and the Devil himself...

and the Devil himself...
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Springsteen's Latest Surprise Appearance at the Stone Pony


One of my favorite things about the Stone Pony (and just one of them, mind you), is that you never know when Bruce Springsteen might show up. He turned up Friday to jam with Alejandro Escovedo.  All that AND the ocean.

Watch them performing "Beast of Burden": Video from the Stone Pony, 7/23

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Don't Try to Stand Me Up, This is the Last Game of Pool I'll Play - The Death of Morgan Earp, Tombstone 'Epitaph', 1882


From: The Tombstone Epitaph, THE DEADLY BULLET, March 20, 1882

The Assassin at Last Successful in His Devilish Mission, Morgan Earp Shot Down and Killed While Playing Billiards...

At 10:00 Saturday night while engaged in playing a game of billiards in Campbell & Hatch's Billiard parlor, on Allen between Fourth and Fifth, Morgan Earp was shot through the body by an unknown assassin. At the time the shot was fired he was playing a game with Bob Hatch, one of the proprietors of the house and was standing with his back to the glass door in the rear of the room that opens out upon the alley that leads straight through the block along the west side of A.D. Otis & Co.'s store to Fremont Street.

This door is the ordinary glass door with four panes in the top in place of panels. The two lower panes are painted, the upper ones being clear. Anyone standing outside can look over the painted glass and see anything going on in the room just as well as though standing in the open door. At the time the shot was fired the deceased must have been standing within ten feet of the door, and the assassin standing near enough to see his position, took aim for about the middle of his person, shooting through the upper portion of the whitened glass.

The bullet entered the right side of the abdomen, passing through the spinal column, completely shattering it, emerging on the left side, passing the length of the room and lodging in the thigh of Geo. A.B. Berry, who was standing by the stove, inflicting a painful flesh wound. Instantly after the first shot a second was fired through the top of the upper glass which passed across the room and lodged in the wall near the ceiling over the head of Wyatt Earp, who was sitting as a spectator of the game.

Morgan fell instantly upon the first fire and lived only about one hour. His brother Wyatt, Tipton, and McMasters rushed to the side of the wounded man and tenderly picked him up and moved him some ten feet away near the door of the card room, where Drs. Matthews, Goodfellow and Millar, who were called, examined him and, after a brief consultation, pronounced the wound mortal. He was then moved into the card room and placed on the lounge where in a few brief moments he breathed his last, surrounded by his brothers, Wyatt, Virgil, James and Warren with the wives of Virgil and James and a few of his most intimate friends.

Notwithstanding the intensity of his mortal agony, not a word of complaint escaped his lips, and all that were heard, except those whispered into the ear of his brother and known only to him were, "Don't, I can't stand it. This is the last game of pool I'll ever play." The first part of the sentence being wrung from him by an attempt to place him upon his feet.

The funeral cortege started away from the Cosmopolitan hotel about 12:30 yesterday with the fire bell tolling its solemn peals of "Earth to earth, dust to dust."

Native American Moon Names


Native Americans named each recurring full Moon and the month it occurred in.  These are Algonquin names; other names were sometimes used and/or they could be interchangeable to a degree but these are my favorites:

• January - Full Wolf Moon, named for the howling of hungry wolves in winter. 

• February - Full Snow Moon, named for the extreme weather that often occurred at this time. 

• March - Full Crow Moon, named for the crow calls that herald the end of winter. 

• April - Full Egg Moon, named for the new life that comes with Spring.

• May - Full Flower Moon, named for May's abundant blossoms. 

• June - Full Strawberry Moon, named for the short strawberry harvesting season. 

• July - Full Thunder Moon, named for July's frequent storms. 

• August - Full Red Moon, named for the reddish tint the sun takes on in hot, hazy weather.

• September - Full Corn Moon, named for the ripe corn.

• October - Full Harvest Moon, the time for gathering the primary staples of the Native American diet

• November - Full Frosty Moon, the time to actively prepare for winter.

• December - The Full Cold Moon, named for the long, chill nights.

More about Moon phases, names and the Zodiac

Friday, July 23, 2010

Conversations With Bob Masse - Psychedelic Art as Pop Dada



I have had the pleasure of talking with some really amazing artists over the past few weeks while working on a feature for Fine Art Magazine; Michael Motorcycle, Wes Freed Rob Arthur and the legendary Bob Masse. Though all are brilliant and fascinating to talk with, I think Mr. Masse is my favorite. He is as colorful and as lyric as his paintings. 

And wait till you hear what he had to say about the Grateful Dead in Haight Ashbury, Psychedelic Poster Art as a movement and life as an artist in the thick of the 60s from San Francisco to the Whiskey a Go-Go with a lot of stops in between. His work has evolved alongside and been inspired by the most ground-breaking American music, from the Beat scene in the 50s to today.

I was so surprised to discover 5 posters from him in the mail! One is above, check my TwitPics for the others. I wish I had a time machine so that I could tell my college self, (most often found zoning out on my Grateful Dead Haight Ashbury poster), that I'll talk to him in a few years. I doubt I'd believe me though. Well, maybe I would if I showed myself the posters, lol.
While looking at the art  that was going on in NY at the same time Psychedelic artists were decorating the streets of San Francisco, I developed a whole new appreciation for Jasper Johns, who's still working at 80:  Jasper Johns at the Matthew Marks Gallery

Untitled, 2008

Target, 1958:


More soon... all of this has made me hungry!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Anniversary of Grateful Dead keyboardist Keith Godchaux's death,



Today in 1980 Keyboardist Keith Godchaux, who began working with the Dead when keyboardist Pigpen began falling ill. Godchaux died in a tragic car accident. More about Keith and his wife, Donna.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

“Don't Make a Drug Shop of Your Body" - "Twelve Ways to Commit Suicide,” from the American Medical Journal, 1875

You'll wear out your fainting couch if you...

1.Wearing of thin shoes and cotton stockings on damp nights and in cold, rainy weather. Wearing insufficient clothing, and especially upon the limbs and extremities.

2.Leading a life of enfeebling, stupid laziness, and keeping the mind in an unnatural state of excitement by reading trashy novels. Going to theatres, parties and balls in all sorts of weather, in the thinnest possible dress. Dancing till in a complete perspiration, and then going home without sufficient over-garments through the cold, damp air.

3.Sleeping on feather-beds, in seven-by-nine bedrooms, without ventilation at the top of the windows, and especially with two or more persons in the same small, unventilated bedroom.

4.Surfeiting on hot and very stimulating dinners. Eating in a hurry, without masticating your food, and eating heartily before going to bed every night, when the mind and body are exhausted by the toils of the day and the excitement of the evening.

5.Beginning in childhood on tea and coffee, and going from one step to another, through chewing and smoking tobacco and drinking intoxicating liquors, and physical and mental excesses of every description.

6.Marrying in haste and getting an uncongenial companion, and living the remainder of life in mental dissatisfaction. Cultivating jealousies and domestic broils, and being always in a mental ferment.

7.Keeping children quiet by giving paregoric and cordials, by teaching them to suck candy, and by supplying them with raisins, nuts, and rich cake. When they are sick, by humoring their whims, indulging their fancies, and pampering their appetites, with the mistaken notion of being extra kind to them.

8.Allowing the love of gain to absorb our minds, so as to leave no time to attend to our health. Following an unhealthy occupation because money can be made by it.

9.Tempting the appetite with bitters and niceties when the stomach says No, and by forcing food when nature does not demand and even rejects it. Gormandizing between meals.
10.Contriving to keep in a continual worry about something or nothing. Giving way to fits of anger.

11.Being irregular in all our habits of sleeping and eating, going to bed at midnight and getting up at noon. Eating too much, too many kinds of food, and that which is too highly seasoned.

12.Neglecting to take proper care of ourselves, and not applying early for medical advice when disease first appears. Taking celebrated quack medicines to a degree of making a drug shop of the body.

The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved by Hunter S. Thompson


The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved
By Hunter S. Thompson

Originally published in Scanlan’s Monthly, June 1970.

I got off the plane around midnight and no one spoke as I crossed the dark runway to the terminal. The air was thick and hot, like wandering into a steam bath. Inside, people hugged each other and shook hands...big grins and a whoop here and there: "By God! You old bastard! Good to see you, boy! Damn good...and I mean it!"

In the air-conditioned lounge I met a man from Houston who said his name was something or other--"but just call me Jimbo"--and he was here to get it on. "I'm ready for anything, by God! Anything at all. Yeah, what are you drinkin?" I ordered a Margarita with ice, but he wouldn't hear of it: "Naw, naw...what the hell kind of drink is that for Kentucky Derby time? What's wrong with you, boy?" He grinned and winked at the bartender. "Goddam, we gotta educate this boy. Get him some good whiskey..."
I shrugged. "Okay, a double Old Fitz on ice." Jimbo nodded his approval.

"Look." He tapped me on the arm to make sure I was listening. "I know this Derby crowd, I come here every year, and let me tell you one thing I've learned--this is no town to be giving people the impression you're some kind of faggot. Not in public, anyway. Shit, they'll roll you in a minute, knock you in the head and take every goddam cent you have."

I thanked him and fitted a Marlboro into my cigarette holder. "Say," he said, "you look like you might be in the horse business...am I right?"

"No," I said. "I'm a photographer."

"Oh yeah?" He eyed my ragged leather bag with new interest. "Is that what you got there--cameras? Who you work for?"

"Playboy," I said.

He laughed. "Well, goddam! What are you gonna take pictures of--nekkid horses? Haw! I guess you'll be workin' pretty hard when they run the Kentucky Oaks. That's a race just for fillies." He was laughing wildly. "Hell yes! And they'll all be nekkid too!"

I shook my head and said nothing; just stared at him for a moment, trying to look grim. "There's going to be trouble," I said. "My assignment is to take pictures of the riot."

"What riot?"

I hesitated, twirling the ice in my drink. "At the track. On Derby Day. The Black Panthers." I stared at him again. "Don't you read the newspapers?"

The grin on his face had collapsed. "What the hell are you talkin' about?"

"Well...maybe I shouldn't be telling you..." I shrugged. "But hell, everybody else seems to know. The cops and the National Guard have been getting ready for six weeks. They have 20,000 troops on alert at Fort Knox. They've warned us--all the press and photographers--to wear helmets and special vests like flak jackets. We were told to expect shooting..."

"No!" he shouted; his hands flew up and hovered momentarily between us, as if to ward off the words he was hearing. Then he whacked his fist on the bar. "Those sons of bitches! God Almighty! The Kentucky Derby!" He kept shaking his head. "No! Jesus! That's almost too bad to believe!" Now he seemed to be sagging on the stool, and when he looked up his eyes were misty. "Why? Why here? Don't they respect anything?"

I shrugged again. "It's not just the Panthers. The FBI says busloads of white crazies are coming in from all over the country--to mix with the crowd and attack all at once, from every direction. They'll be dressed like everybody else. You know--coats and ties and all that. But when the trouble starts...well, that's why the cops are so worried."

He sat for a moment, looking hurt and confused and not quite able to digest all this terrible news. Then he cried out: "Oh...Jesus! What in the name of God is happening in this country? Where can you get away from it?"

"Not here," I said, picking up my bag. "Thanks for the drink...and good luck."

He grabbed my arm, urging me to have another, but I said I was overdue at the Press Club and hustled off to get my act together for the awful spectacle. At the airport newsstand I picked up a Courier-Journal and scanned the front page headlines: "Nixon Sends GI's into Cambodia to Hit Reds"... "B-52's Raid, then 20,000 GI's Advance 20 Miles"..."4,000 U.S. Troops Deployed Near Yale as Tension Grows Over Panther Protest." At the bottom of the page was a photo of Diane Crump, soon to become the first woman jockey ever to ride in the Kentucky Derby. The photographer had snapped her "stopping in the barn area to fondle her mount, Fathom." The rest of the paper was spotted with ugly war news and stories of "student unrest." There was no mention of any trouble brewing at university in Ohio called Kent State.

I went to the Hertz desk to pick up my car, but the moon-faced young swinger in charge said they didn't have any. "You can't rent one anywhere," he assured me. "Our Derby reservations have been booked for six weeks." I explained that my agent had confirmed a white Chrysler convertible for me that very afternoon but he shook his head. "Maybe we'll have a cancellation. Where are you staying?"

I shrugged. "Where's the Texas crowd staying? I want to be with my people."

He sighed. "My friend, you're in trouble. This town is flat full. Always is, for the Derby."

I leaned closer to him, half-whispering: "Look, I'm from Playboy. How would you like a job?"

He backed off quickly. "What? Come on, now. What kind of a job?"

"Never mind," I said. "You just blew it." I swept my bag off the counter and went to find a cab. The bag is a valuable prop in this kind of work; mine has a lot of baggage tags on it--SF, LA, NY, Lima, Rome, Bangkok, that sort of thing--and the most prominent tag of all is a very official, plastic-coated thing that says "Photog. Playboy Mag." I bought it from a pimp in Vail, Colorado, and he told me how to use it. "Never mention Playboy until you're sure they've seen this thing first," he said. "Then, when you see them notice it, that's the time to strike. They'll go belly up ever time. This thing is magic, I tell you. Pure magic."

Well...maybe so. I'd used it on the poor geek in the bar, and now humming along in a Yellow Cab toward town, I felt a little guilty about jangling the poor bugger's brains with that evil fantasy. But what the hell? Anybody who wanders around the world saying, "Hell yes, I'm from Texas," deserves whatever happens to him. And he had, after all, come here once again to make a nineteenth-century ass of himself in the midst of some jaded, atavistic freakout with nothing to recommend it except a very saleable "tradition." Early in our chat, Jimbo had told me that he hadn't missed a Derby since 1954. "The little lady won't come anymore," he said. "She grits her teeth and turns me loose for this one. And when I say 'loose' I do mean loose! I toss ten-dollar bills around like they were goin' out of style! Horses, whiskey, women...shit, there's women in this town that'll do anything for money."

Why not? Money is a good thing to have in these twisted times. Even Richard Nixon is hungry for it. Only a few days before the Derby he said, "If I had any money I'd invest it in the stock market." And the market, meanwhile, continued its grim slide.

**********

The next day was heavy. With only thirty hours until post time I had no press credentials and--according to the sports editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal--no hope at all of getting any. Worse, I needed two sets: one for myself and another for Ralph Steadman, the English illustrator who was coming from London to do some Derby drawings. All I knew about him was that this was his first visit to the United States. And the more I pondered the fact, the more it gave me fear. How would he bear up under the heinous culture shock of being lifted out of London and plunged into the drunken mob scene at the Kentucky Derby? There was no way of knowing. Hopefully, he would arrive at least a day or so ahead, and give himself time to get acclimated. Maybe a few hours of peaceful sightseeing in the Bluegrass country around Lexington. My plan was to pick him up at the airport in the huge Pontiac Ballbuster I'd rented from a used-car salesman name Colonel Quick, then whisk him off to some peaceful setting that might remind him of England.

Colonel Quick had solved the car problem, and money (four times the normal rate) had bought two rooms in a scumbox on the outskirts of town. The only other kink was the task of convincing the moguls at Churchill Downs that Scanlan's was such a prestigious sporting journal that common sense compelled them to give us two sets of the best press tickets. This was not easily done. My first call to the publicity office resulted in total failure. The press handler was shocked at the idea that anyone would be stupid enough to apply for press credentials two days before the Derby. "Hell, you can't be serious," he said. "The deadline was two months ago. The press box is full; there's no more room...and what the hell is Scanlan's Monthly anyway?"

I uttered a painful groan. "Didn't the London office call you? They're flying an artist over to do the paintings. Steadman. He's Irish. I think. Very famous over there. Yes. I just got in from the Coast. The San Francisco office told me we were all set."

He seemed interested, and even sympathetic, but there was nothing he could do. I flattered him with more gibberish, and finally he offered a compromise: he could get us two passes to the clubhouse grounds but the clubhouse itself and especially the press box were out of the question.

"That sounds a little weird," I said. "It's unacceptable. We must have access tp everything. All of it. The spectacle, the people, the pageantry and certainly the race. You don't think we came all this way to watch the damn thing on television, do you? One way or another we'll get inside. Maybe we'll have to bribe a guard--or even Mace somebody." (I had picked up a spray can of Mace in a downtown drugstore for $5.98 and suddenly, in the midst of that phone talk, I was struck by the hideous possibilities of using it out at the track. Macing ushers at the narrow gates to the clubhouse inner sanctum, then slipping quickly inside, firing a huge load of Mace into the governor's box, just as the race starts. Or Macing helpless drunks in the clubhouse restroom, for their own good...)

By noon on Friday I was still without press credentials and still unable to locate Steadman. For all I knew he'd changed his mind and gone back to London. Finally, after giving up on Steadman and trying unsuccessfully to reach my man in the press office, I decided my only hope for credentials was to go out to the track and confront the man in person, with no warning--demanding only one pass now, instead of two, and talking very fast with a strange lilt in my voice, like a man trying hard to control some inner frenzy. On the way out, I stopped at the motel desk to cash a check. Then, as a useless afterthought, I asked if by any wild chance a Mr. Steadman had checked in.

The lady on the desk was about fifty years old and very peculiar-looking; when I mentioned Steadman's name she nodded, without looking up from whatever she was writing, and said in a low voice, "You bet he did." Then she favored me with a big smile. "Yes, indeed. Mr. Steadman just left for the racetrack. Is he a friend of yours?"

I shook my head. "I'm supposed to be working with him, but I don't even know what he looks like. Now, goddammit, I'll have to find him in the mob at the track."

She chuckled. "You won't have any trouble finding him. You could pick that man out of any crowd."

"Why?" I asked. "What's wrong with him? What does he look like?"

"Well..." she said, still grinning, "he's the funniest looking thing I've seen in a long time. He has this...ah...this growth all over his face. As a matter of fact it's all over his head." She nodded. "You'll know him when you see him; don't worry about that."

Creeping Jesus, I thought. That screws the press credentials. I had a vision of some nerve-rattling geek all covered with matted hair and string-warts showing up in the press office and demanding Scanlan's press packet. Well...what the hell? We could always load up on acid and spend the day roaming around the clubhouse grounds with bit sketch pads, laughing hysterically at the natives and swilling mint juleps so the cops wouldn't think we're abnormal. Perhaps even make the act pay; set up an easel with a big sign saying, "Let a Foreign Artist Paint Your Portrait, $10 Each. Do It NOW!"

**********

I took the expressway out to the track, driving very fast and jumping the monster car back and forth between lanes, driving with a beer in one hand and my mind so muddled that I almost crushed a Volkswagen full of nuns when I swerved to catch the right exit. There was a slim chance, I thought, that I might be able to catch the ugly Britisher before he checked in.

But Steadman was already in the press box when I got there, a bearded young Englishman wearing a tweed coat and RAF sunglasses. There was nothing particularly odd about him. No facial veins or clumps of bristly warts. I told him about the motel woman's description and he seemed puzzled. "Don't let it bother you," I said. "Just keep in mind for the next few days that we're in Louisville, Kentucky. Not London. Not even New York. This is a weird place. You're lucky that mental defective at the motel didn't jerk a pistol out of the cash register and blow a big hole in you." I laughed, but he looked worried.

"Just pretend you're visiting a huge outdoor loony bin," I said. "If the inmates get out of control we'll soak them down with Mace." I showed him the can of "Chemical Billy," resisting the urge to fire it across the room at a rat-faced man typing diligently in the Associated Press section. We were standing at the bar, sipping the management's Scotch and congratulating each other on our sudden, unexplained luck in picking up two sets of fine press credentials. The lady at the desk had been very friendly to him, he said. "I just told her my name and she gave me the whole works."

By midafternoon we had everything under control. We had seats looking down on the finish line, color TV and a free bar in the press room, and a selection of passes that would take us anywhere from the clubhouse roof to the jockey room. The only thing we lacked was unlimited access to the clubhouse inner sanctum in sections "F&G"...and I felt we needed that, to see the whiskey gentry in action. The governor, a swinish neo-Nazi hack named Louis Nunn, would be in "G," along with Barry Goldwater and Colonel Sanders. I felt we'd be legal in a box in "G" where we could rest and sip juleps, soak up a bit of atmosphere and the Derby's special vibrations.

The bars and dining rooms are also in "F&G," and the clubhouse bars on Derby Day are a very special kind of scene. Along with the politicians, society belles and local captains of commerce, every half-mad dingbat who ever had any pretensions to anything at all within five hundred miles of Louisville will show up there to get strutting drunk and slap a lot of backs and generally make himself obvious. The Paddock bar is probably the best place in the track to sit and watch faces. Nobody minds being stared at; that's what they're in there for. Some people spend most of their time in the Paddock; they can hunker down at one of the many wooden tables, lean back in a comfortable chair and watch the ever-changing odds flash up and down on the big tote board outside the window. Black waiters in white serving jackets move through the crowd with trays of drinks, while the experts ponder their racing forms and the hunch bettors pick lucky numbers or scan the lineup for right-sounding names. There is a constant flow of traffic to and from the pari-mutuel windows outside in the wooden corridors. Then, as post time nears, the crowd thins out as people go back to their boxes.

Clearly, we were going to have to figure out some way to spend more time in the clubhouse tomorrow. But the "walkaround" press passes to F&G were only good for thirty minutes at a time, presumably to allow the newspaper types to rush in and out for photos or quick interviews, but to prevent drifters like Steadman and me from spending all day in the clubhouse, harassing the gentry and rifling the odd handbag or two while cruising around the boxes. Or Macing the governor. The time limit was no problem on Friday, but on Derby Day the walkaround passes would be in heavy demand. And since it took about ten minutes to get from the press box to the Paddock, and ten more minutes to get back, that didn't leave much time for serious people-watching. And unlike most of the others in the press box, we didn't give a hoot in hell what was happening on the track. We had come there to watch the real beasts perform.

**********

Later Friday afternoon, we went out on the balcony of the press box and I tried to describe the difference between what we were seeing today and what would be happening tomorrow. This was the first time I'd been to a Derby in ten years, but before that, when I lived in Louisville, I used to go every year. Now, looking down from the press box, I pointed to the huge grassy meadow enclosed by the track. "That whole thing," I said, "will be jammed with people; fifty thousand or so, and most of them staggering drunk. It's a fantastic scene--thousands of people fainting, crying, copulating, trampling each other and fighting with broken whiskey bottles. We'll have to spend some time out there, but it's hard to move around, too many bodies."

"Is it safe out there?" Will we ever come back?"

"Sure," I said. "We'll just have to be careful not to step on anybody's stomach and start a fight." I shrugged. "Hell, this clubhouse scene right below us will be almost as bad as the infield. Thousands of raving, stumbling drunks, getting angrier and angrier as they lose more and more money. By midafternoon they'll be guzzling mint juleps with both hands and vomitting on each other between races. The whole place will be jammed with bodies, shoulder to shoulder. It's hard to move around. The aisles will be slick with vomit; people falling down and grabbing at your legs to keep from being stomped. Drunks pissing on themselves in the betting lines. Dropping handfuls of money and fighting to stoop over and pick it up."

He looked so nervous that I laughed. "I'm just kidding," I said. "Don't worry. At the first hint of trouble I'll start pumping this 'Chemical Billy' into the crowd."

He had done a few good sketches, but so far we hadn't seen that special kind of face that I felt we would need for a lead drawing. It was a face I'd seen a thousand times at every Derby I'd ever been to. I saw it, in my head, as the mask of the whiskey gentry--a pretentious mix of booze, failed dreams and a terminal identity crisis; the inevitable result of too much inbreeding in a closed and ignorant culture. One of the key genetic rules in breeding dogs, horses or any other kind of thoroughbred is that close inbreeding tends to magnify the weak points in a bloodline as well as the strong points. In horse breeding, for instance, there is a definite risk in breeding two fast horses who are both a little crazy. The offspring will likely be very fast and also very crazy. So the trick in breeding thoroughbreds is to retain the good traits and filter out the bad. But the breeding of humans is not so wisely supervised, particularly in a narrow Southern society where the closest kind of inbreeding is not only stylish and acceptable, but far more convenient--to the parents--than setting their offspring free to find their own mates, for their own reasons and in their own ways. ("Goddam, did you hear about Smitty's daughter? She went crazy in Boston last week and married a nigger!")

So the face I was trying to find in Churchill Downs that weekend was a symbol, in my own mind, of the whole doomed atavistic culture that makes the Kentucky Derby what it is.

On our way back to the motel after Friday's races I warned Steadman about some of the other problems we'd have to cope with. Neither of us had brought any strange illegal drugs, so we would have to get by on booze. "You should keep in mind," I said, "that almost everybody you talk to from now on will be drunk. People who seem very pleasant at first might suddenly swing at you for no reason at all." He nodded, staring straight ahead. He seemed to be getting a little numb and I tried to cheer him up by inviting to dinner that night, with my brother.

Back at the motel we talked for awhile about America, the South, England--just relaxing a bit before dinner. There was no way either of us could have known, at the time, that it would be the last normal conversation we would have. From that point on, the weekend became a vicious, drunken nightmare. We both went completely to pieces. The main problem was my prior attachment to Louisville, which naturally led to meetings with old friends, relatives, etc., many of whom were in the process of falling apart, going mad, plotting divorces, cracking up under the strain of terrible debts or recovering from bad accidents. Right in the middle of the whole frenzied Derby action, a member of my own family had to be institutionalized. This added a certain amount of strain to the situation, and since poor Steadman had no choice but to take whatever came his way, he was subjected to shock after shock.

Another problem was his habit of sketching people he met in the various social situations I dragged him into--then giving them the sketches. The results were always unfortunate. I warned him several times about letting the subjects see his foul renderings, but for some perverse reason he kept doing it. Consequently, he was regarded with fear and loathing by nearly everyone who'd seen or even heard about his work. Ho couldn't understand it. "It's sort of a joke," he kept saying. "Why, in England it's quite normal. People don't take offense. They understand that I'm just putting them on a bit."

"Fuck England," I said. "This is Middle America. These people regard what you're doing to them as a brutal, bilious insult. Look what happened last night. I thought my brother was going to tear your head off."

Steadman shook his head sadly. "But I liked him. He struck me as a very decent, straightforward sort."

"Look, Ralph," I said. "Let's not kid ourselves. That was a very horrible drawing you gave him. It was the face of a monster. It got on his nerves very badly." I shrugged. "Why in hell do you think we left the restaurant so fast?"

"I thought it was because of the Mace," he said.

"What Mace?"

He grinned. "When you shot it at the headwaiter, don't you remember?"

"Hell, that was nothing," I said. "I missed him...and we were leaving, anyway."

"But it got all over us," he said. "The room was full of that damn gas. Your brother was sneezing was and his wife was crying. My eyes hurt for two hours. I couldn't see to draw when we got back to the motel."

"That's right," I said. "The stuff got on her leg, didn't it?"

"She was angry," he said.

"Yeah...well, okay...Let's just figure we fucked up about equally on that one," I said. "But from now on let's try to be careful when we're around people I know. You won't sketch them and I won't Mace them. We'll just try to relax and get drunk."

"Right," he said. "We'll go native."

**********

It was Saturday morning, the day of the Big Race, and we were having breakfast in a plastic hamburger palace called the Fish-Meat Village. Our rooms were just across the road in the Brown Suburban Hotel. They had a dining room, but the food was so bad that we couldn't handle it anymore. The waitresses seemed to be suffering from shin splints; they moved around very slowly, moaning and cursing the "darkies" in the kitchen.

Steadman liked the Fish-Meat place because it had fish and chips. I preferred the "French toast," which was really pancake batter, fried to the proper thickness and then chopped out with a sort of cookie cutter to resemble pieces of toast.

Beyond drink and lack of sleep, our only real problem at that point was the question of access to the clubhouse. Finally, we decided to go ahead and steal two passes, if necessary, rather than miss that part of the action. This was the last coherent decision we were able to make for the next forty-eight hours. From that point on--almost from the very moment we started out to the track--we lost all control of events and spent the rest of the weekend churning around in a sea of drunken horrors. My notes and recollections from Derby Day are somewhat scrambled.

But now, looking at the big red notebook I carried all through that scene, I see more or less what happened. The book itself is somewhat mangled and bent; some of the pages are torn, others are shriveled and stained by what appears to be whiskey, but taken as a whole, with sporadic memory flashes, the notes seem to tell the story. To wit:

**********

Rain all nite until dawn. No sleep. Christ, here we go, a nightmare of mud and madness...But no. By noon the sun burns through--perfect day, not even humid.

Steadman is now worried about fire. Somebody told him about the clubhouse catching on fire two years ago. Could it happen again? Horrible. Trapped in the press box. Holocaust. A hundred thousand people fighting to get out. Drunks screaming in the flames and the mud, crazed horses running wild. Blind in the smoke. Grandstand collapsing into the flames with us on the roof. Poor Ralph is about to crack. Drinking heavily, into the Haig & Haig.

Out to the track in a cab, avoid that terrible parking in people's front yards, $25 each, toothless old men on the street with big signs: PARK HERE, flagging cars in the yard. "That's fine, boy, never mind the tulips." Wild hair on his head, straight up like a clump of reeds.

Sidewalks full of people all moving in the same direction, towards Churchill Downs. Kids hauling coolers and blankets, teenyboppers in tight pink shorts, many blacks...black dudes in white felt hats with leopard-skin bands, cops waving traffic along.

The mob was thick for many blocks around the track; very slow going in the crowd, very hot. On the way to the press box elevator, just inside the clubhouse, we came on a row of soldiers all carrying long white riot sticks. About two platoons, with helmets. A man walking next to us said they were waiting for the governor and his party. Steadman eyed them nervously. "Why do they have those clubs?"

"Black Panthers," I said. Then I remembered good old "Jimbo" at the airport and I wondered what he was thinking right now. Probably very nervous; the place was teeming with cops and soldiers. We pressed on through the crowd, through many gates, past the paddock where the jockeys bring the horses out and parade around for a while before each race so the bettors can get a good look. Five million dollars will be bet today. Many winners, more losers. What the hell. The press gate was jammed up with people trying to get in, shouting at the guards, waving strange press badges: Chicago Sporting Times, Pittsburgh Police Athletic League...they were all turned away. "Move on, fella, make way for the working press." We shoved through the crowd and into the elevator, then quickly up to the free bar. Why not? Get it on. Very hot today, not feeling well, must be this rotten climate. The press box was cool and airy, plenty of room to walk around and balcony seats for watching the race or looking down at the crowd. We got a betting sheet and went outside.

**********

Pink faces with a stylish Southern sag, old Ivy styles, seersucker coats and buttondown collars. "Mayblossom Senility" (Steadman's phrase)...burnt out early or maybe just not much to burn in the first place. Not much energy in the faces, not much curiosity. Suffering in silence, nowhere to go after thirty in this life, just hang on and humor the children. Let the young enjoy themselves while they can. Why not?

The grim reaper comes early in this league...banshees on the lawn at night, screaming out there beside that little iron nigger in jockey clothes. Maybe he's the one who's screaming. Bad DT's and too many snarls at the bridge club. Going down with the stock market. Oh Jesus, the kid has wrecked the new car, wrapped it around the big stone pillar at the bottom of the driveway. Broken leg? Twisted eye? Send him off to Yale, they can cure anything up there.

Yale? Did you see today's paper? New Haven is under siege. Yale is swarming with Black Panthers...I tell you, Colonel, the world has gone mad, stone mad. Why, they tell me a goddam woman jockey might ride in the Derby today.

I left Steadman sketching in the Paddock bar and went off to place our bets on the fourth race. When I came back he was staring intently at a group of young men around a table not far away. "Jesus, look at the corruption in that face!" he whispered. "Look at the madness, the fear, the greed!" I looked, then quickly turned my back on the table he was sketching. The face he'd picked out to draw was the face of an old friend of mine, a prep school football star in the good old days with a sleek red Chevy convertible and a very quick hand, it was said, with the snaps of a 32 B brassiere. They called him "Cat Man."

But now, a dozen years later, I wouldn't have recognized him anywhere but here, where I should have expected to find him, in the Paddock bar on Derby Day...fat slanted eyes and a pimp's smile, blue silk suit and his friends looking like crooked bank tellers on a binge...

Steadman wanted to see some Kentucky Colonels, but he wasn't sure what they looked like. I told him to go back to the clubhouse men's rooms and look for men in white linen suits vomitting in the urinals. "They'll usually have large brown whiskey stains on the front of their suits," I said. "But watch the shoes, that's the tip-off. Most of them manage to avoid vomitting on their own clothes, but they never miss their shoes."

In a box not far from ours was Colonel Anna Friedman Goldman, Chairman and Keeper of the Great Seal of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels. Not all the 76 million or so Kentucky Colonels could make it to the Derby this year, but many had kept the faith, and several days prior to the Derby they gathered for their annual dinner at the Seelbach Hotel.

The Derby, the actual race, was scheduled for late afternoon, and as the magic hour approached I suggested to Steadman that we should probably spend some time in the infield, that boiling sea of people across the track from the clubhouse. He seemed a little nervous about it, but since none of the awful things I'd warned him about had happened so far--no race riots, firestorms or savage drunken attacks--he shrugged and said, "Right, let's do it."

To get there we had to pass through many gates, each one a step down in status, then through a tunnel under the track. Emerging from the tunnel was such a culture shock that it took us a while to adjust. "God almighty!" Steadman muttered. "This is a...Jesus!" He plunged ahead with his tiny camera, stepping over bodies, and I followed, trying to take notes.

**********

Total chaos, no way to see the race, not even the track...nobody cares. Big lines at the outdoor betting windows, then stand back to watch winning numbers flash on the big board, like a giant bingo game.

Old blacks arguing about bets; "Hold on there, I'll handle this" (waving pint of whiskey, fistful of dollar bills); girl riding piggyback, T-shirt says, "Stolen from Fort Lauderdale Jail." Thousands of teen-agers, group singing "Let the Sun Shine In," ten soldires guarding the American flag and a huge fat drunk wearing a blue football jersey (No. 80) reeling around with quart of beer in hand.

No booze sold out here, too dangerous...no bathrooms either. Muscle Beach...Woodstock...many cops with riot sticks, but no sign of a riot. Far across the track the clubhouse looks like a postcard from the Kentucky Derby.

**********

We went back to the clubhouse to watch the big race. When the crowd stood to face the flag and sing "My Old Kentucky Home," Steadman faced the crowd and sketched frantically. Somewhere up in the boxes a voice screeched, "Turn around, you hairy freak!" The race itself was only two minutes long, and even from our super-status seats and using 12-power glasses, there was no way to see what really happened to our horses. Holy Land, Ralph's choice, stumbled and lost his jockey in the final turn. Mine, Silent Screen, had the lead coming into the stretch but faded to fifth at the finish. The winner was a 16-1 shot named Dust Commander.

Moments after the race was over, the crowd surged wildly for the exits, rushing for cabs and busses. The next day's Courier told of violence in the parking lot; people were punched and trampled, pockets were picked, children lost, bottles hurled. But we missed all this, having retired to the press box for a bit of post-race drinking. By this time we were both half-crazy from too much whiskey, sun fatigue, culture shock, lack of sleep and general dissolution. We hung around the press box long enough to watch a mass interview with the winning owner, a dapper little man named Lehmann who said he had just flown into Louisville that morning from Nepal, where he'd "bagged a record tiger." The sportswriters murmured their admiration and a waiter filled Lehmann's glass with Chivas Regal. He had just won $127,000 with a horse that cost him $6,500 two years ago. His occupation, he said, was "retired contractor." And then he added, with a big grin, "I just retired."

The rest of the day blurs into madness. The rest of that night too. And all the next day and night. Such horrible things occurred that I can't bring myself even to think about them now, much less put them down in print. I was lucky to get out at all. One of my clearest memories of that vicious time is Ralph being attacked by one of my old friends in the billiard room of the Pendennis Club in downtown Louisville on Saturday night. The man had ripped his own shirt open to the waist before deciding that Ralph was after his wife. No blows were struck, but the emotional effects were massive. Then, as a sort of final horror, Steadman put his fiendish pen to work and tried to patch things up by doing a little sketch of the girl he'd been accused of hustling. That finished us in the Pedennis.

**********

Sometime around ten-thirty Monday morning I was awakened by a scratching sound at my door. I leaned out of bed and pulled the curtain back just far enough to see Steadman outside. "What the fuck do you want?" I shouted.

"What about having breakfast?" he said.

I lunged out of bed and tried to open the door, but it caught on the night-chain and banged shut again. I couldn't cope with the chain! The thing wouldn't come out of the track--so I ripped it out of the wall with a vicious jerk on the door. Ralph didn't blink. "Bad luck," he muttered.

I could barely see him. My eyes were swollen almost shut and the sudden burst of sunlight through the door left me stunned and helpless like a sick mole. Steadman was mumbling about sickness and terrible heat; I fell back on the bed and tried to focus on him as he moved around the room in a very distracted way for a few moments, then suddenly darted over to the beer bucket and seized a Colt .45. "Christ," I said. "You're getting out of control."

He nodded and ripped the cap off, taking a long drink. "You know, this is really awful," he said finally. "I must get out of this place..." he shook his head nervously. "The plane leaves at three-thirty, but I don't know if I'll make it."

I barely heard him. My eyes had finally opened enough for me to foucs on the mirror across the room and I was stunned at the shock of recognition. For a confused instant I thought that Ralph had brought somebody with him--a model for that one special face we'd been looking for. There he was, by God--a puffy, drink-ravaged, disease-ridden caricature...like an awful cartoon version of an old snapshot in some once-proud mother's family photo album. It was the face we'd been looking for--and it was, of course, my own. Horrible, horrible...

"Maybe I should sleep a while longer," I said. "Why don't you go on over to the Fish-Meat place and eat some of those rotten fish and chips? Then come back and get me around noon. I feel too near death to hit the streets at this hour."

He shook his head. "No...no...I think I'll go back upstairs and work on those drawings for a while." He leaned down to fetch two more cans out of the beer bucket. "I tried to work earlier," he said, "but my hands kept trembling...It's teddible, teddible."

"You've got to stop this drinking," I said.

He nodded. "I know. This is no good, no good at all. But for some reason it makes me feel better..."

"Not for long," I said. "You'll probably collapse into some kind of hysterical DT's tonight--probably just about the time you get off the plane at Kennedy. They'll zip you up in a straightjacket and drag you down to the Tombs, then beat you on the kidneys with big sticks until you straighten out."

He shrugged and wandered out, pulling the door shut behind him. I went back to bed for another hour or so, and later--after the daily grapefruit juice run to the Nite Owl Food Mart--we had our last meal at Fish-Meat Village: a fine lunch of dough and butcher's offal, fried in heavy grease.

By this time Ralph wouldn't order coffee; he kept asking for more water. "It's the only thing they have that's fit for human consumption," he explained. Then, with an hour or so to kill before he had to catch the plane, we spread his drawings out on the table and pondered them for a while, wondering if he'd caught the proper spirit of the thing...but we couldn't make up our minds. His hands were shaking so badly that he had trouble holding the paper, and my vision was so blurred that I could barely see what he'd drawn. "Shit," I said. "We both look worse than anything you've drawn here."

He smiled. "You know--I've been thinking about that," he said. "We came down here to see this teddible scene: people all pissed out of their minds and vomitting on themselves and all that...and now, you know what? It's us..."

**********

Huge Pontiac Ballbuster blowing through traffic on the expressway.

A radio news bulletin says the National Guard is massacring students at Kent State and Nixon is still bombing Cambodia. The journalist is driving, ignoring his passenger who is now nearly naked after taking off most of his clothing, which he holds out the window, trying to wind-wash the Mace out of it. His eyes are bright red and his face and chest are soaked with beer he's been using to rinse the awful chemical off his flesh. The front of his woolen trousers is soaked with vomit; his body is racked with fits of coughing and wild chocking sobs. The journalist rams the big car through traffic and into a spot in front of the terminal, then he reaches over to open the door on the passenger's side and shoves the Englishman out, snarling: "Bug off, you worthless faggot! You twisted pigfucker! [Crazed laughter.] If I weren't sick I'd kick your ass all the way to Bowling Green--you scumsucking foreign geek. Mace is too good for you...We can do without your kind in Kentucky."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bob Dylan, Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie


Woody Guthrie sings "Will You Miss Me" with Leadbelly:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHKvRNK6KYQ

Text, Bob Dylan's "Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie"

When yer head gets twisted and yer mind grows numb
When you think you're too old, too young, too smart or too dumb
When yer laggin' behind an' losin' yer pace
In a slow-motion crawl of life's busy race
No matter what yer doing if you start givin' up
If the wine don't come to the top of yer cup
If the wind's got you sideways with with one hand holdin' on

And the other starts slipping and the feeling is gone
And yer train engine fire needs a new spark to catch it
And the wood's easy findin' but yer lazy to fetch it
And yer sidewalk starts curlin' and the street gets too long

And you start walkin' backwards though you know its wrong
And lonesome comes up as down goes the day
And tomorrow's mornin' seems so far away
And you feel the reins from yer pony are slippin'

And yer rope is a-slidin' 'cause yer hands are a-drippin'
And yer sun-decked desert and evergreen valleys
Turn to broken down slums and trash-can alleys
And yer sky cries water and yer drain pipe's a-pourin'

And the lightnin's a-flashing and the thunder's a-crashin'
And the windows are rattlin' and breakin' and the roof tops a-shakin'
And yer whole world's a-slammin' and bangin'
And yer minutes of sun turn to hours of storm

And to yourself you sometimes say
"I never knew it was gonna be this way
Why didn't they tell me the day I was born"
And you start gettin' chills and yer jumping from sweat

And you're lookin' for somethin' you ain't quite found yet
And yer knee-deep in the dark water with yer hands in the air
And the whole world's a-watchin' with a window peek stare
And yer good gal leaves and she's long gone a-flying

And yer heart feels sick like fish when they're fryin'
And yer jackhammer falls from yer hand to yer feet
And you need it badly but it lays on the street
And yer bell's bangin' loudly but you can't hear its beat

And you think yer ears might a been hurt
Or yer eyes've turned filthy from the sight-blindin' dirt
And you figured you failed in yesterdays rush
When you were faked out an' fooled white facing a four flush

And all the time you were holdin' three queens
And it's makin you mad, it's makin' you mean
Like in the middle of Life magazine
Bouncin' around a pinball machine

And there's something on yer mind you wanna be saying
That somebody someplace oughta be hearin'
But it's trapped on yer tongue and sealed in yer head
And it bothers you badly when your layin' in bed

And no matter how you try you just can't say it
And yer scared to yer soul you just might forget it
And yer eyes get swimmy from the tears in yer head
And yer pillows of feathers turn to blankets of lead

And the lion's mouth opens and yer staring at his teeth
And his jaws start closin with you underneath
And yer flat on your belly with yer hands tied behind
And you wish you'd never taken that last detour sign

And you say to yourself just what am I doin'
On this road I'm walkin', on this trail I'm turnin'
On this curve I'm hanging
On this pathway I'm strolling, in the space I'm taking

In this air I'm inhaling
Am I mixed up too much, am I mixed up too hard
Why am I walking, where am I running
What am I saying, what am I knowing
On this guitar I'm playing, on this banjo I'm frailin'
On this mandolin I'm strummin', in the song I'm singin'
In the tune I'm hummin', in the words I'm writin'
In the words that I'm thinkin'
In this ocean of hours I'm all the time drinkin'

Who am I helping, what am I breaking
What am I giving, what am I taking
But you try with your whole soul best
Never to think these thoughts and never to let

Them kind of thoughts gain ground
Or make yer heart pound
But then again you know why they're around
Just waiting for a chance to slip and drop down

"Cause sometimes you hear'em when the night times comes creeping
And you fear that they might catch you a-sleeping
And you jump from yer bed, from yer last chapter of dreamin'
And you can't remember for the best of yer thinking

If that was you in the dream that was screaming
And you know that it's something special you're needin'
And you know that there's no drug that'll do for the healin'
And no liquor in the land to stop yer brain from bleeding

And you need something special
Yeah, you need something special all right
You need a fast flyin' train on a tornado track
To shoot you someplace and shoot you back
You need a cyclone wind on a stream engine howler
That's been banging and booming and blowing forever
That knows yer troubles a hundred times over

You need a Greyhound bus that don't bar no race
That won't laugh at yer looks
Your voice or your face
And by any number of bets in the book

Will be rollin' long after the bubblegum craze
You need something to open up a new door
To show you something you seen before
But overlooked a hundred times or more

You need something to open your eyes
You need something to make it known
That it's you and no one else that owns
That spot that yer standing, that space that you're sitting

That the world ain't got you beat
That it ain't got you licked
It can't get you crazy no matter how many
Times you might get kicked

You need something special all right
You need something special to give you hope
But hope's just a word
That maybe you said or maybe you heard
On some windy corner 'round a wide-angled curve

But that's what you need man, and you need it bad
And yer trouble is you know it too good
"Cause you look an' you start getting the chills

"Cause you can't find it on a dollar bill
And it ain't on Macy's window sill
And it ain't on no rich kid's road map
And it ain't in no fat kid's fraternity house

And it ain't made in no Hollywood wheat germ
And it ain't on that dimlit stage
With that half-wit comedian on it
Ranting and raving and taking yer money
And you thinks it's funny
No you can't find it in no night club or no yacht club
And it ain't in the seats of a supper club

And sure as hell you're bound to tell
That no matter how hard you rub
You just ain't a-gonna find it on yer ticket stub
No, and it ain't in the rumors people're tellin' you

And it ain't in the pimple-lotion people are sellin' you
And it ain't in no cardboard-box house
Or down any movie star's blouse
And you can't find it on the golf course
And Uncle Remus can't tell you and neither can Santa Claus
And it ain't in the cream puff hair-do or cotton candy clothes
And it ain't in the dime store dummies or bubblegum goons
And it ain't in the marshmallow noises of the chocolate cake voices
That come knockin' and tappin' in Christmas wrappin'

Sayin' ain't I pretty and ain't I cute and look at my skin
Look at my skin shine, look at my skin glow
Look at my skin laugh, look at my skin cry
When you can't even sense if they got any insides
These people so pretty in their ribbons and bows

No you'll not now or no other day
Find it on the doorsteps made out-a paper mache_
And inside it the people made of molasses
That every other day buy a new pair of sunglasses
And it ain't in the fifty-star generals and flipped-out phonies

Who'd turn yuh in for a tenth of a penny
Who breathe and burp and bend and crack
And before you can count from one to ten

Do it all over again but this time behind yer back

My friend

The ones that wheel and deal and whirl and twirl
And play games with each other in their sand-box world
And you can't find it either in the no-talent fools
That run around gallant
And make all rules for the ones that got talent
And it ain't in the ones that ain't got any talent but think they do

And think they're foolin' you

The ones who jump on the wagon
Just for a while 'cause they know it's in style
To get their kicks, get out of it quick
And make all kinds of money and chicks
And you yell to yourself and you throw down yer hat
Sayin', "Christ do I gotta be like that
Ain't there no one here that knows where I'm at
Ain't there no one here that knows how I feel

Good God Almighty

THAT STUFF AIN'T REAL"
No but that ain't yer game, it ain't even yer race
You can't hear yer name, you can't see yer face
You gotta look some other place
And where do you look for this hope that yer seekin'
Where do you look for this lamp that's a-burnin'
Where do you look for this oil well gushin'
Where do you look for this candle that's glowin'
Where do you look for this hope that you know is there

And out there somewhere
And your feet can only walk down two kinds of roads
Your eyes can only look through two kinds of windows
Your nose can only smell two kinds of hallways
You can touch and twist
And turn two kinds of doorknobs

You can either go to the church of your choice
Or you can go to Brooklyn State Hospital
You'll find God in the church of your choice
You'll find Woody Guthrie in Brooklyn State Hospita

And though it's only my opinion
I may be right or wrong

You'll find them both
In the Grand Canyon
At sundown

Justin Townes Earle Joins Ralph Stanley and Others in Cast of "My Fool Heart"

Palm Reader's Sign by Elm from film website

Justin Townes Earle, son of Country Music legend Steve Earle, is on tour right now! For dates and venues check his website: Justin Townes Earle Tour Info.

My Fool Heart:

"The film also features Country music artists Wayne Henderson, Sarah Jarosz, Jim Lauderdale, Dr. Ralph Stanley and many more, newcomer actor-musician Jim Waive stars as a humble Virginia diner singer who is the target of two London hit men in the debut feature film MY FOOL HEART from writer-director Jeffrey Martin."

"Throughout the movie, Jim Waive keeps losing his treasured possessions. Justin plays the Mysterious man who finds Jim’s lost things on the sidewalks of Nashville."

Dita Von Tease's Striptease in Jean Paul Gaultier's Autumn/Winter 2010 Collection

Burlesque dancer and former wife of Marilyn Manson, Dita Von Tease, (check our Art Attacks for one of his paintings and info about an exhibit at the Merry Karnowskly Gallery he's part of through July 24), was a sensation at the show, performing a striptease on the runway. (She moved on from Manson, btw to the divine Count Louis Marie de Castelbajac):



The full striptease at The Huffington Post

 Here she is in Gaultier 2010, 2009:


2010

2009 (my favorite!)

She once appeared, at a benefit for the New York Acadamy of Art, wearing nothing but $5 million in diamonds.

Dita's Website

More of Gaultier's show from AMillionLooks.com:






More from Jean Paul Gaultier: Galerie Gaultier

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bob Weir Held at Canadian Border

Michael O'Neill and Bob Weir

Here's how I'm thinking the conversation that led to Weir's detention went:

Canadian Official: We don't want those damn Deadheads here, they cause all sorts of trouble.

Smart person helping Official think: Well, the thing to do would be to get someone highly visible for something when they try to cross the border. It would set an example, let everyone know that if you have old charges, a criminal record, you know... that sort of thing, we will find and detain you. 

Hey! Bob Weir and Ratdog are coming - lets hassle him, it'll be all over the American press.

That should keep the ones most likely to start trouble out. It would also let the rest of them know we're serious about keeping drugs and crime, (not to mention Deadheads), out of Canada.

Canadian Official takes all credit for idea and orders the detention of Bob Weir.

I doubt, however, that it was that calculated.

More from No Depression

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Spider Eyes!

If only my Pulp Fiction writing great-uncle had had these when he dressed up like his "Spider" character! Follow PulpSpider on Twitter!



I'd wear them with this:

(in the alternate dimension where all of my clothes are designed by Martin Margiela)



(body jewelry by Mad Cow) 

Autobiography of Mark Twain Soon to be Released!



When Twain's autobiography was first edited he said of the process:

"“From the first, second, third and fourth editions all sound and sane expressions of opinion must be left out,” Twain instructed them in 1906. “There may be a market for that kind of wares a century from now. There is no hurry. Wait and see.”

Though it has been previously published, Victorian editors removed reference to anything society of the time would deem controversial, (refer back to Twain's comment above).

"In popular culture today, Twain is “Colonel Sanders without the chicken, the avuncular man who told stories,” Ron Powers, the author of “Mark Twain: A Life,” said in a phone interview. “He’s been scrubbed and sanitized, and his passion has been kind of forgotten in all these long decades. But here he is talking to us, without any filtering at all, and what comes through that we have lost is precisely this fierce, unceasing passion.”

More about what he didn't want people to know 'till 100 years after his death:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/10/books/10twain.html?_r=1

Friday, July 9, 2010

Mike Seeger in Retrospect


I just discovered that my interview with Mike Seeger, http://countrymusicpride.com/mike-seeger/, first published on GratefulWeb.net, may have been his last. It was one of my first and the first interview I'd done with anyone of his caliber. I don't know that there really is anyone of his caliber when you get right down to it, except maybe Levon Helm or his brother Pete; he was a remarkable and hugely influential force.

He's not as well known as a lot of people, (including Pete), but without him music would be undeniably, fundamentaly different. He not only followed in his parents, who worked with the WPA archiving music and folklore in Appalachia, footsteps as a hugely important archivist but he also organzied important folk festivals in the 60s, bringing traditional musicians to the popular forefront. Last but not least, he's credited by Bob Dylan with inspiring him to write his own songs. Did I mention the Grammy?

The interview came about by accident, as life-changing events often do. I was working on a feature for a reigional magazine that looked at a number of musicians from Northern Virginia who were at different places in their careers. The point was to provide a sort of bird's eye view of the changing industry. Seeger lived in Lexington, so had a 540 area code; (same as NOVA). Yep, I mistakenly thought he was from NOVA and that's one of the reasons I got in touch with him.

We talked for a long time and continued to occasionally e-mail in the time that followed. He was particularly intrigued by the account from my Grandmother about music in the rural South and was excited to have it be part of the article. He was extremely nice and very genuine; funny too, calling Google, "Mr. Google" and making tounge-in cheek comments about Johnny Cash, (who "had a great bass", he observed, "but was no June Carter.").

He even took the time to discuss one of my songs, "Wandering William", at length with me and shared my lyrics with Joan Baez, who wrote saying she loved, "Wayfairing Stranger". It was beyond flattering and would have been rather mind-blowing if it hadn't have been for the fact that he was so extremely down to earth, (so was Joan Baez, for that matter).

There's a page at Townes Van Zandt Central of strange dreams were rampant around the time of his death. I had a similar, very odd experience the morning before Mr. Seeger's death was announced. I was at my parents house and my Mom, who knows virtually nothing about music and, I assure you knows nothing whatsoever about Bob Dylan beyond the fact that he wrote "Blowing in the Wind", came downstairs and asked me if Bob Dylan had a drummer. Very surprised I said why yes, he did and that in fact I had met him, strange that she should ask.

Strange indeed. She said she'd had a dream that she was in an auditorium, empty except for a man who introduced himself as Bob Dylan's drummer. She described him as Southern, older and very kind, (hit the nail on the head). She said that he told her he had a message for me and would she please let me know I'd be hearing it soon.

Later that day I found out Mr. Seeger had died.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Mike Seeger? Sure, most of you probably know who he is, or have heard of him, but why isn’t he super-famous, like Bob Dylan or Jerry Garcia? Well, he reminds me of the Wizard of Oz. Ensconced in the emerald green of the Shenandoah Valley, he has been, for some time, a “’man behind the curtain”; an somewhat unseen, yet fundamental force in American music.

As the Wizard didn’t set out to change Oz, Mike didn’t set out to change music, or to be a celebrity. He just does what comes naturally to him. He was born with music in his blood and so he plays.

He’s not an average musician, he’s not even an average exceptional musician. His unique style and approach were somewhat revolutionary during an important and influential era of American music, the 60s. That’s not the type of thing even the most talented musicians achieve. But he didn’t try to do that. He just did all that by being himself.

He’s a very good example of what my Grandmother said, “to be an accomplished musician of any magnitude, you just have to have it somewhere in your bones. You have the something it takes or don’t.” There are many accomplished musicians. Some of them have it in their bones. There is, however, only one Mike Seeger.

He doesn’t keep his talent on an inaccessible pedestal as many who have reached his level of accomplishment do. He shares it by playing it every day with musicians from his own and younger generations, showing us that it can be part of our daily lives as it is of his. Because of this, he has helped shape American music.

Mike is described in ‘Rolling Stone Magazine’ as “An American artist standing forth…himself branch and root of the entwined true vine…” said of himself in our recent interview:

“These days you tend to think of personalities as being the most important thing. When I started with music I thought of that secondarily. Because I’m playing the music, the music I’m choosing says something about me, in sounds and with the types of songs I choose. But I’ve always felt I’m part of a long process, which is why I call it music from the true vine. Mine is just a part of it.”

Although ‘Rolling Stone’ seems to focus on Mike Seeger the celebrity, and Mike Seeger on himself as a part of the Vine. I see that not only is he part of the vine, but its gardener. He is not only a performer but has helped ensure its preservation by devoting himself throughout his life to recording and archiving traditional American music for both the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian.

The lyrics of these songs provide a first-hand history of every day people. It is, in many instances, the only record of them we have. In them, we have a soundtrack of American life. It is part of the ever-growing American cultural tradition Mike Seeger named in his 2005 CD the “True Vine”.

The musical branches of the Vine tumble and wind from Virginia, across Appalachia onward through the territories of American music. Each culture in our country has helped to water it, so that it’s branches have become blues, bluegrass, country, rock, rap and all American genres. In it, we see generational, cultural unity. By participating in it, as listeners or as musicians, we can maintain the unity in our own generation, laying groundwork for generations to come, as Mike did and continues to do.

Bob Dylan, another underlying force of generational unity, said of meeting Mike Seeger, in his Chronicles:

“He was extraordinary, gave me an eerie feeling. Mike was unprecedented. He was a duke, a knight errant. As for being a folk musician, he was the supreme archetype. He could push a stake through Dracula’s black heart…It’s not as if he just played everything well, he played these songs as good as it was possible to play them. It dawned on me that I might have to change my inner thought patterns…the thought occurred to me that maybe I’d have to write my own songs, ones that Mike didn’t know. That was a startling thought.”

Though he does have a strikingly sonorous voice, Mike didn’t strike me as eerie over the phone. In fact, he was the opposite, down to earth, funny. It is a little eerie, however, that almost as if in response to the above he said in our interview:

“All music doesn’t have to be something. These days, people seem to think you either make up your own music or you’re not anything. That’s not the important thing. You can do that, as Mr. Dylan has shown, make up things on your own and show your perception of past, but also what the possibilities are. I think there’s real value in that. I think, at the same time, it’s very important to keep old songs alive.”

Why is keeping the old songs alive so important? Well, there are many answers to that, too many to explore in one feature. One reason is in the music of the True Vine we have a first-hand account of people like my Grandmother, of people who lost the battle of potential versus opportunity: railroad workers, coal miners, members of the underground railroad, those blown about in the Dust Bowl, migrant workers, and countless other minorities and those who fought for their rights throughout American history. It is these people who often have the most to say; but for their songs their voices would be silent.

Of it Mike said:

“It’s very like classical music in a way, but it’s the classical music of the people. That’s why they called it folk music. There was classical music and there was folk music. All music has, since then, built on a combination of both.”

The music of the folks has inspired countless recording artists. Many, if not most, of the songs recorded by both Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead were either traditional or tradition-based songs. Before them, Pete Seeger along with band-mates Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, along with countless others did the same, each in their own unique way. Many follow in their footsteps.

This music encompasses the entire range of human experience and emotion. The songs that speak of hardship seem to be the ones most often re-recorded by popular musicians during turbulent times. Perhaps this is because they are so straightforward about past struggles they unveil present injustices equally well. They speak the timeless truth of the experience of multitudes.

Often the heroes of the songs become archetypes, like John Henry or Stagger Lee Shelton, the first musician on record as selling his soul to the Devil. Some of the musicians who popularized the music have also become almost archetypal, like Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan and, as Bob Dylan himself pointed out, Mike Seeger.

Is this because of the singers or the songs? While the answer is both, (they are as entwined as the branches of the vine), I think the scales tip slightly more heavily on the side of the songs. They are re-interpreted, generation after generation, as they have always been.

We hear them in some of the music of Johnny Cash, who once gave Bob Dylan his guitar, a symbolic gesture that reflected his feeling that their music was connected. In addition to his popular “American” albums and the recent movie about his life, a play based on this, “Ring of Fire,” opened on Broadway in February.

Bob Dylan, up to now infamously reclusive, is breaking the silence with his recently published autobiography as well as in documentary recently aired. A Broadway show incorporating his music is in the works.

These tributes, along with the work of new and established artists have contributed to bringing the immense relevance of this music back to popular attention. Bruce Springsteen recently released a Pete Seeger tribute album. Cyndi Lauper and Bono are incorporating traditional music into their work more and more. Neil Young wrote a new set of songs for his recent protest album. Artists in younger generations are doing the same. We are having another folk revival.

Why right now? It may seem to us that these people and songs speak to us because we feel we live in a uniquely uncertain time. Maybe right now we thirst for truth yet find it too often veiled, so hear the eternal truth of the “True Vine” more clearly.

However, looking back, life has always been this way. Moving forward from 1607 through the history of all American people, decade by decade, one finds new struggles as injustice dons different masks: economic depression, the ravages of the dust bowl, the struggles for equal rights, war after war after war after war after war. In the face of each sorrow, traditional or tradition-based songs rise up and speak loudly against it.

The music of the True Vine is the heart of the struggle. New songs have grown from it, others have been adapted, the words changing as each artist reflects his or her own time in its mirror. The men and women who have written, recorded and popularized these songs have often been jailed, killed or otherwise had their lives destroyed for their efforts. It is in this light that I see Mike’s efforts to “keep these old songs alive” and the importance he places upon doing that.

For example, during the heated struggles for workers’ rights in the early 1900s, a singer, songwriter and activist named Joe Hill was jailed, tried and given a death sentence. His songs were part of the reason why. His music, traditional and tradition-based, became a sort of hymnal for those who fought against the extreme conditions of the Industrial Revolution. This led, ultimately, to the reforms that were the foundation of today’s labor laws. Some of us may know him through the beautiful song Joan Baez wrote about him in the 60s. Most of us have, probably unknowingly, heard his story in the song “Long Black Veil,” recorded by Johnny Cash, The Chieftains and others.

Another example of the force of these songs is found in the life and music of Pete Seeger. He wrote and co-wrote immortal classics like “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “Turn, Turn, Turn” and “We Shall Overcome”. We all know that these and other folk songs were sung as riots raged in the ’60s, but did you know it happened in the ’40s, too? At that time at a music festival in upstate New York, Pete Seeger and many others were attacked in full sight of police. Worse still, the police appear to have assisted the attackers. Why? This was because their music strongly supported integration and workers’ rights, among other things. Poor people, African-Americans and unions, oh my!

Pete would not be defeated, he ‘overcame’, (just like his song) and kept on being an “unsettler” in the landscape of American music. In the ’50s, he was blacklisted by McCarthy, which drove him and much of the newly emerging pop-folk genre underground. When called before the Committee, he refused to speak against others but also refused to take the 5th Amendment, which many artists cited in attempts to avoid testifying about others when faced with the same situation. (They failed. McCarthy imprisoned many and/or had their careers destroyed.)

An unabashed Pete said he was happy to talk about his music, which was, he thought, why he’d been called before them in the first place. As a frustrated and blustering Committee repeatedly talked themselves in circles trying to get something out of him, he asked if they’d heard the music. He then offered to sing instead of speak, humorously remarking that he wasn’t sure how well he’d do without his banjo, but he’d try. The Committee declined and threatened him with 10 years prison time.

The music of the True Vine has also “disrupted” people’s lives in happier ways. An example of this is found in the life and music of Elizabeth Cotten, who worked for the Seeger family. Peggy Seeger, sister of Mike and Pete as well as a beloved folk singer and prolific songwriter, was active in the folk revival in England. Among other songs, she brought Freight Train there, which she had learned from Elizabeth.

Elizabeth won a Grammy in the ’80s for her “Live” album. She was a talented songwriter and had a guitar picking style that influenced the way the instrument is played in popular music today. Though she was obviously a quite remarkable musician, the music-laden Seegers didn’t know it for some time. Mike said:

“She worked for our family for about five years before anyone knew she played an instrument. One day my sister found her playing the family guitar. Later, Peggy sang Freight Train, which at the time I don’t think any of us even knew she’d written, when living in England. It was picked up by English folk singers who made Pop recordings of it. Then Americans made Pop recordings from there. There have been recordings of tradition-based songs ever since. All have been huge hits.”

So, Freight Train was a sort of musical “shot heard ’round the world”. Elizabeth Cotten, contrary to what one might imagine, did not become rich and famous although her song skyrocketed instantly to #5 on British Pop Charts and was recorded by countless other artists. I asked what happened and Mike said that after his brother helped her sue a publishing company she got 1/3. “After that”, he said, “sometimes they paid her and sometimes they didn’t.”

“Was she angry with this?” I asked. “Well, outside of the being angry about the money other people had made with their top 10 covers of her song?”

“I don’t know that she necessarily wanted that,” Mike said. “She was a remarkably graceful person. She didn’t have ill will and she went on being Elizabeth Cotten. She grew to love to perform for people and that’s what she did until she passed.”

What about Mike? Was his life also juggled like dice because of his music? I don’t think so, but he is definitely an “unsettler”. Perhaps he shook things up the most with The New Lost City Ramblers. Though they played traditional Southern music, they weren’t necessarily doing something new simply by doing that; urban musicians had been playing folk songs for quite some time.

The revolutionary thing about The New Lost City Ramblers was they played the music the way it was played in the rural South, whereas others before them gave it an urban sheen, smoothed it over. The Ramblers also toured with or otherwise promoted rural virtuosos like Maybelle Carter, the Stanley Brothers and the Monroe Brothers. The musicians of the urban folk-revival began to imitate them. The ever-humble Mike said of the Ramblers:

“We didn’t become influential, if we were, until the ’60s. A lot of musicians listened to our playing at that time who were folk urban, most notably Bob Dylan and Jerry Garcia. We influenced them and others, not as well known, who started listening to and playing more and more traditional music. Bob Dylan continues. Jerry Garcia was going back that way.”

What did Mike Seeger, hope to find at the end of his yellow- brick road? Fame? Fortune? No. Like the Tin Man, he did it for love.

“I didn’t start out wanting to make a living doing it,” he said with graceful candor. “It just happened that it was possible to do it. We try to, in being musicians on our own, show that it’s accessible from day to day. To show that we have a lot to say, that old songs have a lot to say.”

Because of the impact he has had, in part through showing us that all musicians, of all levels and all generations, have something equally valuable to say, he has helped us to follow the winding path of the True Vine for a very long time. At the end of it, we are fortunate to still find a man, not a wizard. A man who is similar yet different from the rest of us because he most reflects the best parts of us: sincerity, humility, revolutionary boldness, and a rare, all-encompassing patriotism that embraces all Americans as equal. He tells it, or rather, plays it, like it is.

It is also the best of us that is reflected in his music. It is that to which we find him keeping time at the end of the vine. If we but find him and listen, we hear that the most valuable things we have are the unchanging truths we have had all along.

It is certainly a great honor for a musician to receive a Grammy Award, but it seems to me that it is Mike Seeger who has given the musicians and audiences of America the most valuable award of all. The ability to hear our own voices clearly resounding, echoing over centuries and some certainty that generations to follow will continue to do so. He gives us the heart, mind and courageous spirit of America that he so aptly calls the music of the True Vine.

So, if I ever become a rock star or whatever kind of music star, I don’t think I want a Grammy Award. I want a Mike Seeger Award.

Big Nose Kate on Johnny Ringo


From one of her letters:

"Ringo was a fine man any way you look at him. Physically, intellectually, morally," wrote Kate. "He was six feet tall, rather slim in build, although broad-shouldered, medium fair as to complexion with gray-blue eyes and light brown hair. His face was somewhat long.

"He was what might be called an attractive man. His attitude toward all women was gentlemanly. He must have been a gentleman born. Sometimes I noticed something wistful about him, as if his thoughts were far away on something sad. He would say, `Oh, well,' and sigh. Then he would smile, but his smiles were always sad. There was something in his life that only he, himself, knew about....

"He was always neat, clean, well dressed, showed that he took good care of himself. He never boasted of his deeds, good or bad, a trait I have always liked in men. John ... was a loyal friend. And he was noble, for he never fought anyone except face to face. Every time I think of him, my eyes fill with tears."

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