Archive for the ‘In Memorium’ Category

Prine’s Paradise Demise

April 14, 2020

My old friend Terry, fellow baby boomer, called me the other day; he had a few things on his mind concerning the state of the world and so forth.

One very recent development that my friend was wondering about was the death of singer/songwriter John Prine. Terry was not so much surprised or alarmed at the death of the low-profile, though legendary, songwriter, because death happens to each one of us eventually anyway.

What perplexed my old singing buddy was how the obituary had captured the attention of the mainstream media.

“Mainstream media”. . . I hesitate to use that term, because, in our lifetime, the popular understanding of that term has changed.

When we growing up in the 1950’s-60’s etc. . .the mainstream media was thought to be, generally, the big three TV networks—CBS, NBC, ABC, along with the big heavyweights in print, the Times, the Post, the Journal etcetera etcetera.

As our lifetime got played out, the internet eventually eclipsed those old-school news sources. Replacing the former “mainstream media”, along came the heavyhitters that we all know today: Google, Facebook, etc etc, accompanied by a select few quasi-traditional TV networks—CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and of course the big kid on the blog for wonky elites, progressives and Democrats—NPR.

So last week, suddenly John Prine tributes were all over NPR et al with wide-eared wonder at the obscure songwriter’s profundity and prolific legacy, even though ole John had never hit the big time.

The biggies pretty much ignored the singer while he was alive; but when he died, several of them were, for a few days, all about John Prine this and John Prine that.

My friend Terry was perplexed why there would be so much media stir about Prine when they had previously not paid much attention to him. In other words, what’s the big deal about John Prine dieing?

I was wondering the same. Over the last few days, I have pondered what could be the explanation for this development, and I have figured it out.

My theory is this:

John Prine was prophetic. His song, Paradise, represents a profound foretelling of an isolated event that became—because of Prine’s song—a symbol of our present worldwide irresponsible destruction of the natural world.

To employ an academic description: the industrial destruction of one specific site—Paradise, Kentucky— is a microcosm; it  represents on a small scale what later happened (and had been already happening) in a worldwide plundering of natural resources at the terrible expense of our naturally beautiful planet.

What intensified the significance of the Muhlenberg County destruction was this fact: “Mr. Peabody’s coal train (that) hauled it away” was rapaciously extracting vast shovel-fulls of COAL, which has become the #1 villain on the Unwanted List of climate change alarmists.

SmokIndust

Last week, in the wake of John Prine’s demise, many progressive commentators in the NPR et al vein of mainstream media suddenly realized—because of their youthful listening to Prine—the prophetic significance of this one song. So they began to talk it up.

As far as the song goes . . . it is a historic, lamenting composition. . . in my opinion one of the great songs of the American folk legacy.

You are invited to listen to my rendering of the tune:

     http://www.micahrowland.com/carey/PrineParadise.mp3

 

King of Soul

The Senator from Minnesota

February 12, 2020

Just a few days ago,  we were walking around in Haifa, Israel. That port city is really thriving with energy and productivity.

As we strolled near the Mediterranean shore, we came upon a cable-lift, which we rode upwards to a point about halfway up Mt. Carmel, passing in the air over a cave that is traditionally called “Elijah’s cave.”

Whether in that cave, or some other, the prophet Elijah heard a “still, small voice” of divine encouragement, while he happened to be at that moment in an hour of great need of some help from above. . . or whether Elijah’s word from the Lord happened in some other cave, I don’t really know. But I do believe, like Elijah of old, in God who is watching over us daily, and encouraging us if we listen in the Spirit for that still, small voice.

Moving right along . . .

Before we hopped on that cable-lift, I noticed this sign:

HHsignHaifa

Of course I was reminded of the Senator from Minnesota. He was Vice President under Lyndon Johnson, back in the day.

You know, Humphrey got a bad deal. He might have been President. While the Democrats were trying to have a convention in 1968, their public persona was severely damaged because the heavy-handed Mayor Daley of Chicago was sending his police out in great numbers to whack the protesting kids who were trying to end the Vietnam War.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes in the other political party in ’68, the Republican nominee Nixon was tampering inappropriately with the peace talks that our diplomats were trying to conduct with the North Vietnamese in Paris.

In Chicago, Hubert was trying to establish his own peace-cultivating identity at the donkey convention. He was laboring under the duress of heavy-handed Lyndon’s invisible hand manipulating the convention to his own ends.

Long story short, Hubert got a bad deal and Nixon ended up getting the Presidency, only to be run off during his second term for sending some crooks to break into Democratic offices.

Humphrey, had he won, might have been a better President than Nixon. But some things we’ll never know, like who was behind the murder of JFK and so forth  and so on . . .

Well now we have another Senator from Minnesota who rises into the national limelight after New Hampshire, and I’m taking a close look at her candidacy. Maybe Amy will pull a Jimmy Carter on us and somehow take the White House.

Anyway, when Pat and I arrived back in USA a few days ago, having spent two weeks in the amazing country of Israel, lo and behold if we didn’t return to a situation where all hell was breaking loose and some folks are even talking about civil war between the elephants and the donkeys.

This is not good.

Now I am proud to be a political moderate, altough I have for a long time been registered as a Republican.

There are some things I like about Mr. Trump’s take-charge attitude, but generally I don’t think his Presidency is good for our country. He is too divisive, and destructive, like a bull in a china shop. And I don’t give a hoot about his damn wall. I say let ‘em in.

“Send me your tired and weary, your huddled masses yearning to be free.”

So this morning I wake up and Bernie has won the New Hampshire primary.

Well good for him and all those young people—like we were in ’68—who propelled him into this victory. But New Hampshire is his home state and this victory is a flash-in-the-pan because he is too far left, and propagating socialistic programs, to win the electorate across these here entire confederation of states that we call USA.

Therefore, in the interests of our already-great nation, I think I’ll vote for a moderate Democrat rather than take a chance on another divisitory four years with the Donald.

I’ll have to switch my party affiliation to Democrat, of course, to vote for Amy Klobuchar, but it seems to me to be the best thing we can do to keep this still-great nation from falling apart at the seams.

I’ll go with the Senator from Minnesota.

Amy Klobucher

 Think about it, although we still have a long way to go before November, and a lot of bad and good things could happen along the way. Amy’s moderate history indicates, it seems to me, that hers is a better direction than what is now tearing us apart at the seams.

Glass half-Full 

Death by War

May 26, 2019

I wrote a story about an American traveling through Europe in the spring/summer of 1937. In the novel, Smoke, which I published in 2015, young businessman Philip Morrow accepts an unusual errand, which takes him through London, halfway around the far side of France, then to Paris, and ultimately to arrive at a place called Flanders Field in Belgium.

At his specific Memorial battleground destination, Philip sees for the first time the final resting place of his father, a soldier of the American Expeditionary Force, who had died there in 1918 during the last week of World War I.  Philip had been eight years old in 1917 when he hugged his pa for the last time, then  beheld  his mother while she tearfully embraced her  husband, a mountaineer marksman named Clint.

In chapter 27 of Smoke, Philip arrives at the Memorial cemetery accompanied by a newfound friend, Mel, an old Frenchman who expresses his appreciation for Clint’s courageous sacrifice–given in his last full measure of devotion– for freedom, to defeat tyranny.

Clint’s total offering in 1918 was not the first, nor the last, to be put forth by millions of other soldiers since that time. In Washington DC, I snapped this photo of a newer Memorial–that one constructed for us to remember the dead of Vietnam.

VNMem (1)

We Americans do appreciate the families left behind.  Their sorrow and sacrifice is painfully precious; it  runs deep–deep as the blood that pumped through soldiering bodies alive with determination–blood that still streams through the beating hearts and minds of  us Americans and Allies.

Here’s my offering, from chapter 27 of Smoke:

       “How could this place have been a battlefield for a world war?”

‘The old Frenchman cast his eyes on the passing landscape, and seemed to join Philip in this musing. He answered slowly, “War is a terrible thing, an ugly thing. I did not fight in the war; I had already served my military duty, long before the Archduke was assassinated in Sarajevo and the whole damn world flew apart, like shrapnel. But I had many friends who fought here, and back there, where we just came from in my France, back there at the Somme, the Marne, Amiens. Our soldiers drove the Germans back across their fortified lines, the Hindenberg line they called it. By summer of 1918 the Germans were in full retreat, although it took them a hell of a long time, and rivers of spilt blood, to admit it. And so it all ended here. Those trenches, over there in France, that had been held and occupied for two hellish years by both armies, those muddy hellholes were finally left behind, vacated, and afterward . . . filled up again with the soil of France and Flanders and Belgium, and green grass was planted where warfare had formerly blasted its way out of the dark human soul and the dark humus of lowland dirt and now we see that grass, trimmed, manicured and growing so tidily around those rows of white crosses out there, most of them with some soldier’s name carved on them, many just unknown, anonymous, and how could this have happened? You might as well ask how could. . . a grain of sand get stuck in an oyster? And how could that oyster, in retaliation against that rough, alien irritant, then generate a pearl—such a beautiful thing, lustrous and white—coming forth in response to a small, alien presence that had taken up unwelcomed residence inside the creature’s own domain? The answer, my friend, is floating in the sea, blowing in the wind, growing green and strong from soil that once ran red with men’s blood.” ‘

“Now they were arriving at the battlefield. Jacques parked the car, leaned against the front fender, lit a cigarette. Mel and Philip walked through a stone arch, along a narrow, paved road lined with flowering linden trees, spring green with their large spadish leaves, sprinkled with small white blossoms. The sun was getting low behind them. Shadows of these trees had overtaken the narrow lane, turning it cooler than the surrounding fields, acres and acres neatly arranged with white crosses and gravestones, and continuous green, perfect grass between all. Having reached the end of the linden lane, the stepped slowly, reverently, along straight pathways, passing hundreds of silent graves on either side. The setting sun was still warm here, after their cool approach from beneath the trees.

“At length, they came to the row that Philip had been looking for, the one he had read about in the army guidebook, where his father’s grave was nested precisely and perpetually in its own place in eternity “. . .

King of Soul

What about that old battlefield?

May 28, 2018

In chapter 27 of my 2014 novel, Smoke, we find a young American, Philip, and an old Frenchman, Mel, conversing as they approach a battlefield in Belgium, a place called Flanders Field. The year is 1937;  in the last week of World War I, Philip’s father had died on that battlefield in 1918. Here’s the scene:

Something about the spring air, the mists at the edges of the fields, the lush, lowland foliage, the shadowy light, lijdt het licht het donk’re licht, something was moving deeply inside of him. “Mel?”

“Yes?”

“How could this place have been a battlefield for a world war?”

The old Frenchman cast his eyes on the passing landscape, and seemed to join Philip in this musing. He answered slowly, “War is a terrible thing, an ugly thing. I did not fight in the war; I had already served my military duty, long before the Archduke was assassinated in Sarajevo and the whole damn world flew apart, like shrapnel. But I had many friends who fought here, and back there, where we just came from in my France, back there at the Somme, the Marne, Amiens. Our soldiers drove the Germans back across their fortified lines, the Hindenberg line they called it. By summer of 1918 the Germans were in full retreat, although it took them a hell of a long time, and rivers of spilt blood, to admit it. And so it all ended here. Those trenches, over there in France, that had been held and occupied for two hellish years by both armies, those muddy hellholes were finally left behind, vacated, and afterward . . . filled up again with the soil of France and Flanders and Belgium, and green grass was planted where warfare had formerly blasted its way out of the dark human soul and the dark humus of lowland dirt and now we see that grass, trimmed, manicured and growing so tidily around those rows of white crosses out there, most of them with some soldier’s name carved on them, many just unknown, anonymous, and how could this have happened? You might as well ask how could. . . a grain of sand get stuck in an oyster? And how could that oyster, in retaliation against that rough, alien irritant, then generate a pearl—such a beautiful thing, lustrous and white—coming forth in response to a small, alien presence that had taken up unwelcomed residence inside the creature’s own domain? The answer, my friend, is floating in the sea, blowing in the wind, growing green and strong from soil that once ran red with men’s blood.”

But today, this Memorial Day, 2018, we honor not only the war dead of that First “Great War” of the 20th century. We honor all those who have given their “last full measure of devotion” to a nation that has always stood, and hopefully always will stand, for freedom and justice.

Here’s another phase of our 242-year national history with brave souls to ponder, Vietnam:

VNMem

King of Soul