Archive for the ‘Life As She Is’ Category

Gloves

Friday, October 4th, 2019

Walking through the garage as I returned from an errand this morning, I noticed a pair of battered leather gloves on one of the shelves. Gray and dark blue, they have small holes on a couple of fingers, and they fold neatly along creases left by about ten years of yard work.

They’re the gloves I bought not long after we moved into the house on the East Side in September 2008, gloves that I wore for outdoor chores there: raking, clearing snow from the sidewalk, putting in and taking down garden fences, cleaning the gutters, and changing two storm windows for screens during ten springs and reversing the process during ten autumns.

The gloves came along with us when we moved from the house to the condo a little more than a year-and-a-half ago, but I’ve had little need to use them. They went over my everyday gloves a few times in our first few months here when I cleared snow from the front steps, and did so again in the early portions of last winter for the same reason.

After my back surgery in January, the Texas Gal took over the shoveling duties for the rest of the winter, and my blue and gray gloves sat unused on the shelf. When I saw them this morning, the part of my brain that occasionally mixes up time thought, “Oh, yes, I need to change out the windows.”

And then I realized that we’re no longer at the East Side house. We have all-season windows here, and I no longer need to switch one kitchen window and one dining room window as I did for our decade-plus there. (We had central air in the house, but on temperate days, we liked to be able to open the windows for the comfort of natural breezes.)

It’s just as well that I don’t have to mess with any of the windows, as all of them save one – the one nearest my desk in the lower level of the condo – are on the second floor and would require riskier ladder work than the half-story extension required on the East Side. But there was an odd sense that came along with the realization, a recognition that I kind of miss doing the outside work required at the house, a recognition combined with relief that – being eleven years older now than I was when we moved into the house – I no longer have to mess with most of that stuff.

They’re just gloves, tattered and probably due for disposal. But sometimes things are more than just things. Sometimes they are also reminders of the work they’ve done as well as the times during which that work was accomplished. So it is with the blue and gray gloves on the shelf in the garage. When the snow falls in the coming months, I may buy a new pair, but I doubt I’ll truly be able to replace them.

Here’s a song with an apt title: “Workin’,” by Junior Parker and Jimmy McGriff. It’s from their 1971 album Good Things Don’t Happen Every Day.

Finding Granny’s Intentions

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

I’m trying this week to finish up three projects: Scanning old photos and burning them to disc for my sister and our cousins, writing a song for our church, and catching up on stats for my tabletop baseball league.

That sadly leaves this space in fourth place this week.

And the weather’s not helping: The second week of autumn is cloudy and damp. The leaves are still generally green, though those on our flowering crab and linden have begun turning yellow. But it’s gray outside.

But back to fourth place: A search for “fourth” on the digital shelves brought up a a track titled “Fourthskin Blues” by a group with the intriguing name of Granny’s Intentions. The band came out of Limerick, Ireland, in the mid-1960s and in a few years was making a good living in the club scene in Dublin.

The band’s only album, according to discogs, was Honest Injun, released on Deram in 1970. “Fourthskin Blues” was one of that album’s tracks.

‘Adventure Fridays’

Friday, September 27th, 2019

Since the Texas Gal retired at the end of August, we’ve decided to designate the fifth day of the former work week “Adventure Friday.” Our first adventure took us pretty much straight east from St. Cloud to St. Croix Falls, the little town just on the other side of the Wisconsin line. We had lunch, checked some historic sites, found a painted rock left by a member of the Facebook group called “Painted Rocks – Minnesota” (see their page here), and wandered north in Wisconsin to the little town of Grantsburg before heading for home.

Something last week kept us from adventuring – I don’t recall what it was – and it looks as if our adventure for today may be postponed: We had planned to head northwest a little ways to the small town of Freeport and the Hemker Zoo. We’ve seen television commercials for the zoo recently, and if the weather was nice, we thought, we could check it out and maybe even feed the otters. (We both are fond of the sleek and furry aquatic mammals.)

But it’s damp outside with puddles of water along the alley, and the forecast calls for light rain into the afternoon, long past otter-feeding time. So if we want to have an adventure today, it will need to be something we can do indoors. We’ll talk about that in a bit. But in the meantime, here’s a (perhaps predictable) tune for our zoo adventure that we’ll have to postpone. It’s Simon & Garfunkel’s “At The Zoo.” It’s from their 1968 album Bookends.

‘Work It Out”

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

The Texas Gal and I are now card-carrying senior citizens.

The other day, we joined the Whitney Senior Center about six blocks away from our place, got our cards and learned a bit about the center’s extensive programming. Some of it we’ve already begun using, some will wait until we figure out exactly what it is we want to do over there.

What drew us (besides the fact that we are, of course, on the far side of sixty)?

The exercise room, actually. For the past eight weeks or so, I’ve been heading to the medical building where our doctor has her practice, working with a couple of physical therapists to improve the functions of my back muscles, the ones disrupted in January by my spinal fusion. And as I’ve worked on that, my therapists have been adding to my routine various simple bits of a workout.

It’s been good for me, I can tell. Not only is my back feeling better, but I’ve found that I enjoy the activity (and that coming from someone who has rarely sought physical activity), and I feel better. So the Texas Gal and I began to wonder how to continue the workouts at what we hoped would be a lower cost. We knew the Whitney Recreation Center adjacent to the senior center had a workout room as well as a walking track (which intrigued the Texas Gal), so we checked that out and pondered its cost, which was something like $150 yearly for me to access the workout room and for her to access the track.

And then, as we signed up to join the senior center, the volunteer at the counter noted that the senior center had its own exercise room and that some Medicare supplementals would cover the entire cost. And it turns out that my supplemental is one of those. So we filled out applications, paid the Texas Gal’s fee, and yesterday, one of my physical therapists met me there to check out the senior center’s exercise room and put me through a workout.

(The Texas Gal walked on a treadmill and kept an eye on what I was doing, hoping to use some of my routines in her own workouts.)

This isn’t our first attempt as getting in better shape. Some years ago, we tried to become more active, joining in turn two commercial gyms. The first had limited facilities for changing clothes, and the second, well, I just never felt comfortable there, being a portly older man among younger and sleeker folks. Neither of those should be a problem now.

Here’s an aptly titled tune from sax player Jim Horn. “Work It Out” is the title track to an album he released in 1990.

Saturday Single No. 659

Saturday, September 21st, 2019

The sky is close with clouds this morning. As we ate breakfast, a spattering of rain rattled down onto the deck; with the door open about a foot for the cats to take the morning air, it was loud. I poked my head out, checking on the cats. The only one there was Little Gus, bread-loafing in a lawn chair under the overhang, seemingly unconcerned about the rain.

“If the wind comes up and he gets wet, he’ll come in,” said the Texas Gal.

True enough. And from the looks of the forecast, that might happen as I write: The weather radar shows a band of green approaching us from the west, a band that stretches from near Winnipeg, Manitoba, in the north to the Iowa border in the south. And the Texas Gal suggested that I look this morning for records about rain.

I have likely done so before, but I’d guess it’s been a while, so here goes.

The RealPlayer offers up more than 1,700 tracks with the word “rain” in either the title, the album title, the performers’ name, or somewhere in the notes. We’ll have to do some sorting to get “rain” in the title, and I think we’ll start by sorting those 1,700-some tracks chronologically.

The earliest stuff that comes up tagged with a release or recording year is from the mid-1920s, most of it blues by Ma Rainey. Stuck in the middle of those is “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo’,” a track recorded in July 1925 by Wendell Hall. I recall singing the song – a series of nonsense verses followed by the chorus with the title – at Boy Scout camp and hearing it in vintage cartoons on early 1960s Saturday mornings. It’s intriguing.

But there are no more recent versions of the song in the digital stacks, so on we go, jumping ahead to the 1950s on a whim. And wandering around aimlessly through the listed results, we come upon a tune by one of my favorites, Big Maybelle: “Rain Down Rain.”

The track was recorded on October 29, 1952, and was released as Okeh 6931. It did not make the Billboard R&B Top 40, but it’s good enough for us to be today’s Saturday Single.

Full Moon Omens

Friday, September 13th, 2019

All week – perhaps a little longer – my news feed at Facebook and commentary at a few other places have been filled with folks’ anxieties about the confluence today of a full moon and Friday the 13th.

It’s an accepted part of modern folklore – and perhaps there are some studies out there validating that folklore, but I’m not going to go hunting for them this morning – that things get weird out there on the nights of full moons. Some folks swear that even if they didn’t know there was a full moon by the calendar, they’d recognize its existence by either the behavior of others or the workings of their own bodies.

I won’t gainsay those folks, as I don’t know. In my working life – as a reporter/editor and as an educator – I came across plenty of weirdness, but I never cross-checked its timing against the phases of the moon. I guess I just assumed that there was weirdness in the world.

And Friday the 13th has never meant much to me. Its notoriety as a day of bad luck is simply folklore. Here’s the history of it as presented by Wikipedia:

The irrational fear of the number 13 has been given a scientific name: “triskaidekaphobia”; and on [sic] analogy to this the fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning “thirteen”).

The superstition surrounding this day may have arisen in the Middle Ages, “originating from the story of Jesus’ last supper and crucifixion” in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on the 13th of Nisan Maundy Thursday, the night before his death on Good Friday.While there is evidence of both Friday and the number 13 being considered unlucky, there is no record of the two items being referred to as especially unlucky in conjunction before the 19th century.

An early documented reference in English occurs in Henry Sutherland Edwards’ 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini, who died on a Friday 13th:
“He [Rossini] was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday 13th of November he passed away.”

It is possible that the publication in 1907 of Thomas W. Lawson’s popular novel Friday, the Thirteenth, contributed to disseminating the superstition. In the novel, an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th. A suggested origin of the superstition – Friday, 13 October 1307, the date Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar – may not have been formulated until the 20th century. It is mentioned in the 1955 Maurice Druon historical novel The Iron King (Le Roi de fer), John J. Robinson’s 1989 work Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry, Dan Brown’s 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code and Steve Berry’s The Templar Legacy (2006).

Interesting stuff, I guess. We need some music to match it, but as I wander through the digital stacks, I come up empty on both sides. A number of tracks have the word “moon” in their titles, but none of them seem to hit the mark today. And a fair number of tracks have the word “Friday” in their titles, but none hit the date or the mood.

So let’s go with the word “superstition.” Here’s Jeff Beck, Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice, recording as Beck, Bogert & Appice, taking on Stevie Wonder’s tune for their self-titled 1973 album.

Off-Kilter

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

Not enough sleep. Woken up four times, twice by unidentified noises in the night and twice by cats.

No desire to look at much news today. I know what happened on September 11, 2001. I have no need to replay it.

I am grumpy, a generally infrequent condition here. And I am sad, which is a relatively rare but not unknown state for me.

And beyond all that, it seems that I have nothing to say, so it’s time to turn the music on and listen to the tenth track that comes up in iTunes.

Well, it turns out that Crystal Gayle is having trouble sleeping, too, but for an entirely different reason. Here’s “Talking In Your Sleep” from 1978. It went to No. 18 in the Billboard Hot 100, to No. 3 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart, and to No. 1 – for two weeks – on the country chart.

Saturday Single No. 657

Saturday, September 7th, 2019

A couple months ago, I wandered over to my friend Jane’s house for a brief meeting. She’s my co-coordinator for music at our Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, and we were making preparations for our annual summertime singalong.

That didn’t take long, as we decided to update and reorganize the informal songbook we’d put together a couple of years ago. And then she and I and her husband, Glen sat and chatted music for a while. I talked a bit about the process a few years ago of winnowing my LPs from 3,000 down to 1,000, and one of them said, “I wish we still had our LPs.”

When they were living in Minneapolis in the 1970s, they said, they were burgled one night. Among the things the thieves took were crates of LPs. Although they’ve replaced some of them, Jane said, they’ve never really tried to replicate the lost collection. I asked if there were one album that stands out that they’ve never been able to replace.

Jane nodded. “The one by Fraser & DeBolt,” she said. “The one with the song “Pure Spring Water.” And she and Glen began to sing the song to each other, one line at a time. When they got to a pause, two things were evident from the looks in their eyes: First, the song mattered deeply to them. Second, it had been a while since they’d sung the song, and they were startled how well they remembered it.

“We sang that at our wedding,” Jane said with a laugh. “Pretty racy for a wedding in the 1970s!”

She added that they’d used the title of the song in their invitations, “asking our friends and relatives to come drink pure spring water with us.” She laughed. “And one of our relatives in Wisconsin said, ‘But you’re gonna have beer, too, right?’”

The names Fraser and DeBolt resonated with me, and when I got home that evening, I headed to the digital stacks. And thereFraser was a copy of Fraser & DeBolt with Ian Guenther, a 1971 release that was the first of the duo’s two albums. And the next-to-last track was “Pure Spring Water.” I have no idea where I initially got it, but as you no doubt know, back in 2006-2007 or so, there were hundreds of blogs offering rips of thousands of albums ranging from the well-known to the utterly obscure. The Fraser & DeBolt album no doubt comes much closer to the latter than the former.

Wikipedia says:

Allan Fraser and Daisy DeBolt met at a workshop at the 1968 Mariposa Folk Festival. Their first words to each other were “I like your voice.”” As DeBolt puts it, Fraser “knocked on the door and that was it, he never left.” Not long after, their budding musical romance found them hitchhiking every day from Toronto to Hamilton, Ontario, to work on material. By the summer of 1969, Fraser & DeBolt was officially formed as a duo.

In 1970 they travelled to the United States on a coffee house circuit tour. During the second week of February, while in upper New York State, they received a message from Ravi Shankar’s manager, Jay K. Hoffman. Hoffman signed them to a management contract, and arranged for Fraser & DeBolt to audition for a recording contract. On April 5, 1970, they opened for Tom Paxton at Fillmore East in New York City. The showcase led to two offers, and the duo were signed to Columbia Records.

Work began in Toronto on their debut album. They were accompanied by the violinist Ian Guenther with production by Craig Allen, who was also the art director for the album cover. On its release in January, 1971, one critic, John Gabree of the magazine High Fidelity, writing in the album’s liner notes, states that it had “moments when the only possible responses are to laugh aloud or to cry, and there are very few aesthetic experiences that genuinely produce those effects.” Reviews appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Free Press and other publications.

And I learned that Daisy DeBolt died in 2011.

After that, I checked on a couple things, learning that the duo’s first album has never been released on CD and that the quality of my rip of the album was pretty crackly. I found videos of the album’s individual tracks at YouTube (and I found a video that offers the duo’s second – and final – album, 1973’s With Pleasure, in full). And I pointed Jane and Glen in the right direction.

And here’s “Pure Spring Water” by Fraser & DeBolt. It’s intimate, it’s quirky, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Another September 4

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

As always, when September 4 rolls around, I’m taken back to 1973 and the evening I got a plane for the first time and began the nearly nine-month adventure in Denmark (and elsewhere in Europe) that became – as I’ve noted before – the single most formative experience of my life.

Even forty-six years later, the images, thoughts and sounds of that time are still vibrant, part of the inner furnishings that define me and much of my life. And it is on days like today that I am grateful for the gift (and occasional curse) of a good memory, as I recall the taste of my first meal in Copenhagen (a stew advertised as a Stroganoff but not quite getting there), my first attempt to find the correct train from Copenhagen back to a suburban hostel (a comedy of errors in two languages), the first time my arm slipped around the waist of a young lady whom I would come to love, and so much more.

Those and all the rest of my adventures have been covered enough here over the years, I am sure. Beyond what I’ve said above, I’ll not add to that word count today.

Nor will there be music here today. The song of love and memory and wonder that would fit how I feel today has never been written, never been sung.

At about half past nine tonight, I’ll tip my glass to the memory of the more than a hundred of us who made our ways onto a Finnair jet during that long-ago evening, the first step of more than a hundred individual journeys. Most of us are still living. Some have left us. But I remember them all, and so much more.

And I always will.

Saturday Single No. 656

Saturday, August 31st, 2019

The end of August hangs in the air this morning, and the first thing that comes to mind is acorns. As readers might recall, our acre-plus lawn on the East Side was blessed with thirty-four oak trees, and every other August or so, the lawn and adjoining street would be covered with acorns. We have none here at the condo; the three trees that guard our southern flank are flowering crab, linden and maple. I kind of miss the acorns.

But there’s more to the end of August than that. I still feel the pull of the school year; the end of the eighth month of the year and the beginning of its ninth still feels to me like a major point, an end and a beginning. That’s laid, no doubt to my long connection with education: one year of Kindergarten followed by twelve years of elementary and secondary education, five years of college, two years of graduate school, five years of college teaching, and about twelve years of newspapering in communities where all things school-related – from board meetings to athletics to the activities of the various clubs – were among the major topics of coverage.

Even though I’ve been long separated from reporting and from school matters, the end of August feels like a gateway into a new time. Things other than reporting and school signal that: Football season is here for the colleges, and my Minnesota Vikings take the field in a little more than a week. And then, autumn is my favorite season, as I’ve noted before. So there are those things.

I got to thinking about August’s endings in the past, and two a decade apart raised their heads: August 1983 when I was about to begin my two years of graduate study at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism and was concerned about how I’d fit in, and – inevitably – August 1973, when I was just days away from boarding a Finnair jet and heading off for a college year in Denmark, somewhat apprehensive of being away from home for truly the first time.

No such import attaches itself to this August about to end. This has not been an entirely uneventful time: The Texas Gal retired yesterday (though she will return to the same non-governmental organization next week as a part-time employee, armed with the leverage of being able to negotiate her tasks and her hours). Otherwise – and I find this reassuring regarding the tranquility of our current life – the only other news of the month is the welcome installation of a garbage disposal unit in the kitchen.

So how to find a tune? Well, we’re going to play Games With Numbers with today’s date – 8/31/19 – and turn that into 58.Then we’re going to drop into the earlier of those two Augusts that came to mind, 1973, and see what record was at No. 58 as August came to a close. I imagine it will be familiar.

And indeed it is: We fall onto “Ramblin’ Man” by the Allman Brothers Band, a record that was on its way to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and to No. 12 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart). And it’s appropriate, in that the first time I ever heard “Ramblin’ Man” was in the lounge of the youth hostel where most of us on our Denmark adventure lived for at least a portion of that school year.

But it’s overly familiar, too, so we’re going to make an adjustment and listen to the flip side of the single. That, too, is a track I first heard in that hostel lounge distant in both time and space, but it’s heard less often than the hit record. With that, here’s “Pony Boy,” today’s Saturday Single: