott at the Palace of the Governors and stocked up on ballpoint pens, before strolling down Burro Alley- a perfect representation of the type of small neighbourhood that Georgia liked to frequent.

Thus did an overcast morning become blessed.

The Fruits of Glasgow’s Flowering

2

December 28, 2021, Santa Fe- In any meanderings, one never can be quite sure as to what will be encountered-especially in a quality museum. The greater part of this morning brought a new appreciation for the creativity of the Scottish Lowlands, a place I’ve yet to see.

After sleeping as if on a cloud, at Albuquerque’s Monterey Inn, I headed back to Old Town, and Blackbird Coffee House. Breakfast was put off a bit, as I grappled, along with a nice family from Texas, with the parking registration machine-which was out of paper. Fortunately, neither of us were visited by a parking warden, in the time spent enjoying a meal. Blackbird delivered nicely, as it always has.

Following quiche and coffee, I headed over to the Albuquerque Museum. As it happens, the headlining exhibit is showcasing The Four, a pair of related married couples whose heyday was Glasgow’s fin-de-siecle, when the great British port and industrial giant was in full ferment-followed by full flowering, from the 1890s until World War I. Charles Rennie Mackintosh, his wife, Margaret Macdonald, her sister, Frances Macdonald and brother-in-law, James Herbert McNair were the prime movers behind the neo-Renaissance of the Scottish Lowlands at the turn of the Twentieth Century, thus becoming known as The Four. They drew their influences from previous groups of Glasgow artists, notably the “Glasgow Boys” of the mid-Nineteenth Century, but also the Celtic Revival and Japonisme artistic movements, which emerged in Gilded Age Britain. The Four were also called Spook School, by more conventional art critics, due to their distortions of the human form. As an architectural designer, however, Charles Mackintosh relied largely on rectangular sketches. His great buildings, including Hill House and the Willow Tearooms, of late Victorian Glasgow, chartered by the entrepreneur Catherine Cranston, as well as The Lighthouse, now the site of Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture.

The Four were completely-rounded artists, producing not only buildings, but ornate and solidly-constructed furniture, a variety of paintings, fabric art and metallurgy. One of their prime acolytes, Anne Macbeth, was largely responsible for bringing embroidery into its own, as an art form that became a staple in secondary school arts curricula.

The Mackintoshes eventually relocated to London, while the McNairs, remaining in Glasgow, found their fortunes fading. Frances died in 1921, after which her disconsolate husband destroyed nearly all of her work. Charles and Margaret kept their body of work in trust, and it remains curated by various art galleries in Glasgow and in London.

Those of us who have the fortune to visit the Albuquerque Museum, until January 22, are thus treated to an appreciation of Glasgow’s fin-de-siecle flowering.

There is furniture:

Gesso (pronounced JE-so) is a hard plaster of Paris compound, usually applicable to sculpture or painted wood.

Repousse’ is the process of hammering a metal piece into relief, from the back side.

While the Glasgow Style itself faded, after World War I, the influence of The Four was long felt, as far afield as Vienna and Dresden, as well as here in the United States. Art Nouveau developed alongside Glasgow Style, and was profoundly influenced by the work of The Four, and any of the more than 70 other adherents of the Style.

After ninety minutes of immersion in the work of the Mackintoshes, McNairs and their colleagues, I spent an hour or so with New Mexico’s own avant garde. There are provocative depictions of religious themes and modernistic expressions of Native American spirituality. Young Indigenous people love science fiction as much as any of their contemporaries. I leave you with a depiction, by Tony Price-not a Native himself, but one inspired by Indigenous lore.

Fibonacci’s Tower

2

December 9, 2021- Having supervised three mathematic classes, the past 1 1/2 days, one of my favourite concepts comes to mind. The Fibonacci sequence, devised by Leonardo of Pisa (aka Fibonacci) in 1202, was one of the harbingers of the Italian Renaissance, bringing Indian mathematical concepts to a European forum. Leonardo Bogollo was the son of Bonacci Bogollo-thus his nickname, Fibonacci (“fi” being short for “son of”).

The process is actually quite simple. Starting with the number 1,(though some mathematicians begin with zero), each number is added to the one before it, in the series. Thus, 1+1=2; 2+1=3; 3+2=5; 5+3=8; 8+5=13; 13+8=21, and so on, through the infinity of numbers. The sequence also operates in a negative direction.

The sequence has uses in poetry and in music. In fact, the original device was used in organizing Sanskrit poetry. It may also be the structural device for an expanding tower, or for a pyramid built in reverse order. Further information on the Fibonacci Sequence may be found here: https://www.mathsisfun.com/numbers/fibonacci-sequence.html.

Happy counting!