Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Only their music & my words .... only/only

Hey! I have seen these guys here before! You bet -- Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce. I decided to toss Cream to the wolves again this evening, on this occasion by presenting a portion of the band's farewell concert of 1968 at Royal Albert Hall. (God, I love YouTube.) It is a bit more than an hour long. If that is too much for you, I would recommend listening to the first twenty minutes or so. It includes "Sunshine of Your Love," an interview with Bruce and "White Room." Through Bruce, I think you will learn the difference between music and marketing, between artistry then and junk now. (Yeh, like you really care, hah ??) By the way, I believe Bruce really was underrated as a musician and as the "power" of Cream. But, you know how it goes: The girls "dug" Clapton more .... and, it is quite obvious, Clapton is a guitar virtuoso and deserves the adoration he receives. By the way, photographer unknown.

So much for the romance of travel

I recently encountered an ophthalmologist here in middle America who, it turned out, earned her medical degree and completed an ophthalmology residency at Ternopil State Medical University in the Ukraine. She also completed a residency in ophthalmology at Northwestern University in Chicago and practiced in North Dakota before arriving in Minnesota. She speaks English with a marvelous accent. Too bad that she is married. 

Only a few weeks ago, I was speaking with a small town, Minnesota newspaper reporter who had lived in Poland for a few years and, while there, had met and married a young lady born and raised in Poland. Like many newsmen, he is a bit of a vagabond, and had been working for a newspaper in North Dakota immediately before coming to Minnesota.

Why I mention these things, I am not altogether certain, but it seems to me that life has reached a point where Eastern Europe is no farther away from Minnesota than is North Dakota -- Poland or the Ukraine, a few hours by airplane; North Dakota, a very few hours by car.

For certain, travel has lost all its romance and adventure. Here is there and there is here, and the twain keep bumping into each other.

Turn out the lights, the party is over

A few days ago I learned I have "lost" not only one of my favorite musicians, Jack Bruce, but two of my favorite bartenders, as well. Both men died on Sunday, October 19. How often does a guy have two bartenders die on him on the same day? You will note that both died on days their bars were closed for business. Hmmmm .... you do not suppose they arranged things that way, do you?

It might sound like I am making light of events, but Bruce and both bartenders lived relatively long, full lives. We should all be so fortunate. And, death is the price we each and every one of us pays for life.

Actually, both men were bar owners as well as bartenders and from my sort of distant past. Windy was from my youth and Minnesota; and Kenny was from later and South Dakota. 

Windy was mostly a baseball man. Work was something to do between ball games. Playing ball, I mean, not watching .... although, I suppose he watched games, too. He was still playing baseball on "town teams" well into his thirties. He was sort of a role model for teenage athletes. He could throw a baseball harder and faster than I ever could, but I could take him two games out of three at pool.

Kenny was a connoisseur of the bar. It was rare to walk into his establishment when he did not approach me with his "latest concoction" in his hand -- free of charge, of course -- wanting my opinion regarding its "quality." As you might guess, I often volunteered to taste-test his creations until Dandy Don sang, "The Party's Over," and the lights went out.

Anyway, you see? I keep telling you to keep a low profile in October !!

As for me ....

October has only a few days remaining, but sometime during these few days my fate for the next few months probably will be revealed. I have a feeling the outcome will not be good for me or for anyone around me. At this moment, it appears October will continue to be the cruelest of months for me, but the suspense will linger during these last few days until the veil is lifted and certain questions are answered.

One more thing: I recently have been involved ("involved" might not be the best word to use, but ....) in commentary both here and at other blogs regarding climate change and global warming. I want to make clear a couple of points:

One: I do think climate change is real. It has been real since the beginning of time. Unfortunately, the concept of the "beginning of time" for most people seems to be the year they were born.

Two: I do not think mankind has much influence over climate change and, in any case, cannot do a thing about it given the governmental structure of the world. There are about two hundred nations in existence at the moment; getting any dozen of them to agree on anything is pretty much impossible.

Three: There are so many real, actionable problems which, if solved, could improve the lives of the people who inhabit this planet that it seems absurd to me to spend time, money, energy and emotions on abstract (largely political) situations such as climate change. We are talking about definitely unproven science and about governments whose leaders generally are incapable of walking and chewing gum at the same time; does anyone actually expect these self-serving, power-mongering, hypocrites to solve any substantial problems?

Personally, I tend to bend toward a conservative viewpoint, which does not equal a Republican. For political expediency, I have been both a registered Democrat and a registered Republican. Usually, this has had to do with primary election voting rules in states where I was a resident. And, during one of my brief departures from reality into the land of smoke and mirrors, I actually was a salaried staff member for a congressman who was elected to office as a Democrat. (Whoops, I must be a traitor to Democrat Party orthodoxy.)

Beyond that, I would match my environmental credentials against those of most whining tree-huggers, who often live a life of irrational fantasy in context of the natural world.

Once, during a job interview at a newspaper, the fact that I was a member of both the Sierra Club and the National Rifle Association became a point of discussion in terms of reconciliation: How could I be a member of two such apparently diametrically opposite organizations? Easy, I replied: I deal with facts and realities, not with emotions and pipe dreams.

To be brutally blunt: The pied pipers of cradle to grave fascism are attempting to turn climate change into literal religion, and those who are lemmings seem to be following ....

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Where the sun 'forever' shines .... later, man

Top photograph:
John Symon Asher "Jack" Bruce
May 14, 1943 – October 25, 2014

Bottom photograph:
Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton

"White Room"
by Jack Bruce & Pete Brown

In the white room with black curtains near the station
Black roof country, no gold pavements, tired starlings
Silver horses ran down moonbeams in your dark eyes
Dawn light smiles on you leaving, my contentment

I'll wait in this place where the sun never shines
Wait in this place where the shadows run from themselves

You said no strings could secure you at the station
Platform ticket, restless diesels, goodbye windows
I walked into such a sad time at the station
As I walked out, felt my own need just beginning

I'll wait in the queue when the trains come back
Lie with you where the shadows run from themselves

At the party she was kindness in the hard crowd
Consolation for the old wound now forgotten
Yellow tigers crouched in jungles in her dark eyes
She's just dressing, goodbye windows, tired starlings

I'll sleep in this place with the lonely crowd
Lie in the dark where the shadows run from themselves

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hi, my name is Bobby

Meet the bobcat, a downright handsome creature who knows how to take care of himself and how to avoid bad company. It is October and, once upon a time, a significant element of October for me was hunting. But, "once upon a time was very long ago." (I have a variety of song lyrics drifting through my mind this evening.) Whatever .... during recent weeks my thoughts frequently have returned to "the days of the hunt" .... so, I decided to write a brief story about my one and only encounter in the wild with a bobcat –- three of them, to be precise. To accompany my tale, I located a photograph by an unnamed photographer so those who are unfamiliar with the bobcat might have a glimpse of one. I suppose, for the sake of accuracy, I should mention the event of which I write took place not in October, but sometime in late December/early January. As for the music, one piece is Bad Company/Queen performing "Bad Company," and should be self-explanatory –- or not. I could have used another rendition with more pleasing audio (Brian May's guitar solo is awful), but chose a concert from the Ukraine to make my own statement of support. The second is from "Finding Neverland," composed by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek. I have been to Neverland, more than a few times, but my stay usually lasts only for a few hours -- although, on occasion, even for a few months. I hope someday to discover a way to stay there even longer.

The Hunter's Tale

One wondrous winter day (he writes factiously), I decided to go far into the deep, dark forest (all right, enough of that) to an area where I had seen bobcat tracks while deer hunting a few weeks earlier. I never had been a trophy hunter per se, but had gotten it into my head that I would like to have a mounted bobcat in "my gun room." The year before, I had a rug made from a black bear I had shot. I liked seeing this denizen of the woodlands in my room, mingling with books and rifles and decanters filled with assorted liquors and a few paintings; I had begun to think of gathering a few more "trophies." 

Oh, yes. There also was a stand holding a dozen pipes and a number of tobaccos present to choose from, as well as a magazine rack filled with the latest issues of shooting and hunting periodicals. I was, you see, on my way to becoming a member of the "consummate hunter club."

The day was cold.

Very cold. 

Actually, damn cold.

And, a combination of a foot of old snow beneath a few inches of fresh powder covered the ground with an unbroken whiter shade of pale. (Sorry, I could not resist.)

Wind-driven, raggedy clouds soared across the sky as they and the sun battled for supremacy. The same wind blew the new-fallen snow swirling in and out, up and down, among the clustered pine and birch trees. It was an epitome of winter woodland elegance; I was fully absorbed within the timeless nature of Nature.

Moving through the dense forest, I approached a narrow strip of logged-out area where I had seen the tracks -- slowly, cautiously, silently. I had an innate talent for doing this -- for stalking –- and, beyond this inherent "gift," I had honed the ability to near-invisibility through practice, practice, practice. (I could tell a story or two in this regard that I doubt you would believe.)

Thirty or forty yards into the clearing were two bobcats. They were young, only a few months old, and like youngsters of any sort everywhere, they were playing -- leaping and bounding and rolling in snow, each trying to outperform the other in a battle of prowess and strength. I watched them for a while.

It seemed they were too young to be out on their own, so I scanned the woodland opposite me across the clearing and I quickly spotted their mother just beyond the distant tree line. Her gaze shifted between watching them and watching me. She eventually walked out into the clearing -- casually, nonchalantly -- close to where her kittens were engaged in their antics. Once there, she mostly watched me.

Seeing what I was seeing and feeling what I was feeling, I am absolutely sure in my mind that I never once thought of shooting her, but I lifted my rifle and looked at her for a few moments centered in the crosshairs of the scope mounted on it. The six-power magnification of the scope brought her image very close to me.

Whether or not she was offering herself up to me as a prize to save her kittens, I do not know. But, that was what seemed to be happening and what I believe was happening. It was then that I did something I began to do increasingly when I hunted: I fired my rifle into the air rather than at the quarry. In the blink of an eye, the three cats had scurried out of sight into the trees across from me. I think the mother and I both had proven and taught something to each other, and, maybe, the kittens had learned something.

Here ends The Hunter's Tale ....

(After-thought: It was a few years later before I quit hunting altogether, but the idea of "trophy hunting" disappeared forever after that day. And now, the only wildlife I want in "my gun room" are those illustrated in paintings or photographs -- shown alive and strong and free.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The beginning of the long goodbye

If you were to ask me why this painting is part of this post, I would respond by saying that nothing about this post makes a great deal of sense and everything in it is the product of a scattered mind. Usually, the photograph/illustration and the words and the music have a connection. Well, usually. The painting is by Frederic Remington and was completed in 1897. It depicts cavalry troopers during a January 1879 encounter with a band of Northern Cheyenne led by Dull Knife. Several skirmishes took place over a period of ten days near Fort Robinson in Nebraska. The trooper standing atop the ledge was Sergeant Carter Johnson. He was a rather amazing soldier during absolutely amazing times. Simply for the sake of mentioning it, I will note that another rather amazing man, the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) war leader Crazy Horse, was killed at Fort Robinson in 1877. I have been there, more than a century later, of course, and it is beautiful in the springtime compared to the harshness of winter on the plains. No matter which season, though, the fort and the region around it will reveal its ghosts to those who believe the past is still alive somewhere in time and who care to know it.

Be Lucky

Around this time a year from now, I hope I will be writing about the great experience I had at The Who concert, which will have taken place "just down the road a piece." (I love that idiom .... it is an idiom, is it not ??) Whatever .... The Who will be in town (Minneapolis) October 10, 2015. I saw them once before in concert. That was a night to remember, and I do .... I most certainly do .... it was a fantastic night in many ways .... I wonder if next year's concert might possibly match it .... hmmmm, I wonder if I even will be living here a year from now ....

The title for this post, "The beginning of the long goodbye," came not from me but from a remark by Roger Daltrey, lead singer for The Who. He made the comment in reference to the 2014-2015 tour. Rather poetic and haunting words, do you not think? And, they could be adapted for so many uses.

By the way, did you notice? This October is approaching its half-way mark. Move it, baby .... run, run, run ....

Beards, kisses, hunting, cigars & whatever

I have worn a beard on and off (hmmmm), and have kept it in sort of goatee form during the past few years. This winter, I have decided to wear it full again. That, for some, should be evidence there is no woman in my life. (I have a difficult time believing any woman anywhere actually prefers kissing a man who wears a beard over kissing him when he is clean-shaven.)

In this neck of the woods (I love that idiom .... it is an idiom, is it not ??), many men who deer hunt devote a few weeks to growing their beards for deer season. I really do not know why so many hunters grow them. It seems silly. It is a tradition of sorts, part of the ritual, I guess, having to do with bearded, pioneer immigrants. You know -- farmers, ranchers, store keepers, cavalry troopers as they looked when arriving from the "old country" during an era when hunting often provided much of the meat a family would eat. Anyway, in these contemporary times, when deer season ends, off come the beards.

My on-again, off-again beards have had nothing to do with hunting. Whenever I have grown a beard, it has been as a protest to winter. Winter would be perfect if it lasted only two or three weeks. I used to grow a beard most winters and shave it when winter ended. I might shave this one in the spring .... or not .... or, possibly, return it to sort of goatee form.

I stopped hunting a number of years ago. I miss it. I quit it for two reasons, one of which was because it became too easy. Being a successful hunter is like being a success at anything .... practice, practice, practice. Any hunter who is not successful .... well, maybe, he should trying bowling or golf or something which does not involve firearms or other lethal weapons .... you know, something in which the individual's skill level does not make much difference except in an egotistical sense. I am being only a bit sarcastic.

Yes, I miss hunting. I also miss smoking cigars. I quit smoking for two reasons, too, the primary one symbolic in nature and a gesture. One of these days (months, years), I will try both hunting and cigars again .... well, cigars, anyway ....

Let me think. What else do I miss? Uffff .... enough aimless rambling for this evening.

Incidentally, does anyone see a link -- a connection -- between the painting, my words and the song? I am curious ....

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Meet the very first JV president of the USA

This is Barack Obama's concept of "global" strategy.

Have a nice day
During the past few years, I have become increasingly embarrassed and ashamed of being a citizen of the United States. Actually, I am paraphrasing something Michelle Obama said in 2008 about the America that existed before the nomination of her husband to be president of the United States, while I am speaking about his performance and accomplishments since his election to that unique office. I am speaking about the deterioration and the demise of America since the advent of Obama.

I was not alive when Adolph Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, but, to me, it is no different now when Vladimir Putin sends troops into the Crimea and eastern regions of the Ukraine. And, it seems to me, the governments of the so-called "free world"  learned absolutely nothing about how to say "no" to tyranny and tyrants in spite of the deaths of millions during World War II.

Leaders of the "free world" ignored reports of what was going on in concentration camps scattered around Europe during World War II, then acted shocked when the war ended and the light of day revealed the "extermination" of millions. The leaders of the "free world" initially did nothing about the literal massacres of civilians during the genocidal Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Now, Islamic extremists/terrorists/fanatics are on the march in Iraq and Syria and the leader of the most militarily powerful nation on the face of the earth (the guy in the photo, in case you are buzzed in Colorado or Washington) plays golf and basketball while thousands of children, women and men have been brutally murdered and thousands more are in immediate danger of this nightmarish inhumanity.

Obama golfing while the world burns .... just like Nero fiddling while Rome burned.

Memo to Norway: This is what happens when the Nobel Peace Prize becomes the Nobel Peace Price. So much for your credibility. To stand by and to do nothing when in a position to save lives seems to be the act of a war criminal, not a peace maker, to my way of thinking.

By the way, if you do not understand the Obama "JV" reference, it is to an interview he did last January referring to the Al Qaeda (ISIS) Islamist terrorists now conquering Iraq and Syria as the "jayvee team," which in American sports parlance means "junior varsity," i.e. the inexperienced, young kids. This "secondary, trivial, student team" obviously has more experience, talent and determination than does Professor Obama.

This might be a post in progress because I do not think I have ever before been so disgusted and sickened by U.S. leadership. So, finally (for now), whatever the U.S. role in the world might be, I cannot believe/accept/acknowledge that it is to allow for innocents to be murdered without American intervention. And, evidently, these murders -- of children, of women, of men; in the thousands -- are just fine with His Majesty Barack Hussein Obama.

P.S. I have no idea who took the photograph of Obama, but it certainly describes his presidency perfectly....

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The history of mixed metaphors

I recently stumbled across the "Bonnie and Clyde" television film from 2013. I was unaware of it. I watched it; I enjoyed it. My strongest reaction to it came not from the dialog or the visuals, but from listening to this song from it written by Leonard Cohen. I was unaware of it, too. More than the melody and the lyrics, what left me a bit stunned was the haunting voice and way the piece was sung by Antony Hegarty. I was unaware of Antony, too. While I did not watch the film intently and, undoubtedly, missed elements and nuances, this particular song did not seem like it belonged part of the recipe, in a manner of speaking. This unlikely mix of music and story seemed like a marriage between misogamists and really made me feel unaware and wonder what I was missing. Anyway, on the chance you are as unaware as I was, let us discover what you think of the song .... the name of which, by the way, is, "If It Be Your Will" ....

(An afterthought: While I was watching the film, I was thinking it probably would be easy to fall in love with Bonnie -- Holliday Grainger, that is, the actress who portrays her. Then, I realized how much Holliday's face reminds me of another young lady who once upon a time told me she thought I fell in love too easily. I believe she might have been right, but I have discovered since that when I do, it never goes away, never ends .... never, ever.)

Here are some words, none of them mine, but there have been times when I have known them, understood them, felt them and might have written them:

"They think they're hunting me; I'm hunting them."

"It felt familiar and now, from somewhere .... Even as he walked (along), he felt things slowing down yet at the same time enriching in color and texture as if his vision were mutating to something beyond excellence. His muscles were turning to flexible iron, his breathing was growing nutritious, his hearing super-attuned, so that every sound was crisply isolated in the universe."

Here are some words that are mine:

When I was a teenager, October was among my favorite months, possibly my No. 1 month. This largely was because October meant football and hunting and many days of virtually living in the outdoors. But, over the years, October came to be a month of bad memories and, now, I dread its arrival to a degree. There have been a couple of years when I have been close to hiding in my house, pulling my curtains, holding my breath, waiting for the last few days of October to pass me by without bringing me an ill wind.

So, October 2014 arrives with falling leaves and heavy rains: Greetings, October .... here we are, together again, and the only reason for this post is because we are ....

Something special ....