TAPE LADY & CRAZY WAYNE
It’s about a real place, my homeport. The Tape Lady uses Scotch Tape to affect a facelift, covering the tape with a babushka when out in public. Vanity takes many forms, but taping one’s face is sort of unusual if not unique. “Crazy Wayne” lacks political correctness, but Wayne is as crazy as humans get and everyone refers to him as “Crazy Wayne,” so in the interest of clear communication it’s “Crazy Wayne.” Deal with it as best you may.
My town currently is home to a gas-fired, peak-load power plant, converted from coal within the past ten years. But empty coal cars and reefers still pass through town after off-loading coal or food shipped thousands of miles in Sheboygan. All are an ongoing reminder that we continue to address air quality issues and global warming with a half-hearted effort, even though we teeter on the brink of environmental collapse and global suffocation.
But this song isn’t about those things. It’s about us—our passiveness—our “stuck-ness.”
FIDDLE ME ON MY WAY
Jimmy Brennan was a real sea captain, navigating the North Sea and the fiords of
Scandinavia in a three-masted vessel that he co-owned. Later, toward the end of his life, Jimmy drove a cab in my hometown. He succumbed to cancer about six or seven years ago.
I got to know Jimmy as he was dying. We talked about sailing ships, the China trade, clipper ship captains who risked disaster in far southern latitudes, whaling voyages lasting three or more years, exotic women and other assorted dangerous undertakings.
At the memorial, the priest passed around a Sucrets tin of sea glass bits. “Take one,” he said. Keep it as a reminder of Jimmy.”
I latched-on to a colorless chunk about the size of a fingernail, carried it in my pocket for nearly two years then one day it went missing.
I’ll have to find another, I said to myself. Bundled against the bitter January cold, I hiked north along the Lake Michigan beach for about a mile and a half then did an about face and hiked home. No sea glass in sight, at least not until I noticed a heart shaped piece of cobalt blue sea glass resting on my front door stoop. Apparently Jimmy Brennan prefers blue. I know when I’ve been visited. Maybe he likes the song too?
LORD OF THE REALM
I’d like to dedicate this song to the great Stan Freberg. When people ask, “Who are your
musical influences,” I typically reply, The Beatles, Franz Liszt, Erroll Garner, Milt Wagner, and Stan Freberg. In many ways, Freberg transcended them all.
I tuned-in to Wolfman Jack for the first time at about 1:30 a.m. during October of 1969. I was driving southward from Tacoma with a wannabe flower child, headed for Portland then on to Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. She conked out. The Wolfman kept me entertained and awake all night long. I can still hear his voice.
COLD NOVEMBER RAIN
One night I watched Keb Mo play a rudimentary guitar fingering pattern down below the third fret. It was so simple yet expressive that I thought to myself, how can it be I’ve been playing guitar for all these years, but I never found that lick? I could hardly sit still through the concert. After, I grabbed a guitar and, like a stoned hippy, amused myself with that “Keb-thing” and variations on the theme for hours. All sorts of things grew magically out of it, like this song, for example. If you like it, well thank you very much. If you don’t, blame Keb Mo.
LA GOLONDRINA PERDIDA
Whilst seeking the solace of open spaces, I climbed a hill in the prairie. At the
crest stood the bones of a small tree, no doubt snuffed during a prairie burn the previous
year. A shopworn swallow sat catching its breath on one of the limbs. The bird looked as if it had recently withstood an artillery barrage. We had a chat, the swallow and I. Apparently I wasn’t credible. On the other hand, the swallow’s answer was clear.
Lucky for me the glorious Ann Kirwin returned (still thinking in Spanish) from Costa Rica in time to do the recording session. While her harmony is lovely, the descant she
created in Español is delicious!
NUMBER TEN GIRL IN A NUMBER TWO TOWN
Some plants outgrow the pot. My friend was a sunflower root-bound in a teacup.
HOW AM I TO BLAME?
Times have been tough, especially since Wall Street imploded—again. The ripples are deep and wide. The big bankers failed to regulate themselves, but government bailed them out anyway. The big bankers thanked us by voting themselves large bonuses and foreclosing on our mortgages. However, due to the real estate market collapse, we owe more on the mortgages than the homes are currently worth. No assets, no credit, and (for a lot of us) no job. We need a ‘just’ society. I’m thinking we will have to create it ourselves.
MIDNIGHT IN ALBERTA
No comment. I don’t know anything about this song or the events portrayed therein.
SHED MY SKIN
Sometimes nothing will do except getting away from it all. I have a lifetime pass to our
national parks. They are like great cathedrals without the hypocrisy. For me, a desert sunset trumps stained glass, the smell of Port Orford Cedar beats frankincense anytime, and the lessons are direct and unembellished. So this is either a story about self-baptism, skinny dipping, or both. Take your pick. Either one is a right of passage.
MR. KAN’S HOUSE
I traveled to China in 2002 for an artist-in-residence program in Guangzhou then on to
Chengdu for a concert at the Sichuan Conservatory of Music. That led to a road trip up
toward the Tibetan Plateau where I visited a Heifer International “goat project” at Mr. Kan’s farm. Mr. Kan looked as weathered and tough as the surrounding rock, but warmth poured from his eyes.
PAWLO’S SONG (THE MIGHTY UNKNOWN)
Pawlo Lachowin came to the United States in 1912. “Rosi” (Ewerosina) Olszewski, his bride-to-be, followed later. They were married in 1916 in Ohio. In 1919 Pawlo renounced his Austrian and Polish citizenship and became a citizen of the United States of America.
This is the story of America, diverse people coming together and forging a great nation.
We learn from each other and gather strength to do what needs to be done in spite of the danger because now, like then, there is greater risk to our happiness and survival by doing nothing. We are responsible for our own fate.
IN THIS DARK NIGHT
The spiritual realm surrounds us. There is evidence of it on this physical plain of existence if only we look. Take heart.