Cold Shoulder

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January 28, 2023- Both of my favourite Prescott weekend haunts were nearly deserted, this evening. It’s shoulder season-the slow period between mid-January and St. Patrick’s Day, when a single person can actually expect to have a table of four to self-for nearly a whole evening. I ask you, who needs a table of four to oneself? It makes my night-or day, for that matter, to share a table, or give away seats to couples or foursomes who need an extra chair or two, at their table. Sometimes, I even get invited to join the gathering.

The artists, at both Rafter Eleven and Raven Cafe, were fine musicians and got plenty of applause, and tips, from those of us who came to listen. Steve Miller ( no, not the Gangster of Love, but a joyful singer, nonetheless) offered up a couple of hours’ worth of Golden Oldies-including some from the ’90s and 2000s, to a nearly empty Rafter. No matter, Steve has been here several times-and played to a packed house. At Raven, Remi Goode, a five-piece folk and blues-oriented band, named for its front person, found themselves the main event for the evening, as a local band that was to be headlining found themselves unavailable. Remi and Co. were fresh from a visit to Nashville, where they had done several gigs. They were up to the evening and did three imaginative and well-balanced sets. They made a lovely point, that Prescott is a good place to stop, on the way back from a Nashville road trip. I can think of a few places along the way that would also have been nice stops-but this town is one of a kind, so who am I to be a wet blanket?

A mysterious couple came in, not long before I left. First, the man entered, stood next to my table and seemed very nervous-wanting to applaud, while Remi was still singing-even asking me when they were going to stop. The woman came in, shortly after, smiled wanly at him and went straight to the back. Man followed her, at a discrete distance. About ten minutes later, they both came back-and woman went straight out the door. Man watched her leave, wistfully, and left himself, five minutes later. I just had an inkling that they were working something out, but the cold shoulder she seemed to be giving him indicated it wasn’t happening.

Shoulder season is slow, but has its moments.

Possibilities

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December 21, 2022- On a lark, I spent a little time this evening, watching a show about the misadventures of a young woman in a place for which she was ill-prepared. It had a bit of an “I Love Lucy” meets “Anna and The King” air about it. She was, though, making it work, day to day, when I signed off and went on to other activities for the evening. The gist was that, though she seemed a bit flighty, there was a very strong sense of self-and a pluckiness that brought her eventual success. She was nobody’s fool.

We each face similar situations, even when we stay in place and try to adhere to a certain basic routine. I’ve heard from friends whose lives are rather cut and dried, who have recently been facing challenges they had only vaguely expected. These range from weather that is so cold, that even an Alaska-style battery-warmer would be hard put to keep a vehicle working, to health challenges facing multiple members of a family, at once, and I’m not talking about viruses.

Thus do we find ourselves exploring possibilities. In this little corner, I will be talking with a couple of educators, tomorrow, about filling in at a position for the coming semester. This would make my own routine fairly basic, for the first time in four years. On the other hand, I could keep my present plan, which would have me covering different positions, for 3-5 days each, at certain points in the coming semester. If that plays out, I would still be available for some Red Cross activities and would head to the Northwest and Alaska, in late April, for 3 weeks or so. The other option would be none of the above, a misty, foggy scenario about which I haven’t a clue as to how things would play out. (2020 was THAT sort of year, and things got rather intense-but all ended fairly well.)

Even in “retirement”, the plight of the world, and all those I care about, settles deeply into my consciousness. The possibilities for responsible action remain endless.

Types

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December 19, 2022- The sweet eyes of the dark-haired woman, standing just behind and to the left of the male soloist, seemed to rivet the videographer, especially at the end of the recording of “My Gallant Hero”, sung in Gaelic by the Trinity College Choir. Perhaps the camera operator was a parent, sibling, significant other or just an admirer from afar, and though there was no dearth of pleasant, attractive faces and voices-of both genders- in the troupe, hers just seemed to capture attention.

There was a time when I was particularly drawn to girls, and then women, with dark hair and brown eyes, especially to those with Celtic features. My “type” , of course, expanded, and I spent a devoted, loving and fulfilling 30 years with Penny, whose features were dark blonde-to- reddish brown hair and sparkling blue eyes. Since her passing, my women friends have not been determined by physical type-but by character and the strength of our mutual interests. Then, again, romance has not been front and center, in my reality.

It was thus with curiosity that I noted the whole (mostly) online kerfuffle about an action-film star and his “much younger” current girlfriend. Someone noted that the man has a”type”-which amuses me. Once a person reaches adulthood, what does it matter that there is a decade or two between him/her and significant other? Of course, there are caveats: 1. It is awkward for an S/O to be in the same age range as the person’s adult child, or younger. This brings up-“Does the younger party have Daddy or Mommy issues?”; “Does the older party have secret pedophilia issues, or is he/she just immature?” 2. There are legitimate longevity concerns, which is why I am personally opposed to the whole arranged-marriage thing, when a man in his forties, or older, is betrothed to a young woman in her late teens or twenties, or to a girl, for that matter. A human being, regardless of age or gender, is put on Earth to pursue his/her own dreams and life plan, NOT those of another. One can argue that there are young women who legitimately choose to wed much older men, to the chagrin of the wider society-whose business it definitely is not. I have my suspicions about some prominent older men who have taken on young women as mates-yet those marriages seem to have endured quite well. I have a young friend who is married to a man her father’s age, and that bond has proven durable. So, too, has the marriage of one of my female relatives to a much younger man. The proof is in the pudding. 3. It is never acceptable, though, for an adult to marry, or be romantically involved with, a child.

Here, then, for the enjoyment of those who share my own fascination with Celtic music, is the above-mentioned video.

Thought Experiments

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December 17, 2022- I spent part of this afternoon, prior to taking in a Latino rock band’s performance at the Raven, listening to several jazz arrangements of classical pieces. These included renditions of ceremonial standards: The Bridal Chorus, Wedding March, and Pomp & Circumstance-which I regarded as an elegant drudge at my own graduation from High School, some fifty four years ago. Most such jazz arrangements are thought experiments; some are done with the knowledge and encouragement of the original composers-Maurice Ravel and Aaron Copland certainly smiled at the best of up-tempo versions of their work. Petr Tchaikovsky, Mozart and Bach would likely have felt the same.

The wedding-related pieces have been worked into certain nuptials, though I haven’t heard of any usage of Tom Kubis’ rousing version of “Pomp” in a graduation exercise. Methinks the kids would love it, but not so, much more traditionalist adults. Nonetheless, thought experiments, so long as they don’t lead to harm of anyone, or to disparagement of the tried and true, are good for individual and collective consciousness. This extends to most alternative adaptations of traditional music-though a few loud, up-tempo versions of children’s lullabies have fallen flat, mainly because of the decibel level of the performances (not good for tender ears) and the fact that the purpose of a lullaby is usually to get a child to calm down and go to sleep.

This brings me to “thought experiments” that have been broached recently, by prominent personages, and pertaining to everything from the United States Constitution to how people should live their lives when in private to the composition of life in the Universe (Some have posited that there are planets inhabited by Cat People and Horse People). Such exercises, besides being rather numbing to the consciousness of those entertaining such thoughts, and disruptive to the national fabric, are flying in the face of the forward march of history. They are allowed by said Constitution, but like the most raucous of loud and swinging lullabies, are best kept to the privacy of their fashioners.

Jazz interpretations of Classical Music, reasoned political discourse-regardless of viewpoint and careful research into any aspect of life in the Universe add luster to our social condition-at least from where I stand. Those thought experiments that solely reflect the egotism of their adherents serve no redeeming purpose.

Seven Dogs and Seven People

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December 10, 2022- The strikingly comely woman described being in a van, with the titular living arrangement. There was a time in my life when just being in the same environment with a person like her would have been Heaven on Earth. As I think about it, and ponder her own description of the situation, I would now be more likely to see what I could do to extricate her,and probably at least a few of the dogs, from that sardine can of a vehicle.

I have been in crowded vehicles that were headed from A to B, on more than one occasion. The obvious ones have been airplanes, but there were others-a third class train, from Playa San Carlos to Nogales, Sonora; a third class ferry, from Yosu to Jeju, South Korea; a van from Blue Springs, MO to Troy, NY. This last saw me help calm a cranky toddler, who had just driven her mother to exasperation. The young woman got about an hour’s respite as I held the little girl gently enough so she fell asleep for a while.

I went to the Raven Cafe, again this evening, after a delightful Christmas party, featuring pork ribs, potatoes and vegetable, for two reasons: One was to purchase a to-go meal, for the benefit of Arizona’s Children Association; the other was to listen to the band, The Barn Swallows, a folk music iteration of four musicians calling themselves Juniper Djinn. JD offers jazz from the 1930s and ’40s, with an emphasis on the Gypsy jazz that was popularized by Django Reinhardt. The Barn Swallows, three women with extraordinary voices, gave us two hours and thirty minutes of mellifluous, original folk tunes that hinted of the experiences people had during the Great Depression. The lovely lady mentioned above was one of these. All were compelling talents, backed by a male cellist/guitarist.

The troupe will return to Prescott again, in mid-January. This will hopefully give a good friend, who couldn’t make it this evening, a chance to enjoy their offerings. In any case, the band has at least one new fan.

It’s a supreme joy to appreciate the totality of human beings and their talents.

Acker Night Reflections

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December 9, 2022- As I walked about downtown Prescott, there were several things apparent: The town was alive with music, in each of over five dozen businesses; there were healthy crowds in each one; downtown banks had shut their ATMs, or had run out of cash. This last was significant, because one of the ideas of Acker Night is for patrons to leave a cash tip, in each of the shops they visit, as part of the evening’s fund raiser for arts programs in the area. The less cash there is available, the less that is contributed to the effort. There needs to be better communication between banks, the arts community and the public-at-large.

I wrote, a week ago, about being more comfortable in groups. I am ready for groups, but this evening, they were not ready for me. It’s not altogether easy for close-knit people to accept those deemed outsiders. So, after chatting for a few minutes with a member of one such group, and listening to a men’s choir, I wandered back to Home Base; not sad or even lonely, but calm in realizing that good people sometimes just need time and space to consider expanding their circle.

I sense that an immature part of me has fallen away, or has grown up, at long last. Some of the people in my life seemed to like that flirtatiousness, light-heartedness that occasionally surfaced. My energy field, though, has become more concerned with the complete human beings in my life, with what is in their dreamscape and their life plan. It is just time for that unity between heart and mind to rise to the surface.

Tomorrow evening will find me in two more group situations: An American Legion Christmas Party and another concert evening at Raven Cafe, with hopefully another seat at a table which can draw four-six people together.

Life moves forward in stages.

Soft Landings

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December 4, 2022- This will go down in history as the first time I won at “Candyland”, since 1959. The other players then were my sister, younger brother and a neighbour kid. Today, there were a friend up the road and two of her young neighbours. “Candyland”, the game, but not the fictional plantation in Tarantino’s “Django Unchained”, is the stuff of soft landings. Kids of any age can win or lose, because there is no strategy, no give and take-just pure dice rolling and advance or retreat, as the card pulled says to do. Of course, whoever shuffles the cards can pull a fast one, but why bother? Texas Hold ’em, it isn’t.

Speaking of poker, I haven’t played the game since 1974, before the heyday of Texas Hold’em. Back then, we preferred Seven Card Stud, and my own skills in the game were hit and miss. The particular logic of poker is often the sort of winner takes all thinking that routinely stoked anger in some of my friends at the time, with ridicule coming from those well-versed in ante-based card games in general, and Seven Card Stud in particular. Three guesses, as to how anger inter-playing with ridicule turned out. Poker is not the stuff of soft landings.

Some people see romance as a game of hit and miss. That is missing the point, both about love and about gamesmanship. A game, in the classical sense, has winners and losers. Love, in the true sense, has only winners. Of course, if romance-or any other by-product of love, becomes viewed as needful, then naturally there is a sense of loss. I have been in that state of mind, several times. Now, after an intense, but basically sound, marriage that physically ended nearly twelve years ago, and an equally intense, occasionally tortuous, effort to shed stored old pre-marital baggage regarding friendships with women, I have made the soft landing. Friendships with both men and women occupy two levels: A large number of people who I care about, but don’t see in the flesh all that often and a core group of people who I see on a regular basis. There is a third group, of 2-3 women, who are my closest confidantes, rating with my middle brother and my son, in that regard.

It is a world that some see as getting worse, a harder place in which to live. I don’t have their woes, but have come close at times. The parachute of the social network helps greatly, in lowering the impact, in softening the landing.

Gatherings

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December 3, 2022- Hiking Buddy found me, as I was texting her, asking where she was. There was a large table of casseroles and snacks, from which I was welcome to nibble, while we waited for the Christmas Parade to start. It was good to meet several of her other friends, who are the organizers of this parade day “tailgate picnic”.

The parade itself was 1 1/2 hours in length, and with the chill afternoon wind, I was glad to no longer be standing around outside-even with one of my best friends. Nonetheless, this mini-gathering, if it continues, will be a fine Season Launch day tradition. I can even bring a crock pot full of Christmas run-up staples from my adolescence-cocktail franks or mini-meatballs.

Two hours later, the annual Tree Lighting found Courthouse Square and the surrounding area wall-to-wall, with the anticipatory crowd. The Christmas story was narrated, as it has been for thirty years, by our area’s State Senator. As he spoke the final words of the Nativity, the switch was flipped, the lights came on and fireworks were set off.

Parades and fireworks happen with regularity here in Prescott, but not (as yet) so much so as to lose the dignity and honour befitting the occasions. More important to me is that I am finding, once again, the joy of being part of groups, in a regular, meaningful way. COVID, which I have personally not contracted, has wrought havoc on group activities. When it is confused with influenza, or a severe cold, as happens more often of late, than is sometimes supposed, the fear factor keeps us apart ad infinitum.

The last gathering of the day was a concert at Raven Cafe,by an area Bluegrass band, opened by twin brothers who have added luster to the Prescott music scene for nearly ten years. They are barely twenty, but show the spirit and talent that can put a town on the map of musicality. I took a seat at a table for four, as the high tops were all in use. As I had hoped, two people, one of whom I knew from a few substituting assignments, asked to sit at the table and were followed by two more-easily re-working the spot into a table for five. The surrounding tables were likewise filled to capacity, and a few intrepid souls were up and dancing. Stephy Leigh and Lullaby League, the main band, preceded-and accompanied a bit, by Cross-Eyed Possum, were the perfect voices and instruments to end this day.

I am grateful to be moving into a renewed sense of enjoying life in group settings.

The New Parade Day hangout
Grinchmas
Llamas and alpacas

Fleetwood Mac

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December 1, 2022- As the wedding reception of my sister and brother-in-law was winding down, in June, 1978, the catchy neo-disco vibes, from a new version of a band I’d heard many years back, filled the air and were quite familiar to many others in the reception hall. It was Fleetwood Mac, a British band which had relocated to California, and added Arizona’s own Stevie Nicks and her Texas-born on-again, off-again partner, Lindsey Buckingham, to the front line. Lindsey led the group in that particular song, “Monday Morning”, for some reason reminding me of The Monkees, though I kept that thought to myself.

His vocals stuck with me, over the years, and any resemblance to the tv band faded with time. More melifluous, and equally withstanding the test of time, however, were the vocals of one of the band’s founders: Christine McVie, who died yesterday. She was born into a family with the surname Perfect, and her voice made that family name a quite apt one. Marrying, and later divorcing, her bandmate John McVie, she kept his family name, throughout her time with Fleetwood Mac and through her solo career.

It’s hard to imagine FM without her, though other bands-The Who, Steely Dan and The Beach Boys have soldiered on, after the loss of one or more of their signature members. The group most recently has seemingly devolved into a cover band, particularly following Lindsey Buckingham’s departure a few years back. Christine was both muse and bard for much of the group’s repertoire, telling the tales of her own adventures and misadventures, in the world of romance.

Perhaps nowhere does her view of life play out more clearly than in the 1987 classic, “Everywhere”. Its period piece video is a scene of persistence. Rest in perfection, Christine.

The Rain Was No Barrier

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November 26, 2022, Grapevine- We walked through the mist, which reminded me more of Honolulu than Dallas. After three days of more or less being housebound, we set out for Re:defined Coffee House, a popular hangout, at the edge of downtown Grapevine. There, we sat for nearly an hour, and discussed a game plan for the rest of the day, over coffee and small donuts.

The next stage was to go and watch the film, “Spirited”, a sit was a musical comedy, which appealed more to Yunhee. Basically, it is loosely-based on “A Christmas Carol”, by way of “Scrooged” and “Oliver!”,with a bit of time travel thrown in-because, spirits can do that. It was entertaining, but alas, would have been more meaningful to DIL, had there been Korean subtitles. In time, that will be available via streaming.

Next, was a rare mid-afternoon meal-this one at Mom’s Cafe, a Korean restaurant, in Carrollton. This was a throwback to days in the motherland, Hankook. Here were Bibimbap: Chicken and egg, with sliced spinach, carrot and mushroom, on a bed of steamed rice, served in a hot stone bowl and dressed with gochujang (hot pepper sauce); a Korean pancake, with scallion, squid meat and garlic; side dishes, such as cabbage and scallion kimchi, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, sliced fishcake;and bori cha (hot barley water). My meal came with miso, the wondrous Japanese soup that serves as a soothing digestive aid.

Finally, on the way back to Home Base II, we happened by Rockledge Park, Grapevine’s taste of the Great Lakes. It had stopped raining, so we headed out along North Shore Trail, being careful to steer clear of the slippery caliche. We walked past a small, intrepid wedding party, up along short, but well-defined sandstone ledges, reminiscent of some of the shore front I encountered, years ago, on the north side of Lake Superior. (Photos by Aram will be available for a later post, and we may return there tomorrow, in which case I will have my own camera at the ready.)

Nonetheless, Lake Grapevine, impressive when approaching DFW International Airport from the northwest, is equally fascinating on the ground. The rain did not keep us housebound.