Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Collective Soul at 2008 Taos Solar Music Festival
Collective Bliss, Collective Soul at the Tenth Annual Taos Solar Music Festival, June 28, 2008, photos © 2008 by Jim. All rights reserved.

Here are my souvenirs from Taos — numbness in my right ear and sore calves. Plus, that good kind of exhaustion you get from a night of dancing outdoors, near the stage, to the beat of your favorite band.

We spent the weekend at the Tenth Annual Taos Solar Music Festival. It’s a three-day, multi-band, two-stage event held in Kit Carson Park. Dee and Em’s first concert, not counting local gigs where no one would even think of lighting up a joint. No, Taos caused me pause — Do I even mention what that smell is?

Ed Roland from Collective SoulI didn’t. Instead, I danced to the fabulous band who in the mid-1990s gave us “December,” the song I swear I wanted to record so I could play it on continuous loop during labor.

Soulful. That’s a good way to describe lead singer Ed Gould’s voice. He hails from Stockbridge, GA, son of a Southern Baptist minister. And I couldn’t believe I finally got to hear him in person. Twelve years I’ve been carrying around those lyrics, buying up CDs, and belting tunes in my car.

Define bliss: (outside-of-ten-years-if-they’re-lucky) middle-aged singers reaming strings and throwing microphone stands, wearing tight jeans and blowing kisses to their (assuming-we’re-all-destined-to-be-centenarian) middle-aged fans.

I danced my socks off, shook like I was possessed, rattled my arms in the air, whooped, hollered, whistled myself and everyone around me temporarily deaf, and caused my children to wonder, Is this what they mean when they say someone is speaking in tongues?

My one saving grace? I wasn’t wearing a leather halter top.

Sweet Nectar

It was only natural that Jim, the Hummingbird Whisperer, would be mesmerized two bands earlier by the liquid flute of native son Robert Mirabal, who hails from Taos Pueblo. A man with a message, Mirabal thanked us for bringing our children. Not me and Jim directly, but all of us Glad-Bag-for-raincoats parents and grandparents.

Kids need music. “They hold the future in their hands,” he said. I shivered, stared up at the sky and wondered if the rest of the bands would get rained out.

Then he sang a Circle Song and laughed away the wind, bringing us a still night.

Robert Mirabal   Robert Mirabal
Circle Song, Robert Mirabal at the Tenth Annual Taos Solar Music Festival, June 28, 2008, photos © 2008 by Jim. All rights reserved.

Neither Jim nor I (nor anyone in the audience) could keep our eyes off of Silvana Kane, the Peruvian-born singer of Canadian band Pacifika. This woman was pure beauty, inside and out.

“Qué linda las mujeres de Taos,” she cooed. “How beautiful the women of Taos are, dancing in their skirts.”

We chanted back: “Qué linda!”


Beautiful Spirit, Pacifika at the Tenth Annual Taos Solar Music Festival, June 28, 2008, photos © 2008 by Jim. All rights reserved.

Swimming Down Morada Lane

We stayed at Casa Benavides — the Mabel Dodge Luhan House was full — and what a delight! Homemade granola, yogurt, and fruit as first course at breakfast, along with coffee so strong that even half-and-half couldn’t tame it. Baked goods, French toast, waffles, an egg quiche smothered in red or green.

And another round of baked anything-you-crave from 3-6 pm. Afternoon tea, Taos-style.

From our patio we could hear the music almost as well as if we were at the concert, so we took many walks down Morada Lane, from the park to the inn and back again.

The girls rested, played cards, watched cable, ate lemon bars and pecan pie. Jim and I walked, rested, rocked, rested. Besides the bands mentioned here, we saw or heard Latino sounds, reggae, hip hop, and more.

If you asked my daughters what they loved the most, they might not mention the music. They might say, instead, that they liked shopping the best. Window shopping during our many rounds back and forth, but even better were the Fair Trade vendors at the festival. Tye-dye and sterling silver earrings and beads. Girls love beads.

So in between ice cream and burritos and roasted corn — festival food — not to mention tea, my daughters visited all the vendors many times. Each round, Dee and Em would return bearing bracelets or rings, bought with their own money. I helped Dee pick out her first two single earrings, which is to say, earrings worn without a partner. As in a third piercing, perhaps. Hmmm.


I loved being with my family doing something we all enjoyed, together and individually. Jim danced his Grateful-Dead-inspired shuffle and it was as if our pre-children lives suddenly merged with our post-children lives. Why hadn’t we thought of this before?

My favorite moment? Me in the mosh pit (well, Taos-style) swaying and shaking with friends and strangers; Jim and the girls a safe distance, watching and doing bopping of their own.

Folk Mandala, yarn laid into intricate pattern, seen at the Tenth Annual Taos Solar Music Festival, June 28, 2008, photo © 2008 by Jim. All rights reserved.

“I love Collective Soul, Mom,” Dee tells me as we make our way back to our room.

“You dance like this, Mom,” Em giggles and wiggles her little body as she navigates the sidewalk, throwing her arms this way and that.

I can tell the girls see me anew. For once I’m not just Mom. I’m one with the music, one night in Taos.

That and shin splints.

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Mabel’s Lights IIII, third in series, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008, by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mabel’s Lights IIII, third in series, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos,
New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2011, by QuoinMonkey.
All rights reserved.

When we were sitting around the fire at a writing retreat a few weekends ago, someone threw two questions out on the floor — If you could go back in time, who would you want to meet? What period in history would you visit? The answers stirred up a lively discussion — and 30 minutes of time travel.

Last Friday at the art studio, same thing. We pulled musty old boxes of albums out of storage — Neil Young, Van Morrison, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Joni Mitchell, Olivia artists, Meg Christian, Margie Adam, and Cris Williamson (women who blazed the way for female musicians, Women’s Music, and Lilith Fair), Aretha Franklin, Prince, UB40, Bob Marley, and Two Nice Girls. We played analogue music on a refurbished turntable; the three of us reminisced about the days before Internet, cell phones, and pagers.

People used to sit around in college dorm rooms and spend hours talking about literature, art, music, women’s rights, civil rights, the environment. When we walked into a room, and the first thing we did was throw a scratchy album on the stereo, light candles (when candles still dripped), and plop down on the nearest sofa to talk. We painted blue skies and puffy clouds on the wall of the 1800’s apartment we were renting. Hours passed; we didn’t notice. Yet every second we talked, the world kept changing.

Mabel & Tony, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mabel & Tony, Taos, New Mexico, July 2007, photo © 2007-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

That’s why I’d go back to the 1920’s, to the salons of Paris; to Mabel’s heyday in Taos; to the likes of Gertrude Stein, D. H. Lawrence, Frieda Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, Dorothy Brett, Aldous Huxley, Alfred Stieglitz, and Carl Jung. In the 1920’s, a creative renaissance was booming; the second wave of feminism was rolling across the country, women could finally vote.

Photographer, Berenice Abbott studied with Man Ray in the early 1920’s. Amelia Earhart took her first flying lesson on January 3, 1921, and in six months managed to save enough money to buy her first plane (Hillary Swank will star in the lead role of the upcoming feature film “Amelia” along with Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor. Shooting is taking place in Toronto and the film is currently scheduled to be released sometime in 2009.)

In 1922, Frida Kahlo attended the National Preparatory School in Mexico City, with a goal of studying medicine at university. She admired Diego Rivera as he worked on a mural at the prep school. In 1925, Zora Neale Hurston became Barnard’s first black student, studied under anthropologist, Dr. Franz Boas, and received a scholarship through novelist, Barnard founder, and Harlem Renaissance supporter, Annie Nathen Mayer.

During the 1920s, Hurston was dubbed “Queen of the Renaissance.” She was good friends with Richard Wright until their differences in philosophy, and a dispute over a mutual project they were working on, drove a wedge between them.

For me, it’s the 1920’s, hands down, for time travel. But if I had to choose who I would want to meet, there are three people who come to mind: Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, and James Baldwin.

As a writer, I find Baldwin inspiring. According to Literature, the Companion Website for Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama, Baldwin published:

The man was on fire.

If you could go back in time, where would you go? Who would you like to meet?

Mabel's Place II, The Early Days, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mabel’s Place II, The Early Days, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mabel, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Tony, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mabel, Tony, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC – BAND-AIDS® & OTHER 1920′s INVENTIONS, The Vitality Of Place — Preserving The Legacy Of “Home”

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           Minerva, 1889 - 1890, Roman goddess of poetry, music, wisdom, and warriors (Greek, Athena), bronze sculpture by Norwegian American artist, Jakob H. F. Fjelde, downtown Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Minerva, 1889 – 1890, Roman goddess of poetry, music, wisdom, and warriors (Greek, Athena), bronze sculpture by Norwegian American artist, Jakob H. F. Fjelde, downtown Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



The first black hole was discovered in the same decade that Star Wars was released (and not by Columbo, Charlie’s Angels, or Sonny and Cher). It was the 1970’s, and you were probably wearing Halston ultrasuede or cashmere, leisure suits, platform shoes, string bikinis, and hot pants. Or maybe you were more the Birkenstock type, sporting tie-dye jeans, crocheted vests (think orange and lime green), and bouncy, wide bell-bottoms.

In 1977, there was a world shortage of coffee and prices soared from 50¢ a pound to $3.20 (isn’t it around $12 a pound today?). You might have been playing a lightshow guitar (imitating Pink Floyd), or listening to the Stones, Roberta Flack, the Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, Tony Orlando (knock 3 times), or Gladys Knight and the Pips, on your new Sony Walkman.


The Beatles broke up, Jack Nicholson flew over the cuckoo’s nest, Harold and Maud were the May/December romance of the big screen, playing next to The Deer Hunter, Deliverance, and Saturday Night Fever. Yes, John Travolta was hot (even before his Pulp Fiction days). So was Billie Jean King, Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali, and Jesus Christ Superstar (did you see Andrew Lloyd Webber on American Idol?).

If you are under 21 and voted during the 2008 Presidential Primary, you can thank the 1970’s — the voting age in the U.S. was lowered to 18. And Paper Mate introduced a new erasable ink pen, allowing you to wipe out those pesky voting mistakes in a single swipe.

But don’t jump too fast. It was before the age of the hanging chad. The Apple II computer had just hit the market, the first email took a lumbering ride across ARPANet (central backbone during the development of the Internet), and Intel’s first microprocessor 4004 (1971) contained 2,300 transistors (today’s will run 3,000 times faster).

            Study In Light, downtown Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Study In Light, downtown Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Study In Light, downtown Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

In the 1970’s Annie Hall was all the rage, along with Club Med, the VCR, streaking (yes, I tried it), and Pet Rocks (move over Sony the Pug!). Patty Hearst wielded her first machine gun, Son of Sam ran loose in the streets, Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, murdered 1-2 million people, and the Ohio National Guard shot and killed 4 college students at Kent State during an anti-war demonstration. Doesn’t that just blow your mind?

In the Me Decade, Elvis died of an overdose. So did Sid Vicious and Jim Morrison. Life and Look magazines were defunct by the end of the decade, along with cigarette advertising on TV, the draft, the VW bug (so they thought), and the Vietnam War. There was a recession in 1974 on top of an oil crisis in 1973 (what’s changed?). And TV would never be the same: Bonanza ended after 14 years; Gunsmoke after 20; and Ed Sullivan called it quits after 23 years.

You don’t see that kind of longevity in 21st Century media. Nor would you ever see televised daily proceedings of a national debacle like Richard Nixon and Watergate.


The world’s first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, was born in England, CAT-scans were introduced, the Heimlich maneuver perfected, and popular 70’s culture was buzzing with new words and phrases:  Murphy’s Law, Pro-choice, pumping iron, Punk rock, Rubik’s cube. Don’t rock the boat!

Money, money, money — 180,000 Americans were millionaires by the mid-70’s, an average hospital stay would set you back $81 a day, and a First Class postage stamp was 6¢ (Airmail, 10¢). The Metropolitan Museum paid $5.5 million for a Diego Velázquez portrait, while the Susan B. Anthony dollar took a political nosedive.

Rupert Murdoch bought the New York Post in the 70’s, and Cosmopolitan blossomed with Helen Gurley Brown at the helm. But literature (and a few oddball tomes thrown in for good measure) still boomed under the watchful eye of Minerva, Roman goddess of poetry and wisdom.

You can tell a lot about a person by the books they read. You can also tell a lot about a culture. In the 1970’s, here’s what America was reading.

  Minerva, Goddess Of Poetry, downtown Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Minerva, Goddess Of Poetry, downtown Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Minerva, Goddess Of Poetry, downtown Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Minerva, Goddess Of Poetry, downtown Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

1 9 7 0 ‘ s – B E S T S E L L E R S


  1. Love Story; Oliver’s Story, Erich Segal
  2. The French Lieutenant’s Woman, John Fowles
  3. Islands in the Stream, Ernest Hemingway
  4. Travels with My Aunt, Graham Greene
  5. Rich Man, Poor Man, Irwin Shaw
  6. Wheels; Overload, Arthur Hailey
  7. The Exorcist, William P. Blatty
  8. The Day of the Jackal, Frederick Forsyth
  9. Message from Malaga, Helen MacInnes
  10. Rabbit Redux, John Updike
  11. The Betsy, Harold Robbins
  12. The Winds of War, Herman Wouk
  13. Jonathan Livingston Seagull; Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, Richard Bach
  14. The Odessa File, Frederick Forsyth
  15. My Name Is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok
  16. Captains and the Kings, Taylor Caldwell
  17. Once Is Not Enough; Delores, Jacqueline Susann
  18. Breakfast of Champions; Jailbird; Slapstick: or, Lonesome No More!, Kurt Vonnegut
  19. Burr; 1876, Gore Vidal
  20. The Hollow Hills, Mary Stewart
  21. Evening in Byzantium, Irwin Shaw
  22. The Drifters; Centennial; Chesapeake, James A. Michener
  23. The Matlock Paper, Robert Ludlum
  24. The Billion Dollar Sure Thing, Paul E. Erdman
  25. Watership Down, Richard Adams
  26. Jaws; The Deep, Peter Benchley
  27. The Dogs of War, Frederick Forsyth
  28. The Fan Club, Irving Wallace
  29. I Heard the Owl Call My Name, Margaret Craven
  30. Ragtime, E. L. Doctorow
  31. The Moneychangers, Arthur Hailey
  32. Curtain; Sleeping Murder, Agatha Christie
  33. Looking for Mister Goodbar, Judith Rossner
  34. The Choirboys, Joseph Wambaugh
  35. The Eagle Has Landed, Jack Higgins
  36. The Greek Treasure: A Biographical Novel of Henry and Sophia Schliemann, Irving Stone
  37. The Great Train Robbery, Michael Crichton
  38. Shogun, James Clavell
  39. Humboldt’s Gift, Saul Bellow
  40. Trinity, Leon Uris
  41. A Stranger in the Mirror, Bloodlines, Sidney Sheldon
  42. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien; Christopher Tolkien
  43. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough
  44. How To Save Your Own Life, Erica Jong
  45. Delta of Venus: Erotica, Anaïs Nin
  46. War and Remembrance, Herman Wouk
  47. Fools Die, Mario Puzo
  48. Scruples, Judith Krantz
  49. Sophie’s Choice, William Styron
  50. The Dead Zone, Stephen King
  51. The Third World War: August 1985, Gen. Sir John Hackett, et al.
  52. Smiley’s People, John Le Carré


 Goddess Of Wisdom, downtown Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Goddess Of Wisdom, downtown Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Goddess Of Wisdom, downtown Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Goddess Of Wisdom, downtown Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


1 9 7 0 ‘ s – B E S T S E L L E R S


  1. Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex but Were Afraid To Ask, David Reuben, M.D.
  2. The New English Bible
  3. The Sensuous Woman, “J”
  4. Better Homes and Gardens Fondue and Tabletop Cooking; Better Homes and Gardens Blender Cook Book; Better Homes and Gardens Home Canning Cookbook
  5. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, William Morris
  6. Body Language, Julius Fast
  7. In Someone’s Shadow; Caught in the Quiet, Rod McKuen
  8. The Sensous Man, “M”
  9. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown
  10. I’m O.K., You’re O.K., Thomas Harris
  11. Any Woman Can!, David Reuben, M.D.
  12. Inside the Third Reich, Albert Speer
  13. Eleanor and Franklin, Joseph P. Lash
  14. Wunnerful, Wunnerful!, Lawrence Welk
  15. Honor Thy Father, Gay Talese
  16. Fields of Wonder, Rod McKuen
  17. The Living Bible, Kenneth Taylor
  18. Open Marriage, Nena and George O’Neill
  19. Harry S. Truman, Margaret Truman
  20. Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution, Robert C. Atkins
  21. The Peter Prescription, Laurence J. Peter
  22. A World Beyond, Ruth Montgomery
  23. Journey to Ixtlan; Tales of Power; The Second Ring of Power, Carlos Castaneda
  24. The Joy of Sex; More Joy: A Lovemaking Companion to The Joy of Sex, Alex Comfort
  25. Weight Watchers Program Cookbook, Jean Nidetch
  26. How To Be Your Own Best Friend, Mildred Newman, et al.
  27. The Art of Walt Disney, Christopher Finch
  28. Alistair Cooke’s America, Alistair Cooke
  29. Sybil, Flora R. Schreiber
  30. The Total Woman, Marabel Morgan
  31. All the President’s Men; The Final Days, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
  32. You Can Profit from a Monetary Crisis, Harry Browne
  33. All Things Bright and Beautiful; All Things Wise and Wonderful, James Herriot
  34. The Bermuda Triangle, Charles Berlitz with J. Manson Valentine
  35. Angels: God’s Secret Agents, Billy Graham
  36. Winning Through Intimidation; Looking Out for #1; Restoring the American Dream, Robert Ringer
  37. TM: Discovering Energy and Overcoming Stress, Harold H. Bloomfield
  38. Sylvia Porter’s Money Book, Sylvia Porter
  39. Total Fitness in 30 Minutes a Week, Laurence E. Morehouse and Leonard Gross
  40. Breach of Faith: The Fall of Richard Nixon, Theodore H. White
  41. Roots, Alex Haley
  42. Your Erroneous Zones; Pulling Your Own Strings, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
  43. Passages: The Predictable Crises of Adult Life, Gail Sheehy
  44. The Grass ls Always Greener over the Septic Tank; If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries–What Am I Doing in the Pits?; Aunt Erma’s Cope Book, Erma Bombeck
  45. Blind Ambition: The White House Years, John Dean
  46. The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality, Shere Hite
  47. The Right and the Power: The Prosecution of Watergate, Leon Jaworski
  48. The Book of Lists, David Wallechinsky, Irving Wallace, and Amy Wallace
  49. The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence, Carl Sagan
  50. The Amityville Horror, Jay Anson
  51. Gnomes, Wil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet
  52. The Complete Book of Running, James Fixx
  53. Mommie Dearest, Christina Crawford
  54. RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, Richard Nixon
  55. Faeries, Brian Froud and Alan Lee
  56. The Muppet Show Book, the Muppet People
  57. The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet, Herman Tarnower, M.D., and Samm Sinclair Baker
  58. The Pritikin Program for Diet and Exercise, Nathan Pritikin and Patrick McGrady Jr.
  59. White House Years, Henry Kissinger
  60. Lauren Bacall By Myself, Lauren Bacall
  61. The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court, Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong

     Study In Light, downtown Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.         Study In Light, downtown Minneapolis Central Library,<br /> Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
Study In Light, downtown Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, April 24th, 2008

-Resources:  1970’s Bestsellers List from Cader Books, Writer’s Dream Tools, and The Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library

-related to posts: The 1950’s – What Was America Reading?, The 1960’s — What Was America Reading?, and Book Talk – Do You Let Yourself Read?

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The first time I heard Beatles ’65 I was 9 or 10. It was a big deal because it was my first LP, the FIRST vinyl 33 1/3 Long Playing record album I ever owned. Before that, I had a series of 45’s, neatly stacked in the small bedroom I shared with my younger sister. We lived in a suburb near North Augusta, South Carolina, off the north bank of the Savannah River.

Beatles ’65 was released in December of 1964. After 40 plus years, I don’t honestly remember if my parents gave it to me for Christmas in 1964, or later in 1965. I only know I wore the wax grooves right down to the base. The Beatles stormed the U.S. in ’64. I saved a few 45’s, originals from that period: A Hard Day’s Night on Side A, I Should Have Known Better on the B Side. I Love Her on Side A, If I Fell on the B Flip. I was nuts for McCartney back then. Later it would be Lennon (of course).

The original Beatles ’65 album, with the lads from Liverpool in (almost) collarless suits and ties clutching playful black, red, and beige umbrellas, is packed away with my other 9 or 10 boxes of vinyl. I should get the cover framed. Even though it’s over-worn and has “one” of my last names (yes, I decided to change my name for a while in the 60’s) splashed in 4th or 5th grade backslant cursive across the front corner in black magic maker.

Back then there weren’t 800 different kinds of markers. A pen was a pen. It was a big deal when the Finepoint BIC with the white barrel (instead of orange yellow) and navy cap came out. And most permanent markers were used to scribble initials on waist bands of cotton laundry before summer trips to Girl Scout camp. Sharpies didn’t come with fancy neon carabiner clips that hook around your neck like the set clipped to my pack today.

I don’t remember headphones when listening to Beatles ’65. They must have come later. But those 11 songs remain some of my favorite Beatles music. Obscure. Understated. Un-blockbuster. I Feel Fine (beginning with George’s famous guitar riff, ending in his reverb feedback), I’m A Loser, I’ll Follow The Sun, and No Reply are just plain sad. Then you’ve got John’s raucous Rock And Roll Music with lumbering Ringo’s slow moving country on Honey Don’t.

What I remember most about that time is starting to know what it meant to fall in love, elementary school style (after all, Michael Suggs gave me his ID bracelet). And I remember what it felt like to lose love (how could Ronnie Collins fall for someone else?). I remember my Uncle Bill having dance parties at our house. He and his friends lined up like trains to do Little Eva’s Locomotion; they’d scoot around the corner of the house to steal a kiss in the dark by the luminous magnolias.

I remember my parents doing The Twist in the living room, the balls of their feet rotating on the Johnson’s paste wax floor (they loved to dance). I remember the succulent magnolias, the lone Charlie Brown pine out front, the massive green water tower built on the layers of pine needles back behind our house. (My step-dad reminded me in June that I went inside the tower with my friends, even though I’d been given strict orders not to. I got in so much trouble that day.)

I remember that music became a shelter for me. Shelter from the coming storms. The suitcase record player I carried from room to room had a setting for 45’s, a setting for LP’s. Later, I would get a green RCA spindle style record player for Christmas. I’d stack album after album; they spit a dull clack! when they dropped on top of each other. The static cling that hit the diamond needle, the counterbalance on the arm that had to be just so not to wear out the grooves in the wax. (If it was a double album set, Sides 1 and 4 would be on one record, Sides 2 and 3 on the other so you could listen in order.)

Records had a smell, too. Not plastic – vinyl. Have you ever smelled vinyl? And sometimes they were pressed in dull red, yellow or blue. The Beatles? Basic black.

My friend, Gail, saw the Beatles play in Minneapolis in the Twins old Met Stadium. Built in 1956, the classic outdoor stadium in Bloomington was abandoned for the Metrodome in 1982 and torn down in 1985 to make way for the Mall of America. The Beatles played at the Met during the Shea Stadium days and they were only a finger’s width big against the distance to the nosebleed seats.

The Beatles were the biggest thing ever to hit America up until that point in time. I loved them right through my 20’s and 30’s. When the Beatles Black Box Master Collection of albums came out in the early 80’s, I bought it. And when I first met Liz, I played a couple of the wax masters for her on the refurbished turntable Gail gave me for my birthday that year.

What I really want to say is music gave me a place to hide. Growing up in a large family where space was at a premium, I fell straight down into the headphones during my privacy starved junior high days. I don’t know when I decided it was okay to crawl out. In the 70’s, FM radio was king, the alternative to pop love songs and country twang. I first heard Neil Young, CSN, and the Grateful Dead on FM radio.

And remember quadraphonic speakers and albums? Reel-to-reel or 8-Tracks? Everything was analogue and simpler then. I went to Brown Institute in recording for a few semesters in the 1980’s. I had an instructor who taught me how to mix albums. He hated digital. Why? He said analogue captured the guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards in their purest state, the closest to Live. And to this day, I can hear the difference. He taught me what to listen for. Deep listening.

I still use deep listening. In writing. Art. And, yeah, when I listen to music. I still love music. And I remember those Christmases in North Augusta with great fondness. My heart thumps a little faster when I think of race car tracks winding through the living room or the smell of train transformers (remember that bottled liquid you dropped into the smokestack with an eyedropper to produce train smoke?).

I remember real tinsel and my grandmother’s first aluminum tree with the color wheel that rotated through primary green, red, blue, with a dash of diffused orange. Her birthday is tomorrow, Winter Solstice. She comes to visit me from the other side quite often.

I remember feeling safe and scared at the same time, something not unfamiliar to me now. I remember Beatles ’65. And I feel fine.

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, December 20th, 2007

-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – LOVE ME LIKE MUSIC (TOP 10)

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Blood On The Tracks, newly painted door of Bob Dylan's childhood home, Hibbing, Minnesota, May 2006, photo © 2007 by Liz. All rights reserved.     Blood On The Tracks, newly painted door of Bob Dylan's childhood home, Hibbing, Minnesota, May 2006, photo © 2007 by Liz. All rights reserved.

Blood On The Tracks, newly painted door of Bob Dylan's childhood home, Hibbing, Minnesota, May 2006, photo © 2007 by Liz. All rights reserved.     Blood On The Tracks, newly painted door of Bob Dylan's childhood home, Hibbing, Minnesota, May 2006, photo © 2007 by Liz. All rights reserved.

Blood On The Tracks, newly painted garage door on Dylan’s childhood home, part of the Dylan Days tour, Hibbing, Minnesota, May 2006, photo © 2006 by Liz. All rights reserved.

I’ve had music on the brain. Last week I watched an October interview with Nancy and Ann Wilson on A&E’s Private Sessions. The two members of one of the greatest rock bands of all time, Heart, were in fine form. Ann Wilson has a new CD called Hope & Glory.  She tackles everyone from Shawn Colvin, Alison Krauss, k.d. lang, Rufus Wainwright, and Elton John – all the way to classic rockers, Led Zeppelin.

Watching I’m Not There a few weeks ago at the Uptown, and researching The 6 Faces Of Dylan, stirred up a few memory bars, too. I started compiling a list of my all-time Top 10 Albums (remember those scratches, ticks, and pops!), followed closely by my all-time Top 10 Singles. What happened next was a flood of memories associated with not only the songs, but whole albums.

I cut my teeth on early James Brown, Chubby Checker (is there anyone who doesn’t know The Twist?), and Beatles ’65. I listened to them on a beige RCA suitcase record player with a silver latch. I toted that thing everywhere and wore extra grooves into my coveted collection of 45’s (housed in a padded pink, Barbie record case).

I remember my favorite 33 rpm’s as concept pieces – I couldn’t listen to just one song. I had to hear the whole waxy platter (flip!), both sides:  Neil Young’s, Harvest, Joni Mitchell’s Court & Spark (and Blue), Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, the Anthology: Best of the Temptations (double set), Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection with Come Down In Time. And don’t forget the Johnny Mathis and Nat King Cole Christmas albums.

Then there are the obscure singles like Brook Benton’s Rainy Night in Georgia (this song still gets to the sadness in me), Lulu’s To Sir With Love, or The Association’s Cherish. Along with blockbusters like Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine, Otis Redding’s Dock Of The Bay, Bobby Darin’s Mack The Knife, Wilson Pickett’s Mustang Sally, or Tina Turner’s version of John Fogerty’s (Creedence Clearwater Revival) Proud Mary.

Maybe for you it was Elvis, the Fugees, Crosby Stills & Nash, The Guess Who, Steely Dan, the Supremes, Janice Ian, or Ferron. Maybe it was an old rock or country album your parents played when you were growing up. What about Hendrix, Woodstock, Janis Joplin, The Jayhawks, Los Lobos, Nirvana, Glen Campbell (I admit, Wichita Lineman, written by Jimmy Webb, is one of my faves), Leonard Cohen, or The Squirrel Nut Zippers.

Music and memories. Head back as far into your mental musical archives as you can go. Then connect the dots:

  • Make a list of your Top 10 Albums (8-tracks, cassettes, CD’s) of all time, music that has impacted your life (it doesn’t have to be forever. You can change your mind later. Grab them off the top of your head. Don’t anguish over it!)
  • Make a list of your Top 10 Singles of all time (same thing, don’t make it a big deal)
  • Choose one of the Titles from your combined lists of 20 Hits.

Do a 15 minute writing practice on one of the following:

  • When I hear ____ I remember…
  • The first time I heard ____ …
  • The last time I heard ____…
  • This song reminds me of _____…
  • The first time I saw ______ in concert…

It doesn’t matter what kind of music you like. What matters is how the music moves you. Music lifts the spirits, forces your body to sway, slings you into the fires of passion, keeps you young, and, for better or worse, is undeniably connected to love.

Think about the music that has most impacted your life. Drop some of your Top 10 Titles into the comments below (the more memories we stir, the better!).

And if you Love Me Like Music, I’ll be your song.

-posted on red Ravine, Monday, December 10th, 2007

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The 6 Faces Of Dylan, Varsity Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The 6 Faces Of Dylan, Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There, Uptown Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Buttered popcorn in hand, I viewed I’m Not There at the Uptown Theater a few weeks ago. I have to admit, when my friends and I plopped down in the Uptown’s long-ago upholstered, vintage seats, we had no idea what to expect.

I wasn’t disappointed. The Todd Haynes film is a riddle inside a Cate Blanchett enigma. Playing Jude, the Thin, Wild Mercury Bob, she’s one of the best parts of the whole film, right down to her classic 1965 polka dot shirt. Her flavorful and juicy depiction of Dylan brought to mind one of my favorite scenes from the D. A. Pennebaker film, Don’t Look Back (a documentary on Bob Dylan’s tour of England in 1965).

Even if you aren’t a Dylan fan, rent this film. It captures the strange unrest and tension between (and within) 60’s counterculture and what was then considered The Establishment (aka The Man). (Yes, that’s Ginsberg in the background.)

Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues clip from the 1965 D.A. Pennebaker film, Don’t Look Back (posted by JG2000 on YouTube)

But I digress.

Other heavy hitters in I’m Not There? (The Rolling Stone character guide lays it out for you.) Richard Gere as a kind of Billy the Kid in The Drifter’s Escape. Marcus Carl Franklin as the 11-year-old Woody, Bound For Glory. Christian Bale as Jack, the protest singer, and Pastor John, the evangelical minister in You Gotta Serve Somebody. Heath Ledger portrays Jack in the Dylan period near and dear to my heart – the Tangled Up In Blue, Blood On The Tracks era. And finally, the least understood, Ben Whishaw as Arthur, the Poet, Jokerman, and Thief.

Confused? Not half as much as you will be when you watch this film. Even diehard fans will do a few doubletakes. The film is chock full of symbolism and references to the life and times of Bob Dylan. The Woody Guthrie scene was moving. I laughed out loud at Cate Blanchett’s romp on the hill with the Beatles. And her encounters with Allen Ginsberg (played by David Cross) are worth the $8.50 ticket.

Dylan Days - Zimmy's Magnet, Hibbing, Minnesota, Summers 2005, 2006,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  I’m not a hardcore Dylan fan, more of a convert. It seems I have always dated, studied under, and partnered with women who love Dylan.  But Blood On The Tracks is one of my all-time Top 10 albums. And I wouldn’t trade the last two summers of Dylan Days in Hibbing, Minnesota for the world.

Dylan Days unfolds in Hibbing every year, complete with a bus tour, battle of the bands (at Zimmy’s), walk-through of his childhood home, and every Dylan book imaginable at the independent bookstore, Howard Street Booksellers. There’s a screening of the Mary Feidt/Natalie Goldberg film, Tangled Up In Bob. And at our last Dylan Days, Liz and I saw the original Minnesota Blood On The Tracks band perform on the same Hibbing High School stage where Dylan got his start.

Dylan is a poet’s poet. He has stolen a corner of my heart. Not only for his prolific writing, but for all he has endured – the legend he has become. He’s another of those misunderstood rebels, like James Dean and Kerouac, who’s gotten under my skin.

You’ll find I’m Not There playing at an independent theater in the artsy section of town; judge the 135 minute film for yourself. If you’re not a Dylan fan, I guarantee you’ll leave shaking your head. If you are a Dylan fan, you’ll still leave scratching it. Then you’ll go out to Sebastian Joe’s for ice cream and talk about the symbolism you did get, vowing to see it again for all that you missed.

I don’t want to spoil the fun by inserting the trailer. Instead, I’m going to wrap this up with another YouTube clip that shows Dylan at his best – romping with Allen Ginsberg.

Bob Dylan & Allen Ginsberg from the 1978 film, Renaldo and Clara, music Not Dark Yet from Time Out of Mind (posted by chimeman on YouTube – if you click on his link, you can see a ton more Dylan clips)

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, December 6th, 2007

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I find humor in ridiculous things like the Great Pumpkin Catapult or singing moldy oldies with Liz in the morning when I’m spooning French Roast into the Braun. I crack up after belting out dreadful tunes from the seventies, something by Gilbert O’Sullivan or Bread, or rocking out, jammin’ to Stevie Wonder in Happy Feet.

I smiled the whole way through a documentary Liz taped off PBS on Les Paul. The way he invented machines to overdub tapes, recorded in every room in his house with his wife, Mary Ford, and, of course, made guitar after guitar with big bodied, amplified sound. Without Les Paul there would be no rock and roll.

Did you know he’s a Midwesterner, born in Waukesha, Wisconsin; his last name was Polfuss before it was Paul. He’s worth millions, saved every guitar, every recording machine, every headset and microphone. The collection will be in the Smithsonian. He’s in his 90’s, still going strong. He loves to laugh and smile and play his guitar for audiences for a pittance. He loves life. That makes me laugh. I want to be near people who love life.

I don’t find humor in jokes. I never have. Riddles and rhymes that crack other people up are lost on me. I just don’t find jokes funny. Half the time they seem crazy or dumb to me. The other half, I probably don’t get it and stare at the person with my face curled up in a dumbfounded question mark. That’s me. The jokeless wonder. I think I still turned out okay.

I laugh out loud when Liz and I dance all crazy across the kitchen floor. This is a regular occurrence. So you can guess, I laugh a lot. I laugh when I play fetch with Mr. Stipeypants. I knew he was okay when I found his furry red ball, his trophy, in his food dish yesterday.

I smile when I watch the moon rise through the oaks. Liz called on the way to work to tell me the full moon tonight will be the closest to the Earth of any in 2007. The movement of planets, moons, and stars makes me smile, connects me to something way bigger than me. I like paying attention to when Mercury is in retrograde (right now). Retrograde, moving around the sun in an orbit opposite to earth. Don’t sign any contracts. Expect communication delays. Back up your computer.

A friend sent me an email a few days ago letting me know that mischievous Mercury, messenger of the god Jupiter, the smallest planet nearest the sun, was up to his old tricks, turning his face counterclockwise, contorting what normally travels with godspeed to a likely destination. I don’t laugh at myself enough. I work every day to let go.

When darkness falls, I’ll watch the Moon’s billowy skirt slide through crackling, clinging leaves along golden rayed bundles of clouds over the deck. I’ll wish I had a tripod to screw on the digital Canon body. I’ll sigh, decide to skip the photos, and enjoy the Earth in shadowy descent.

-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – A LAUGHING MATTER

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what if merv were chicano?
Merv García, pen and ink and pencil on graph paper, doodle © 2007 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

Merv Griffin: OK, my little pajaritos, do we have any requests?

Someone in audience: Y volver, volver, volver…

Someone else in audience: …a mis brazos otra vez…

MG: Coños, babies, come on, I’m not Al Hurricane…let me play you una cancioncita about my lovely bunch of coco-nuts…

Someone in audience: Al Hurricane? I thought you were Tony Bennett, oyé!

Someone else in audience: ¿Qué cosa Tony Bennett? ¡Oralé, he’s Engulburk Humperdink!

what if merv were chicano?what if merv were chicano?what if merv were chicano?what if merv were chicano?what if merv were chicano?

-Related to posts What If The Southwest Guy Were Chicano? and What If Madge Were Chicana?

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By Teri Blair

It’s been 40 days since the 35W Bridge collapsed. Today, a sunny Fall day, I’ve come down to view the site…the first day (since the first fitful days of August) that I’ve been here. I’m writing this from the 10th Ave Bridge. I stand close enough to the collapse site to see everything, practically close enough to touch the pillars, the crushed railroad cars, the twisted steel. It looks smaller than I expected, like that feeling I have when I go back to my elementary school and the rooms seem little.

As in early August, a huge crowd gathers. We stand in respectful silence and awe. Seeing. It sinks in, one level deeper. In the river there are 5 barges, the ones used for clean up. They bob slightly in the muddy Mississippi, and I wonder how the divers found anyone. The river is dark, even with the midday sun. Two of the barges have cranes several stories high perched on them, and I don’t see the flags at first. I can’t see much at first. There is too much to look at, and all I can do is stand there. Absorbing it into my cells. But then I see it; a flag is flying against the blue sky, the Minneapolis skyline in the background. I instantly remember seeing the flags flying at Ground Zero, and I have the same rush of faith and patriotism and tenderness for what has happened. I look around, and see flags everywhere around the collapse site. There are 8. On the cranes, the barges, the trailer where the demolition crew takes their breaks. And I know someone thought that through. It was the way someone showed up for what happened here.

I walk the length of the bridge. Slowly. When I get to the end and turn to walk back, women begin to pass me wearing cotton dresses and white bonnets. And then their men come. The single ones clean-shaven, the married with beards. My attention turns from the bridge to the Mennonites, and I realize they are curious, too. Then, quite suddenly, the group of 50 clusters near one of the lookout points and forms a choir. They begin to sing a cappella hymns in 4-part harmony. Their voices are gentle, soothing, the music floating over the site and the people viewing it. I am singing the lyrics with them in my head—all familiar songs from my early upbringing in the church. A Mennonite man approaches me with a CD of their music. I accept it. He tells me they have driven up from southern Iowa to sing on the bridge. A 5-hour trip. They sing 7 songs, and continue across the bridge.

I continue walking. An artist paints the collapsed bridge with her oils, an easel set up. Parents quietly explain to their children what they’re seeing. The voices are mainly those of the children, innocent questions about how people drown, would the choo-choo train be okay; one cries when he thinks his big brother has a better view.

I came here today simply because I needed to. I came without expectations. It was time. What I didn’t plan on was the feeling of tremendous unity. Everyone tries to make sense of this, and brings what they have. The Army Corps of Engineers brings their flags; the Mennonites bring their music, the artist her palette. A feeling of deep peace permeates the crowd. And I can see somehow (as the Mennonites have sung)…It is well with my soul.

About Teri:  Teri is a writer from Minnesota, living in Minneapolis. She went to the I-35W collapse site every day for several days immediately following the tragedy, but she was not able to see the bridge up close due to barricades blocking public access. Teri again visited the site this past weekend, where she did the writing practice “40 Days, 8 Flags, and 1 Mennonite Choir.” This post is a follow-up to “Thornton Wilder & Bridges,” a piece Teri wrote shortly after the August 1, 2007, bridge collapse.

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A train whistle howls in the distance. I hear it every night at the same time. A night owl growl out the window. It comforts me. A ritual I’ve come to expect. Hearing. Ears. Sights. Smells. The smell of the sweatshirt I’m wearing, a combination of both me and Liz.

The taste of the sweet tea on the nightstand by the bed. Brushing my teeth with the pocket-size Crest, flossing in the morning on the way down the stairs, rubbing my hand across the cool oak banister. Coffee. French roast in the morning. While I am travelling it’s been International coffees with vanilla cream. Stirring, There is the ritual of stirring.

Travel rituals – checking emails, grounding on red Ravine, text messages from Liz, voicemails from home. Mostly I write late at night. And still try to get some sleep. The work here is exhausting. The rewards are many. When I am on a road trip, the rituals are different. I sometimes drive in silence, no radio. Mom fell asleep on the passenger side while I was driving through North Carolina on the way down, much needed sleep. I simply drove in the peacefulness.

Sometimes we talked, too, and caught up, and listened to old country like Patsy Cline and Merle Haggard. And Mom said she knew Brenda Lee when she was a kid. Lee’s family lived close by and she walked into the Winn-Dixie one night where Mom worked as a teenager.

I haven’t been home in a few years. I took advantage of the travel time to fill in the gaps. Other times, I slept and she drove. Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania. We landed here, near the Savannah. Rivers are grounding for me. The Savannah is the boundary between Georgia and South Carolina. It seems I have always lived near trains and rivers.

Something I’ve noticed when writing memoir, digging for gold, is to be around places, landmarks, music, and food that you want to write about. When you interview people, take them to these places, play the music, go out and eat the food. It excavates the memories even more when the senses are stimulated. Memory is connected to ALL the senses.

Daily travel rituals, the things I do every single day: shower, wash my hair, shave my legs, brush my teeth, put on clean cargo shorts and a T-shirt, walk down the stairs, drink two cups of coffee, eat a light breakfast, check email, check the blog, call Liz, usually morning and evening, write, take notes in my Supergirl notebook, check my horoscope, comment on the blog, make the bed, make sure I’ve got a pen and tablet in my pocket when I go out of the house, carry my camera and voice recorder.

I sit in silence first thing in the morning, and last thing before bed.

Everything in its place on my piles on the bed. I restore order before bed. Where Liz would normally be resting are notebooks and cords and camera bags and photographs I’ve collected from long lost relatives. Articles my mother has set aside for me to read, history travel books, information on the family tree. Maps and the TV remote. My bifocals fall from my wrist when I hit the tired wall and land right where they fall until morning.

I check the odometer when I drive. I try not to let the gas tank get too far below a quarter left in the tank. When we drove out to Clarks Hill and stopped for gas, a local rolled down his window and commented on Mom’s license place. It has GRITS (Girls Raised in the South) in part of it. He was a gruff looking guy with a scraggly beard and green baseball cap and scared me at first when he started yelling out of his beat up Ford pickup.

He wanted to make a point to ask me as I went to pump the gas, “Hey, does that mean the same thing up there that it does down here?” I laughed and said, “Yep, we were both raised down here. You can’t take the South out of the girl.”

At the moment, I’m finding it hard to concentrate while I write. So I want to gravitate toward making lists. It’s 1am and I have to get up fairly early. Time to myself is precious. So is time with my mother and my step-dad and uncle.

Time is a strange thing. You never know when you might not have it again. I keep digging. And the well is deep. It’s the daily rituals that keep me sane.

Wednesday Morning, 1am, June 6th, 2007

-from Topic post, Rich in Ritual

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I am sitting on a burgundy leather couch in the Satellite coffee shop. I used to come here and write with a small group of people, we did Bones-style writing, and I remember how much the music bothered me. Today, now, it’s a bluesy piece with an organ played low and a woman’s smoky voice. Lounge music. It all sounds the same to me. I wish they’d turn the volume down just a hair or two.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day observed. I think Wednesday might be the real Memorial Day. Is it May 30? I go tomorrow with Dad to Costilla, to the graveyard where his mom and dad are buried. It’s our tradition for this day. I told someone about this and she said, Isn’t Memorial Day for soldiers who’ve died? I don’t know, I told her. All I know is this is what we do, me and Dad. Not always, but for the past several years. Maybe seven or eight, I don’t know. Dad has done it for a long time. I joined him back when I realized it was a time to get to know Dad better. To get to know where he came from. I spent so much time knowing Mom and her parents. Dad’s were dead by the time any of us came around.

And now that musician with the head of curls, the one that Julia Roberts married for a while. What’s his name? That’s who’s playing over the speaker now, and I’m trying to think what I might have to say about Memorial Day that this song is preventing me from getting to. Nothing, perhaps. Nothing except Memorial Day seems to have become a holiday for grilling steaks or hamburgers, drinking beer. Opening up the pool. That’s fine. It’s good to have a day off, and for most people, when they have a chance to finally sit back and not think of much of anything, they think about their grandparents or parents or uncles or whoever it is that’s passed on and out of their lives.

Dad will meet me at my house at 7 in the morning. The girls went home tonight with Mom. This is about the first chance I’ve had to just sit down and write. To check on the blog. To do much of anything besides unpacking and organizing and staining those cabinet doors I took off the cupboard below the bathroom sink over a month ago. And now we’re living in the new house, things are all over the floor, paintings and photos. We have so much stuff. I thought we were getting rid of things along the way but somehow we didn’t lose enough.

And now an upbeat song by one of those young female vocalists like Avril Lagrine, or whatever her name is. I keep thinking my alarm has gone off, there’s so much noise in here now. Someone ordered an icy drink, the blender is blending, and the guitar accompanying the singer is going wild. I suddenly feel a sense of melancholy. Like maybe these trips I take for granted aren’t going to last forever. Dad is 83, and as I left him today after dropping off the girls I noticed the tremor in his hand was worse than ever. I love that man so much. Isn’t it just like life that you realize how much you love someone as the time they have left with you starts to get small, like a dot in the distance as you move away.

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For 8 years I lived in a sleepy little western town called Missoula. I was 22 when I arrived, 30 when I left. In between, I was a dental tool sharpener at American Dental on Reserve Street (now defunct), a clerk at a Husky gas station behind Ruby’s Cafe (on the strip near Malfunction Junction), and a student at the University of Montana where I took one of my first black and white photography classes, soon to be followed by my first Women’s Studies class.

Near the end of my time in Missoula, I suddenly found myself unemployed when I got so sick and tired of all the crap on the job (I was the only woman) that I quit on the spot, walked out of the dental tool sharpening profession forever. I got in a lot of trouble for that. We were trying to save money to move away. But I was just plain done spending 8 hours a day grinding blunt-tipped metal into precision instruments of pain.

Montana license plate from Montana Official State Travel Information Site, credit to Montana Historical Society

When I lived in Montana, I identified with Montana. This was Big Sky Country. I wore flannel shirts and Levi’s and hiking boots (like most all the women there did at that time). I hiked the steep winding curves of the Bitterroots and camped with friends near remote, one-room fire towers made of glass. Jobs were scarce and many of my friends worked summers on fire crews with the U.S. Forest Service. In the winters, I ironed, corked, and waxed my cross country skies (the color of the wax depended on how wet the snow was) and once took a hot air balloon ride at 5am over mile-high mountains.

I was happy in Missoula. The minute I stepped off the plane (on to what was then Johnson-Bell Field) I knew I loved it there. It was laid back and liberal. (Does anyone use those words anymore?) With the exception of the winter inversions, it was a pretty happy place to be.

I’d spend hours writing in journals, taking wildflower walks up the Rattlesnake Canyon, scraping bark off of giant Ponderosa pines for my friends who were hand building log cabins in the Bitterroots and up the Blackfoot. I felt like I belonged, like I was a part of something that felt like home. It was home for the longest time.

Eventually, I found a girlfriend and settled down. We stayed together a long, long time. And when the town became too small, and the time came to move on, we packed up everything we owned, rented a 50 foot U-Haul, and pulled our 22 boxes of vintage albums, 7 boxes of rocks and minerals, 2 cats, and 1 red Subaru wagon across the Rockies and the Dakotas and into Minnesota.

For the first five years I lived in the Minnesota, my number one goal was to move back to Montana. I missed the tall, grounded mountains. I missed my friends. I missed the slow pace and the way everyone knew everyone else. I missed tumbling down the Blackfoot River in yellow rubber rafts and hanging with men and women who seemed to really know what it meant to live off the land.

But then something happened. I started to mold to the sturdy independence and protective Midwestern resolve. I began to value the way the arts were supported, and the lakes and rivers were the cleanest in the country, and the neat rows of houses and gridded streets formed nice straight patterns I could follow on a map.

I learned to love stoicism, The Loft, the Walker, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (but never quite took a liking to hotdish or Rice Krispie treats). I traded the vastness of Lake Superior for the rounded glacial peeks surrounding the five valley area of Missoula.

This place changed me. And I let it. It’s been 23 years. I finally stopped telling everyone I was going to move back out West. And settled in – to me. But I still miss Montana. And once in a while, I break out in that Willis Alan Ramsey song, Goodbye Old Missoula. If you know the one I mean, maybe Missoula is one of your secret places, too.

Goodbye Old Missoula
by Willis Alan Ramsey

Searchin’ for the sunlight
On this winter’s day
But here in ol’ Missoula

They’ve thrown the sun away
Come tomorrow morning
I’m headed for the Bozeman Round

And it’s goodbye to ol’ Missoula
sleepy town

I met a girl named Rosie
Sweet as she could be
But I guess that Rosie
She didn’t have eyes for me

Time waits for no one
Lord, why did I hesitate
And it’s goodbye to ol’ Missoula
a day too late

Clouds that hang on the mountain
They make me lonesome inside
And these four walls surround me
Leaving no place to hide

Goodbye Rosie you’ll never know
Time tells, my love will pass
But if I just remember your smilin’ face
That’s all of time that I ask

Show in this town is over
Maybe just never began
And it’s goodbye to ol’ Missoula
done all that I can

And it’s goodbye to ol’ Missoula
goodbye to ol’ Missoula
goodbye to ol’ Missoula
Sleepy town

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC – A PLACE TO STAND

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It was the 1950’s. Gas was 29¢ a gallon, cigarettes 25¢ a pack, a hospital stay was $35 a day. The Franklin National Bank in New York issued the first credit card, and the World’s first shopping mall in the U.S. – Seattle’s Northgate Mall was built. The First Grammy Awards happened, RCA’s Color Television sets hit the market, and the films, On the Waterfront, All About Eve and An American in Paris were released.

Marilyn Monroe and her husbands Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller were pretty big. So were Peanuts, Mad Magazine, Jonas Salk, James Dean, Fidel Castro, Rosa Parks, Billy Graham, the Korean War, and Israel invading the Sinai Peninsula.

In the decade of blazers, bermuda shorts, saddle shoes, and sack dresses, writers like James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Lillian Hellman, William Burroughs, Sylvia Plath, Susan Sontag, Maria Irene Fornes, Gary Snyder, J.D. Salinger, Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, and Dylan Thomas were all doing their thing.

People change and grow. Countries have lives and spirits that change and grow. Would you say America is still in its adolescence?

You can tell a lot about a person by the books they read. You can also tell a lot about a culture. In the 1950’s, here’s what America was reading.

1 9 5 0 ‘ s – B E S T S E L L E R S


  1. From Here to Eternity, James Jones
  2. Return to Paradise, James A. Michener
  3. The Silver Chalice, Thomas B. Costain
  4. East of Eden, John Steinbeck
  5. Giant, Edna Ferber
  6. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
  7. The Robe, Lloyd C. Douglas
  8. Désirée, Annemarie Selinko
  9. Battle Cry, Leon M. Uris
  10. Love Is Eternal, Irving Stone
  11. The Egyptian, Mika Waltari
  12. No Time for Sergeants, Mac Hyman
  13. Auntie Mame, Patrick Dennis
  14. Andersonville, MacKinlay Kantor
  15. Bonjour Tristesse, Françoise Sagan
  16. Peyton Place, Grace Metalious
  17. Eloise, Kay Thompson
  18. The Tribe That Lost Its Head, Nicholas Monsarrat
  19. The Mandarins, Simone de Beauvoir
  20. Rally Round the Flag, Boys!, Max Shulman
  21. Blue Camellia, Frances Parkinson Keyes
  22. The Scapegoat, Daphne du Maurier
  23. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
  24. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
  25. Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak
  26. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  27. Exodus, Leon Uris
  28. Poor No More, Robert Ruark
  29. The Ugly American, William J. Lederer and Eugene L. Burdick
  30. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D. H. Lawrence

1 9 5 0 ‘ s – B E S T S E L L E R S


  1. Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book; Betty Crocker’s Good & Easy Cook Book 
  2. How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling, Frank Bettger
  3. Look Younger, Live Longer, Gayelord Hauser
  4. Washington Confidential, Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer
  5. Better Homes and Gardens Handyman’s Book; Diet Book; Barbecue Book; Decorating Book; Flower Book
  6. The Sea Around Us, Rachel L. Carson
  7. The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version
  8. U.S.A. Confidential, Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer
  9. Tallulah, Tallulah Bankhead
  10. The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale
  11. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, Alfred C. Kinsey, et al.
  12. Angel Unaware, Dale Evans Rogers
  13. This I Believe, Edward P. Morgan, editor; Edward R. Murrow, foreword
  14. How to Play Your Best Golf, Tommy Armour
  15. The Saturday Evening Post Treasury, Roger Butterfield, editor
  16. Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  17. The Family of Man, Edward Steichen
  18. How to Live 365 Days a Year, John A. Schindler
  19. The Secret of Happiness, Billy Graham
  20. Why Johnny Can’t Read, Rudolf Flesch
  21. Inside Africa, John Gunther
  22. Year of Decisions, Harry S Truman
  23. Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, concise ed., David B. Guralnik
  24. Etiquette, Frances Benton
  25. Love or Perish, Smiley Blanton, M.D.
  26. The Nun’s Story, Kathryn Hulme
  27. Kids Say the Darndest Things!, Art Linkletter
  28. The FBI Story, Don Whitehead
  29. Where Did You Go? Out. What Did You Do? Nothing, Robert Paul Smith
  30. Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, Jean Kerr
  31. The Day Christ Died, Jim Bishop
  32. ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty, Pat Boone
  33. Masters of Deceit, Edgar Hoover
  34. The New Testament in Modern English, J. P. Phillips, trans.
  35. Dear Abby, Abigail Van Buren
  36. Inside Russia Today, John Gunter
  37. Folk Medicine, D. C. Jarvis
  38. Charley Weaver’s Letters from Mamma, Cliff Arquette
  39. The Elements of Style, William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White
  40. Only in America, Harry Golden


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

-Resources: 1950’s Bestsellers List from Cader Books, The Literature and Culture of the American 1950’s

-related to posts:  The 1960’s — What Was America Reading?, The 1970’s — What Was America Reading?

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Eddy Munster Sings the Blues

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Sunday Morning really rocked today. The least of it was that it ended with my beloved sandhill cranes roosting on the Platte River. Beautiful.

And Stevie Nicks is still rockin’ in middle age, after 30 plus years, with no sign of stopping. She said she’s not the least bit interested in telling a partner when she’s leaving and when she’ll be home. She chose art over relationships. Liz and I saw her a few years ago at the Target Center in Minneapolis. She is a performer like no other.

 But what I want to mention is that Vanessa Redgrave is opening Broadway this week with a one woman play on Joan Didion’s work, The Year of Magical Thinking. They interviewed both Joan and Vanessa. Compelling material. Redgrave is up there on stage by herself for an hour and a half.

“I’m not alone,” she said. “Hopefully, the audience will be filling these seats, right up there with me.”

Didion showed up at every rehearsal to watch Redgrave. The best quote from her about writing Year of Magical Thinking: “I had to write it down. I can’t think unless it’s in terms of writing.” The play includes the death of her daughter as well as her husband. It is hard to imagine her grief. Impossible.

 My favorite segment was on Martín Ramírez, an artist who was confined to a psychiatric hospital in the 1930’s after being diagnosed as a catatonic schizophrenic. It is a sad story. He hardly said a word in 30 years but found room under tables, wherever he could, and drew his heart out. Painter, Wayne Thiebaud, was allowed to visit Ramirez and talked about his work which is hanging in the American Folk Art Museum in New York City.

I wish I could see it in person. He drew with wooden matchsticks on whatever paper he could find. Some of his work used pages from books or candy wrappers. Some was on the roll paper that a doctor pulls out in the office and spreads across the stainless steel table for exams. His drawings were striking. Busting out of silence.

 There’s also buzz about The Secret being based on the Power of Positive Thinking work of Norman Vincent Peale, though he is not credited in the book. They made it sound like another James Frey.  

 If you get a chance to see this week’s Sunday Morning in an archive, take advantage of it. Otherwise, you can read about these items at the links provided. It’s one of my favorite shows on TV.

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When I was in high school, I counted the number of I know’s in Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine. You know, the part where he goes, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know…..there are 26.

Ever since I read ybonesy’s Easy post, damn if I can’t get that song out of my head! And guess what – there are 16 easy’s.

A few days ago Richie sang his 80’s hit Hello on the Grammys. Did you catch the number of hello’s in that one? Or how about the number of disco balls in All Night Long? Did you know disco balls were first used in nightclubs in the 1920’s?

Mabel Dodge Luhan could have danced the night away in Taos and we would have never known.

How did Lionel and Mabel end up in the same blog piece ? Wild mind.

Not easy.




Know it sounds funny
But I just can’t stand the pain
Girl I’m leaving you tomorrow
Seems to me girl
You know I’ve done all I can
You see I begged, stole
And I borrowed

Ooh, that’s why I’m easy
I’m easy like sunday morning
That’s why I’m easy
I’m easy like sunday morning

Why in the world
Would anybody put chains on me?
I’ve paid my dues to make it
Everybody wants me to be
What they want me to be
I’m not happy when I try to fake it!

Ooh, that’s why I’m easy
I’m easy like sunday morning
That’s why I’m easy
I’m easy like sunday morning

I wanna be high, so high
I wanna be free to know
The things I do are right
I wanna be free
Just me, babe!

That’s why I’m easy
I’m easy like sunday morning
That’s why I’m easy
I’m easy like sunday morning
Because I’m easy
Easy like sunday morning
Because I’m easy
Easy like sunday morning

[ www.azlyrics.com ]

Thursday, February 15th, 2007

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I don’t like the song Easy Like Sunday Morning by Lionel Richie, although the soft rock station I sometimes listen to in my car plays it quite a bit. I have it on my mind right now, in fact, after running to the bank and then to my daughters’ school and now back at work. I wouldn’t choose to buy the song nor the artist, but still, I do crave Easy. I’m a blog assignment behind, just got back from a week away, trying to sell our house, trying to keep it clean in case someone needs to see it on the spot, trying to live a life present in this moment. Would you like Easy, too?

The next time you travel somewhere, whether from the kitchen to the bedroom on foot, or to the post office in your car, or sitting on the train station going home from work, be present. Take your mind off all concerns. Notice the man standing in front of you with dandruff on his shoulder. Notice that your floors are dirty but don’t worry to clean them. Notice the sounds your car makes and how they are muffled inside. At your first opportunity, write. It can be a single haiku, a ten-minute practice, a short poem, a snippet of a memory. Whatever it is, make it Easy. Don’t stress about it. Knock it out as fast as you can or want.

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