Elasticity, Drums and A Nerf Torpedo

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March 8, 2020, Phoenix- 

I drove down here, this afternoon, to take in the last day of a the three-day McDowell Mountain Music Festival (M3F), held in my former home base’s spacious Hance Park.  This is a time when I touch base, however briefly, with a hyper-energetic artist friend, Pam Mayer, who dances, with and without hoops, encourages young women to do the same and rivets the attention of many, with her irrepressible mien.  Today was more of the same- I may not be Pam’s favourite pest, but  do get in enough quips, and pitches for the Drum Circle that is M3F’s spiritual centerpiece, to get at least a few eye rolls out of the Valley’s most mature “teenage girl” (my term, not hers).  I don’t go looking for her, mind you, but if I turn around at the right moment, there she is, hoops and all.  So it was, this afternoon, at two of the five locations to which I wandered.  Good hoop dancing requires elasticity, which God knows I fairly lack and of which Pam has an abundance.  She’s a treasure.

The other riveting thing about this festival, besides the music, is the mass of humanity.  There was no climate of fear in this gathering- with people of every age, generation and ethnicity-in abundance.  I spent a fair amount of time bouncing along to both reggae and country rock bands, as well as taking in a show by a techno-pop DJ.  He calls himself Bardz.

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At the country rock set, Los Colognes, a band out of Nashville, kept us leaning in and bouncing along. They have not been back to their own homes, to assess any damage from the recent deadly tornado, so the poignant musical tribute to Music City was one of the auditory high points of the day.  I wish the guys safe passage home.

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In between the reggae set  by The Green, not pictured, as I was too busy bouncing up and down, and practicing my shaka (easier with the right hand, than with the left, for some reason), and LC’s performance, I took a brief rest, along the black mesh fence at the park’s northern edge.  There, I was captivated by two adorable children, who were tossing a Nerf torpedo back and forth, sometimes getting in the personal spaces of other concert goers.  Everyone played along though, and when the toy ended up in The  Green’s buffer zone, event security people gleefully came over and gave the torpedo back to one of the kids.

That brings me to the Drum Circle.  This time, I sat in on both of the sessions.  Hand drumming, besides bouncing along to the music, is one of my favourite sound-centered pastimes.  Today was no exception, and as I kept up with the drum master’s rhythms, it was enjoyable to also encourage a variety of people to join in.  A couple of  families were led by one or two of the children to sit in and a couple of elders joined the festivities.

The festival’s energy and vibrations were perhaps best summed up by a group of five friends, who clasped their right hands together, towards the end of Los Colognes’ set.  Even in this challenging month and season, with Coronavirus and the accompanying economic setbacks, we are together in this joyous thing called life.

 

 

 

 

 

Sheryl Crow

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February 22, 2020, Indio-

I have promised myself that this year, besides being my last year of full-time work, will be focused on the arts (especially music), honouring First Nations and reaching out to the rising generations as an ally.

With that in mind, some time ago, I accepted an online invitation from the singer Sheryl Crow, through her publicist, to attend a concert in this revitalized city on the eastern edge of California’s Colorado Desert. It’s been forty-eight years since I attended a performance by a musical A-Lister (1972, Harry Chapin).  Since Sheryl is one whom I follow on Facebook, it was a natural choice.

Making the trip resulted in not attending more spur-of-the-moment performances by local artists, back in Prescott, but I do spontaneous events back at Home Base,, all the time.  A major recording artist, or any touring musician, has to book venues and make plans, in consultation with the band and staff, well in advance.

Indio, over time, has had the good sense to nurture resort tourism, especially with the lucrative music festival in nearby Coachella becoming huge, on the concert calendar.  Fantasy Springs Resort is owned and operated by the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians.  With its golf course, casino and three-star hotel, the sparkling resort attracts top-flight entertainers.

Though the show started late, so as to give the audience’s many stragglers time to get seated, I felt I got my money’s worth, and I had a great seat-in the front and to the left of the stage. Had I been a bit less shy, I might have made a new friend of the comely lady sitting, and at one point dancing, alone on the other side of the stairway, but I was  primarily there for my friend’s music.  Excuses, excuses.

Sheryl and her band put on a rousing, energizing show, with her major pop hits of the past three decades and, reassuringly, her new material.  She included a couple of songs on which she had collaborated with the Eagles’ Joe Walsh, known for his unique high-pitched voice, as well as his intense guitar licks.  The lead guitarist emulated Joe’s command of the instrument, whilst a rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist nailed Joe’s vocal style.  All of the guitarists, including Sheryl,  also showed mastery of the keyboards, as they moved from one great delivery to another.

The nicest thing about bands like this is the sense of family.  Sheryl is the head of the group, but is no prima donna.  They are appreciative of  the audience, but there is no pandering- the band took no breaks and at the end of the one hundred five- minute set, there was a heartfelt thank you extended to the audience, the band left the stage and the road crew began dismantling the equipment-no gratuitous encore.  A recording of Sheryl’s past concert material filled the air, as we filed out. Ten o’clock is late enough for everyone involved in  putting the show together, to get their work done, and get their deserved rest.

The one aspect of the trip that had concerned me, returning to Prescott for tomorrow’s morning events, would turn out to be quite routine.  In the meantime, and always, I can say with a couple of other, very vocal, concert-goers:  I love you, Sheryl!

 

The Groundhog and The Rattler

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February 2, 2020-

Punxsutawney Phil “said” it’ll be an early Spring.  Phil is the latest of a line of groundhogs, all named Phil, who have been enticed out of their lairs, for these past 114 years, in western Pennsylvania.  Before that, Germans reportedly lured hedgehogs out of their dens, on February 2.  In each case, if the animal saw its shadow, there would be six more weeks of Winter.  If it didn’t see its shadow, Spring was close at hand.

Here in AZ, a rattlesnake, Agua Fria Freddie, saw its shadow, so Spring is close at hand.  Had it been cloudy, we would be expecting six more weeks of BRRRR.  Not really- we rarely see snow, and only a bit more frequently experience cold weather, in the winter months.  Last year’s late February “Snowmageddon” was an anomaly.

Good fun aside, the continent is expecting a One Day Big Chill, this week and a few storms are predicted for later this month.   February, Valentine’s Day aside, is a month that, along with August, many folks love to hate.  Let’s be fair, though.  The Mini-Month has its share of surprises, and this past week’s relatively mild weather was no exception.  Valentine’s Day, even without a significant other, is a day for affirming love-of various kinds.  Presidents’ Day brings a break that does not entail pre-determined community obligations and, for some, a new car.  Leap Day is one of those anomalies that brings a birthday which implies aging only every four years.

So, our animal friends have “prognosticated” a month that would seem to satisfy just about everyone.  We are not easily fooled, though, and will make the most of what actually comes to pass.

 

 

Salubrity

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January 11, 2020-

There was snow on the ground, yesterday.

Now, it is only in the shadows,

with next Friday bringing a chance of more.

The air is fresh today.

Shortly,

free, fair and healthy

will be on the agenda,

as several of us consider

ways to better grow one’s own.

Soup is in the crockpot,

and will be ready

by this evening.

Yesterday evening,

two wildly divergent

forms of music

brought solace to our ears.

This evening,

we may  hear

even more sweet sounds.

There is salubrity,

in the air,

and in my heart.

The Decade’s Top Ten: Visual Media

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December 28, 2019- 

It’s high time for me to reflect back on 2010-19, with regard to a couple of topics, today and tomorrow, at least.  In my mind, the decade is nearly over.  I know there are those who figure that this decade has another year to run-as there was no “Year Zero”, and therefore, the first decade A.D. started with Year 1.  Technically, they’re correct, but I was born in 1950, so MY decades start with numbers ending in zero.  Anyone else may figure the passage of time, as s(he) sees fit.

Anyway, let me look at my ten favourite films and television series of the past ten years.

10.  Law and Order:  SVU– The subject matter is odious and the antagonists are almost always unsympathetic, but the role played by such peace officers as bring sexual perpetrators, no matter how well-connected, to justice, is gratifying to see.  The great Mariska Hargitay’s portrayal of an all-too-human Section Leader has been quite a year-to-year evolution.

9. Game of Thrones– Also chock full of odious subject matter, and the Grand Daddy of “Medieval Life meets Modern English Profanity” (which is now found in abundance, across Netflix and Prime Video).  It is, however, a well-crafted blend of stories and romans-a-clef, unfolding over eight seasons. The series writers did seem to run out of steam and rushed things along, in the last two episodes, but all in all it was a riveting series.

8. Mr. Robot– This mix of Sci Fi and government intrigue is also riveting, over time, with a good dose of snarkiness, especially in the way it portrays “secret” government operations and corporate decision-making.

7.  The Star Wars series- The last three films mirror the first three, which were actually the middle episodes.  The main pull, for me, was seeing how age had affected the three young heroes of the original triad. They were twenty-somethings when I was in that decade of life, so their aging reflected my aging, though I remain happily earthbound.

6.  Supernatural– The original monster hunters, (the maudlin Ghostbusters                       notwithstanding),  two brothers who have one another’s backs and don’t flinch at the most hideous of demons, are among the few TV protagonists I find worthy of bing-watching.

5.  The Hunger Games series- I never tire of watching Jennifer Lawrence prevail over both obvious and slightly-concealed adversaries, and she never plays the same role in more than one film, or series. I also am a huge fan of common folk, especially young people, speaking, and bringing, truth to power.  There was enough intrigue and trickery employed by the snarky Donald Sutherland and the diabolical Julianne Moore to make Jenn and her allies keep thinking on their feet.

4.  Winter’s Bone– While I am referencing Ms. Lawrence, the role where she first got my attention was that of Ree Dolley, the unsupervised teen who  looks for answers about the disappearance of her father.  This was a dark and saddening film, but the girl who won’t give up is one character type for whom I am always cheering.

3.  Dr. Who– I admit, I am a latecomer to this series, one of television’s most enduring SciFi entries.  Nonetheless, the concept of time travel, especially for the purpose of righting wrongs, is a fascinating notion-even if, in practice, it would engender never-ending chaos.

2.  The Martian– I am a die-hard “Earthbounder”, but Matt Damon’s semi-comedic astronaut gave much food for thought, and a little for nutrition, in this exploration of the practical side of interplanetary settlement.

1.  Spotlight– It didn’t quite go far enough, in exposing the true lengths, to which powerful people go, in protecting those who abuse and intimidate children, but the Spotlight series, the result of an intense investigation by my first hometown newspaper, The Boston Globe,  opened the gates for worldwide exposure of not only Catholic priests committing sexual abuse, but of a wide variety of institutions, whose members transgressed their boundaries.  It was the father of #MeToo, in many ways. The film brought the investigation out, masterfully.

This is just my own list, and there are many other visual media that merit praise.  I am always interested in what others regard as worthy of mention.

Kaleidoscopes, Courtyards and Red Rocks

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December 17, 2019, Jerome-

Today being a day free of commitments in the Prescott area, I took my daughter-in-law, Yunhee, on an excursion to the fascinating Red Rock area, via Jerome.  We made this little town that clings to the east face of Mingus Mountain our first and last stop of the day.  Yunhee is not put off by winding roads and steep drop-offs, so we made good time, getting to the Kaleidoscope Store, in Nelly Bly’s old office, around 10:30.  This amazing little shop is actually the largest kaleidoscope shop in the world and sports at least two dozen kinds of the visual treats.  Yunhee was shown how to take a cell phone photograph, with a kaleidoscopic image as the backdrop.  I had a kaleidoscope as a child, so I picked up a small one for myself.  Then, I got one for a friend who celebrates a birthday, this month. I can see myself making another excursion up the mountain, just to spend a morning or afternoon trying out the many other kinds of image-shifting toys.

We took a straight shot to Sedona, afterward, and I first brought her to a courtyard, with the intent of taking lunch at Momo’s Kitchen, a Korean Food Truck.  Momo’s turns out to be closed on Tuesdays, so we headed over to  the stylish and avant-garde HP Cafe, which offers exquisite, reimagined Mexican fare.  After that great lunch, I brought Yunhee to  a viewpoint, where she was able to photograph Midgeley Bridge, a breathtaking sight over Oak Creek Canyon.

Then, it was off to Tlaquepaque, a replica of the large, charming market city of the Mexican state of Jalisco.  As it was not the weekend, we nearly had the place to ourselves.  Here are several photos of Tlaquepaque’s courtyards and bric-a-brac.

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Having had  a chance to digest lunch, we went to Synergy, a small shop in West Sedona, which specializes in healthful chocolate and digestive-enzyme beverages, as well as organic chocolate treats.  We both opted for Norwegian Wood, a chocolate mocha, maca, chaga and Surthrival pine pollen libation.  One of my friends from Prescott Farmers’ Market happened to be there, as well, so we had a fine conversation about keeping our dietary focus keen, balanced and organic, to the extent possible. Yes, Pegasus greets the visitor to Synergy!

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Red Rock State Park was on the hiking agenda.  The office people seemed to know that we were there for a walk outdoors, and said “Good Afternoon”, without looking up from their desks.  So hike, we did, on a loop up to the fenced-off  House of Apache Fires, a defunct resort, and back to the Visitors’ Center.

The views of Sedona’s many sandstone spectacles were well worth the jaunt.  Besides, when is a hike ever wasted?

 

Oak Creek runs through the middle of the park.

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The red sandstone formations in the distance, are part of the Schnebly Hill formation.

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Here is a view of the House of Apache Fires.

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This sandstone giant appears to be keeping tabs on everyone.

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Here is another view of the Schnebly Formation, taken from Eagle’s Nest Overlook.

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So, that was my daughter-in-law’s introduction to the Red Rock country.  We will be sure to return there, when Aram comes back from his final active duty, in the Puget Sound area, in early January.

For now, it’s a pleasant dinner at Haunted Hamburger, on the west side of Jerome, then back over Mingus Mountain we go.

 

Diahann Carroll

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October 6, 2019, Flagstaff-

Supremely dignified,

even in a scene of hand-to-hand combat,

she graced the small screen,

and cinema, alike.

She played out her life,

in a television program,

called, simply, “Julia”.

Her presence was magnificent,

throughout.

Diahann never took a backseat,

to anyone,

and the world is the better,

for having seen her like.

Rest in power,

dear queen.

Our House, Tonight

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August 23, 2019-

It was Shayna’s house, tonight,

filling the air with empowerment,

and hope, for women of all ages.

Bringing the fire of the Russian steppes,

by way of Long Beach,

she made the heart of Prescott soar.

It was Dea’s house, tonight,

filling the room with dance,

and joy, to everyone who came and went.

Bringing the love of the ages,

through the grace of her aunts,

she made the spirits of

at least five Levels

of the Universe,

shine with delight.

It was my house, tonight,

sipping a cold brew coffee,

sitting  at a high-top table,

keeping a quiet place,

for one and all

to stand nearby,

to dance in bliss,

to collect thoughts,

to feel a warm safety.

The Raven was our house, tonight.

 

 

No Choo Choo In This Gig

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June 24, 2019, Chattanooga-

I stopped here, “en route” from Crossville to Knoxville, as I have driven on through this fascinating city, several times, on the way to this or that appointment- when going from Atlanta to Nashville or Knoxville.  My idea was to visit at least one of Chattanooga’s Big Three:  Ruby Falls, Lookout Mountain Summit and Rock City. Ruby Falls got the nod, as it sits off by itself, whereas the other two are  closer together.  Of course, I could have walked the steps up to the Summit, after the two hours or so spent underground, but the heat was lingering-so, another time. Ruby Falls and Rock City are equally pricey-each is $21.95 for an adult; a package runs $43.50.  There is also the “obligatory” photograph, taken before one is allowed into the cave.  In the end, one can choose to purchase the photo ($40 per person/group) or, as I did, say “No thank you”.

The cave is privately-owned, thus the entrance fee.  It is, though, well worth the time and money, to see the deepest underground waterfall in North America.  ( I think VietNam has one that is actually deepest on the planet.)  Several tour options are available- I took the Classic Waterfall Tour, with a group of about twenty people.  Down we went, 26 floors, via elevator.

Here is some of what we saw, in Leo Lambert’s boyhood playground-which he later named for his wife, Ruby, after exploring professionally with a team of spelunkers.

Leo had to crawl, for seven hours, through places like this, to reach an area where he could actually stand.

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Crystal deposits added a magical sense to his meanderings. (The blue lighting, of course, was added by the family, later.)

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It looks like this stalactite is actually holding up the cave, but it just kept on going downward, until it met the ledge.

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Here is where Mr. Lambert was first able to stand up, after seven hours of crawling.  I don’t know as my circulation would allow for that.

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Below is one of the few formations which people are allowed to touch, and even sit.

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The Leaning Tower actually does resemble the landmark in Pisa, though it’s not subject to shifting ground.

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This looks like it came out of a pasta maker.

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Imagine tobacco, drying in the sun.

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This looks like a frozen waterfall, but it’s more mineral deposit.

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The Falls!

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It was for this, that the Lamberts opened the caverns to the public, in 1929- a year when Americans needed all the comfort they could get.  So this afternoon, 24 of us stood, 1,120 feet underground, and marveled at what nature has put together.  It’s not Niagara, but it’s subterranean.

This is one place that Chattanooga Choo Choo isn’t going.  Once off the mountain, though, I took an hour to check out downtown and get some fine ramen, with bubble tea on the side.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBack up to Knoxville it was, afterwards. I had seen a news report about a gas station robbery, on the east side, a day or so ago.  I ended up at a motel just down the street from that gas station.  No worries, though-people just did their own thing and left me alone, for a comfortable night’s sleep.

Life goes on.

NEXT:  The Little Town That Almost Became Home Base

 

 

Where Rock Got Its Groove On

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June 21, 2019, Crossville, TN-

No, this little city in east central Tennessee has its charms, but rock’s birthplace is not its claim to fame.  That, of course, is a claim to be made by Memphis.

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I visited Sun Studio, one of my “gap” goals from years past.  In the early 1950’s, one Sam Phillips, an eager young musical production visionary, began this studio, on a shoe string budget. He had an idea that Gospel, Country and Blues, when blended together, would produce an amazing new sound. Sam was all about music as a means of expressing personal emotional power and he wanted to hear some rawness in the voices of those he auditioned.

Elvis Presley, happening by from his hometown of Tupelo, MS, was NOT one of those voices, initially.  He crooned, stuck to a mellow vibe-and bored Sam Phillips to tears.  After several auditions, Elvis’ mood changed, he rocked on out with a tune and got Sam and his crew running into the sound room, to see what was happening.  The rest is musical history.  Other musical greats, among them Johnny Cash, Ike and Tina Turner, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Howlin’Wolf, BB King and Roy Orbison got their big breaks with Sam and Sun Studio.

Here is Elvis, visiting Sun whilst on leave from the Army, doing a set with three of his contemporaries.  This session became known as The Million Dollar Quartet.

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Below, our host, Lahna, is recounting one of many stories about Sam and his vision of musical fusion.  You can spot a photo of Sam Phillips on the lower right.

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Here are some promos for Howlin’Wolf and Ike Turner (before Tina).  Ike was the pianist on the first-ever Rock n’Roll tune:  “Rocket 88”.

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Fun fact: If Sam DIDN’T like a demo record, this is what happened to it. (See floor).

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He was all about the base.

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Marion MacInnes was Sam’s office manager, and his faithful right hand.  Is anyone familiar with the contraption on the left?

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Lahna is giving her wrap-up for the tour, in front of the sound room window.  Another fun fact:  Larry Mullen, Jr., of the band U2, donated a set of drums to Sun Studio-for display purposes.

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This was an awesome bit of musical history, made all the more enjoyable by a woman who clearly knows her rock stuff.

I took a bit of a ride eastward, well before actually leaving Memphis, and found La Ceiba, the area’s only Honduran restaurant.  Its forte seems to be seafood, yet I was in the mood for chicken.  I ordered the first item on the menu, which puzzled the hostess.  It turned out to be fairly recognizable:  Lightly battered fried chicken, apparently not the hostess’s favourite, but good-tasting, nonetheless.  I also found the chips and sauce, (not salsa), potentially addicting.  La Ceiba is well worth a try.

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A long drive around the fringe of Nashville ensued, as it was getting late and I wanted to get here to my friends’ house, before they needed to turn in.

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NEXT:  Reflections on Three Days By A Pond