Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton at the Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007, with Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall
I’ve always been a purist about this song. The Blind Faith version on the Blind Faith album. Blind Faith were arguably the first “super group” in rock. Formed out of the wreckage of Cream, Blind Faith were Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood, and Ric Grech. Guillot would get mad at me for playing this and/or Traffic’s “Uninspired” at his house, complaining, I was chilling things down wayyyy too much.
When I answer online memes dealing with music, I usually point to The Beatles, then The Who as my big influences before diving head-first into ELP, Yes, and other syntho-rock. After graduation from UNO, I took a more mellow turn, which had something to do with not having to study. Therefore the consequences of partying didn’t loom large. Traffic and Blind Faith morphed into Winwood’s solo career, giving me a body of work to complement Jimmy Buffett for sitting and reading and thinking.
And writing. I’ll crank it up with the best of y’all in the car, but when I’m writing, I prefer it mellow. For the Dragons stories, I usually go for jazz. There’s too much of a disconnect for me to play tunes from my college years while writing teen stuff. The nonfiction and Talents stories, on the other hand, spring from so much of who I am and what I’ve done that the old stuff works out just fine. Whether it’s Southern rock, or acoustic Clapton or Winwood, I go right into a zone. As I get older, the trick is not to fall asleep while in the zone.
Writing is about teleporting to the places where the stories are. Music takes me there. It’s an overnight wonder and sensation. Sometimes it’s good for the story if I can’t find my way home…right away.
I was in eighth grade when Don McClean’s “American Pie” came out. WTIX-AM, “The Mighty 690” ran the song on an intense rotation, including their own interpretation voice-over. At that time, I was wrapped up in The Beatles and The Who. I knew who Buddy Holly was, but I was just too young for his music to have been an influence on me. I was just a couple of months old on February 3, 1959, and wouldn’t venture out of my cocoon of British Invasion and electronic rock until I hit university and started go going to “50s parties” in the late 70s. There were many other references in the song that hit closer to home, stuff from the late 1960s that were much more important to a 13-year old.
McClean held back for years when it came to discussing interpretations of “American Pie.” I like this particular quote of his on the subject of what the song means:
It means I don’t ever have to work again if I don’t want to.” Later, he stated, “You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me … Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence.
Eventually he did admit that the song was his way of working out his feelings about the death of Buddy Holly. I can see how that grew into a run-down of many things music-related that struck him over time.
Buddy Holly wasn’t the only musician who departed on The Day The Music Died. Richie Valens was in that plane, along with J. P. Richardson, “The Big Bopper”. While certainly Holly and Valens were the bigger stars, Richardson was still popular, with that deep base voice.
One of the subjects I taught as a Social Studies teacher at Redeemer High in New Orleans in the early 1980s was Psychology. It was an elective, primarily for kids not taking World History as seniors, and some juniors who wanted to take four years of Social Studies. While I didn’t want the course to be a “blow off class”, I didn’t want it to be a hassle for the kids in Armbruster’s classes, which were honors/college prep. I also didn’t want the workload to be a burden for kids busting their asses just to graduate.
So, we watched a few movies. VCRs were a thing by then, so I wasn’t limited to 16mm school films. I could show theatrical releases. A couple of the kids suggested we should watch a film that had just come out on tape, “Ordinary People“. The film was based on the novel by Judith Guest, and was directed by Robert Redford. It was about a high school-aged young man, Conrad, (played by Timothy Hutton), who attempted suicide. The story explored Conrad’s relationship with his parents, played by Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland.
I was hesitant about showing the film in class, because of its R-rating, but it did win Best Picture. The R was for language and not nudity/sex, so I was on safe ground. Teens swear, after all. I booked the TV/VCR cart and I had a week where I felt like the football coach from the “Funky Winkerbean” comic strip. The film worked out nicely, because the boy, Conrad, saw a therapist regularly.
Psychology and Psychiatry
The therapy sessions were the hook/justification I needed to show the film in class. Though there are a lot of movies out there where characters see a shrink, this one was new and involved a teen. It really was a good fit. Conrad was a likeable character, and his parents were, well, parents. His mother, Beth was cold and always favored Conrad’s older brother, Buck. When Buck died in a boating accident and Conrad attempted suicide, Beth turned cold and mean. The character brought out a side of Mary Tyler Moore that was so different from Laura Petrie or Mary Richards. Here was the woman we all loved from comedy, playing a role where she was a really awful person. She played the character so well she won a Golden Globe and received an Oscar nomination. (Hutton won the Oscar for Supporting Actor, Redford for Director, and Hirsch was nominated.)
I never saw Mary Tyler Moore as just a comedienne ever again. When she passed earlier today, I immediately thought of “Ordinary People”.
Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) is a true leader. Watch this video. This is how a leader acts.
Doesn’t denigrate others working in the resistance.
Brings everyone in the effort together.
Works to make things better.
Sets a positive example.
Establishes goals, works to meet them, then goes further.
This is what we want and expect from our Democratic Senators. They are truly a Thin Blue Line. There are times when they will be overwhelmed by the foolishness that is the Trump administration, yes. Overall, though, we want them to stand up for us in this dark time.
2018 isn’t far away
I look to and expect Senator Booker to do the right things for the United States. Is he Presidential? Absolutely? Will he be the right person to lead the Democratic effort to evict Trump from the White House in 2020? That remains to be seen. We’ve got four years on that. We’ve got midterm elections, where all of the House, 1/3 of the Senate, and over 35 governors will stand for election. For us to stop the evil that will come forth from the White House and Congress under Trump control, we need leaders who will motivate and encourage Democrats. We need leaders who, by their actions, demonstrate they have the best interests of the people and their states in mind.
So, we need women and men like Cory Booker.
While there are others in the Senate who will also stand up and make it clear they are part of the resistance. Senator Booker is not our only leader. He is a good model for others to observe and emulate.
I plan to commit to doing at least one thing for the #resistance and one thing to build up everyone working to better our country and our homes.
It might be a bit too cold out for “Slave Leias” at the Carrie Fisher Tribute parade. (Infrogmation photo)
“Disneyfication” is an accusation hurled regularly at the Mayor of New Orleans and the City Council. When government imposes rules on activities, gatherings, parades, etc., folks get upset. They feel government should stay out of street culture. This is an almost-weekly battle. Musicians, artists, performers, and just average citizens rail against rules. They believe hizzoner and the Council “sanitize” the Quarter with these rules. This sanitation, they argue, turns the Quarter into Disneyland’s “New Orleans Square”, rather than a living community.
Disneyfication is pushed by the community as well
“New Orleans Square” at Disneyland. (courtesy Commons user JonnyboyCA)
City Hall is not the only source of Disneyfication. Look at how Disneyland presents New Orleans. They created a point-in-time snapshot of the French Quarter. Now they maintain that snapshot. This is a deeper issue than scheduled parades, perfectly-clean streets, and no spontaneous/ad hoc cultural demonstrations.
So, the snapshot itself is the problem. New Orleans neighborhoods, are living communities. Residents change, businesses change, buildings evolve. Some of these changes are natural, others, such as demolition by neglect situations, are bad for the community. It is important that everyone’s thoughts and needs be considered when discussing the future of the neighborhood.
Disneyfication outside the Quarter
So, let’s stroll through Faubourg Marigny and into the Bywater. These areas also have historic protections in place. So, they are much less commercialized. They are still primarily residential. Therefore, the residents of these neighborhoods define the culture. They have a larger impact than the residents of the Quarter. We’ve seen an interesting expansion of our Carnival celebration in these neighborhoods. Over the years, ad hoc street parades evolved into full-blown events. These parades now require permits, cops, and serious organization.
Furthermore, Carnival parades happened all over the city. Over time, City Hall and the cops forced krewes into standard routes. The current neighborhood clubs bring Carnival back to parts of town that are outside the standards. Overall, this evolution is popular. It’s ignored by folks who have no interest in venturing into the Bywater.
New Orleans has a rich tradition of parades outside of Carnival season. The most common street parades are put on by the various Social Aid and Pleasure organizations in the African-American community. These clubs continue the “second line” tradition, expanding it beyond just funeral parades for jazz musicians.
While the “second line season” in the backatown neighborhoods continues strong, there’s been an expansion brass band parades. It’s much easier to obtain a permit for such a parade than it’s been in the past, so we see more “jazz funerals” and weddings in this style. These parades are usually short and conform to the traditions of brass band parades we’ve seen develop over decades.
Advocating a snapshot
This year, we’ll have two “tribute parades” in the second line style. As a result, there’s a huge howl from “purists”. These critics view non-traditional events as an affront to history and heritage. By their opposition, these advocates for conformity argue for “snapshots”. They want have a personal view of what a street parade should be. Deviations from that snapshot are viciously criticized on social media. These scolds insist that those who want to modify the style and purpose of a New Orleans street parade are abhorrent to the culture.
What the scolds don’t realize is that they’ve become what they hate. They are a downtown/backatown version of “sanitization”. They are as much part of the Disneyfication trend as the government.
Empathy, George Michaeel, and 2016 are just a train wreck. As if the celebrities that passed this year weren’t enough, the loss of a 53-year old pop star pushed a lot of people over the emotional edge yesterday.
Empathy and George Michael
George Michael is one of those celebrities that I don’t feel a strong emotion connection with. When Wham! hit the scene, I was still holding on to my AOR roots, with Yes, ELP, and their offshoots. Pop? Pfft, I needed to work on adjusting and understanding Prince’s appeal to the teen girls I taught at Redeemer High. I enjoyed the upbeat videos the band dropped on MTV, but I just didn’t have a deep attachment. When Michael went solo, same thing. He wasn’t someone I paused to consider, still, he wasn’t a musician/artist I loathed.
Feeling others’ loss
That’s where empathy comes in. It’s not like I don’t know who George Michael was, and his story. In fact, when Sir Elton did “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” with Michael, that boosted his street cred with me in a huge way. Didn’t make me add Wham! or his solo stuff to mix tapes for the car, though. While it wasn’t there for me, I respected my friends who liked him. I listened to them tell me why his music moved them. It’s you do when you take your friends seriously.
His death is the same sort of situation. My feelings are similar to my 22yo kiddo’s, when he said “Aw, that’s unfortunate,” last night. Unfortunate is right. Loss to my personal musical sphere? Nah.
There’s debate as to whether or not 2016 is any worse than other years, in terms of celebrity passings. What happens as we get older, though, is that those who pass are no longer people in black-and-white photos we vaguely remember our parents talking about. They’re guys in vivid colors and big 80s hair. That generates a great deal of sensory overload for empaths.
Cover of my first Urban Fantasy novel, Hidden Talents
Shameless Self-Promotion is important for all of us with something to sell. I’ve got books you should buy, but I’ve also got a couple of freebies for the holidays.
Shameless Self-Promotion: Freebies
I wrote two short stories in my “Talents” universe that I’m offering for free, as a thank you to my readers. Check them out. If you like Urban Fantasy, they may appeal to you. My “Talents” stories are an outgrowth of my novel, Hidden Talents. It’s the first in the “Bayou Talents” series. I’m working on the second novel now. They’re Urban Fantasy stories, but no vampires and werewolves. Folks with “Talents” have paranormal abilities, and I tell their stories.
So, my other universe focuses on dragons. Because my two sons’ vivid imaginations inspire me, I’ve written two novels about three kids in Metairie and a dragon. Yes, #themetrys. They’re not ordinary teens, though, because an Elder Dragon chose to come into their lives via a dragon egg they purchased over the Internet. The first book, “Dragon’s Danger”, traces the story from the beginning, as the teens hatch the egg and help the dragon evolve. The story continues in this year’s installment, Dragon’s Discovery. In this novel, which dropped at Thanksgiving, the teens and their dragon are in their junior year at high schools in New Orleans. They learn more about their friend and the complications of being Blood-Bound to a dragon.
Buy My Books!
In addition to the three novels, don’t forget my five history books! All are published by Arcadia, and are fascinating glimpses into various aspects of the history of New Orleans.
Buy my books in local bookshops, Walgreens drug stores in the metro area, and on Amazon. If you’d like a particular title inscribed, contact me, we’ll figure it out.
New Orleans-themed books are a great way to spend holiday gift cards. Go!
Mr. Michael Shiosaki, and his husband, Mayor Ed Murray of Seattle. (Courtesy KUOW.org and StoryCorps)
Interesting segment on BBC World Service Thursday, covering the issue of Trump’s immigration policies. One of the cities at the forefront of the #resistance is Seattle, and its mayor, Ed Murray.
Ed Murray and Seattle
I’ll be honest I didn’t now much about Murray, prior to listening to this segment. He runs Seattle, and that city really isn’t on my radar, other than the Sounders are a fun soccer club to watch. When the BBC news reader introduced the segment on the podcast, I thought, well, of course Seattle is going to be out there on this subject. The personal angle Murray discussed was important: his husband, Mike Shiosaki, and his family, if he supported the preposterous policies Trump wants to see implemented. Murray’s and Shiosai’s story is fascinating, and they did a StoryCorps piece, discussing it.
The Case Against Trump
Back to the Beeb piece. Ed Murray made two important points on Trump’s crazy-ass ideas. First was how Washington State has the second largest wine industry in the nation, and their overall agriculture production is an important part of the state’s economy. The overwhelming number of farm workers on the west coast are undocumented. That means there are a lot of business owners relying on that labor force. If Trump packs them up and ships them off, there won’t be anybody around to pick the grapes.
The second point was how hollow Trump’s primary threat against cities like Seattle really is. The Beeb correspondent pressed Murray more than once for his response to the threat that Trump would pull federal funding from a “sanctuary city” (or, as Murray prefers, a “welcoming city”). He pointed out that the amount of aid Seattle gets from the feds as been dwindling for decades. If Trump were to cut off what was left Seattle would be able to cope, since the percentage is insignificant.
Calling Bullshit on Trump
The one thing about Murray, he didn’t simply extend Trump an upraised middle finger. He made a solid case for why the policy is not much more than bullshit and rhetoric without relying on bullshit and rhetoric himself. If Seattle can spare Mr. Murray, and his husband doesn’t mind, I do hope the mayor considers moving up to a higher level, politically.
Youth Soccer was A Thing in our house. I was listening to the latest number of Slate’s “Mom and Dad are fighting” pod on my walk to Wakin’ Bakin’ this morning. They interviewed a couple of folks, talking about how they’re dealing with the Trump reality in terms of their kids. One of the guests, Dwayne Betts, is a public defender. His kid is worried for friends who might get deported.
The thought that first comes to my mind is how expensive deporting undocumented Mexicans would be for the government, not to mention the economic disaster it would cause. My running joke is that the Marriott brothers would never permit it. Problem is, we now have a Fascist about to take over as President. We have to take him at his word.
Diversity at the playground
It’s a no-brainer that soccer leagues located in big public parks will attract a diverse group of families. My now-28yo son played “travel” soccer. There were Mexican-American on his team. Particularly here in New Orleans, the overall number of undocumented Mexicans has increased since 2005. Instead of just being the kids with skills (because they played in their free time since they could kick a futbol), we’re talking about average, Pokemon Go-playing American kids going out for team sports. Our local Muslim community has grown as well over the years. Same deal for that group of kids. They may not go to the Catholic schools many of the white kids attend, but they come out to LafreniereGenerational Changes Park and the playgrounds in Metairie to play sports.
Kids don’t, as a rule, know much about the immigration status of their teammates. It makes perfect sense for a nine-year old to come home, worried that Trump is going to send her friends away. There are a number of ways to address this as parents, but the mere fact that families are having this discussion means racism is eroding.
There may not be much we can do about the deplorable parents, but the kids see these prospective deportees as more than just human beings. They are their friends.
Oh, and Mister Betts’ response to his kid about immigration? He said, if it push comes to shove, he’d quit his job. He’d switch to immigration law and fight for his friends.
Why should you care about starting a high school food pantry? It’s a good way to become a faith based liberal. Even without the election fiasco, government continues to shrink. Giving teens an additional nutrition boost is a good idea. While a basic way to help fight hunger is to donate to your local “big” food bank (Second Harvest, here in Southern Louisiana), this is an area where we have to go further. So, the big food banks do their jobs well, making sure families get assistance. Thing is, kids need more. Every parent of teens knows they eat. No, that’s not right. They EAT. The hormones kick in and your fridge gets emptied. A food bank can give a the families they serve so much. If a family had more than one resource to turn to, maybe the teens won’t go hungry.
School Pantries take place at a consistent location within a school’s campus. They have set distribution schedules and offer ongoing food assistance services. The pantry may have a permanent set up within a school or may operate through a mobile distribution rotation that brings food to a school campus.
So, starting a food pantry isn’t hard. So, I’ve linked to a few articles in the sidebar on making this happen. This is your start towards being a faith based liberal. While it’s easy to run with this, you can stay in your comfort zone. Sure, you or someone you know needs to kick this off, but everyone else can kick up money and Kraft dinner weekly.
New Orleans angle
The challenge of any food bank is to stay stocked. It’s easy in a large school with a diverse student body. There are all sorts of ways to get teens to part with the cash they’d usually spend at Starbucks. It’s also easy for a teen to say, “Mom, can you pick up two or three things for our food pantry?” on a weekly basis. Make this a project for a service club at a school.
What about areas where there’s less economic diversity? New Orleans is a great example. Thousands of middle-class kids go to private schools, while the student bodies of public schools have a significant percentage of kids living in poverty. The food (and cash) needs to move from the private/Catholic schools into the public schools. If a private school could adopt a public school, establishing and sustaining a food pantry there, wealth gets transferred. We start sall. Maybe we even stay small. It’s not about government.
It’s faith based liberals. Social Justice Warriors.