Posts Tagged ‘memories’

Your mother would know

March 19, 2017

Well goll-ee.

Lights

Let’s all get up and wave to a tune that was a hit soon after your mother was born;

though she was born a long long time ago,

your mother would know;

your mother would know.

And your grandmother

and your father and your grandfather.

AlbertJohn

Uncle Albert would know it too– Uncle Albert Schram, who conducted the orchestra last night.

You see him here in the background of this alternative-fact unauthorized photo.

In fact, Albert knows those old Beatles tunes so very thoroughly. He conducted the Charlotte Pops through an incredibly rousing symphonic accompaniment last night.  I could hardly believe it.

Take the infamous John Lennon composition Day in the Life piece, for instance. It’s on Sergeant Pepper’s.

When I first heard that strange finale in 1967, my sixteen-year-old mind didn’t know what to make of it.

Whatever it meant or did not mean (we were all wondering), it signaled that the Beatles had turned a huge corner in their musical development, from pop-music fab-four phenom to . . . ???

“. . . found my way upstairs and had a smoke. Somebody spoke and I went into a dream, Ohhhh, oh oh ohhhh. . .”

Now in 2017, it means. . .hell, I don’t know what it means.

That such a cacophonic  cadence as that Day in the Life finale could actually be orchestrally performed was amazing to me last night. All these years, I thought it was just Brian Epstein’s  or George Martin’s studio tricks.

Tony Kishman, the musician who fulfills the Paul McCartney role, pointed out that John, Paul, George and Ringo had never done this with a live symphony back in the day when they were in their heyday. Pretty interesting, I thought. Now their aged Sgt. Pepper’s studio wizardry has morphed into this phenomenal “tribute” event performed by an incredibly talented Beatles-tribute band. And however many hundreds or thousands of us geezers were enthusiastically waving our lit-up phones while singing.

“Naa naa naa, na na na naa, na na na nah, Hey Jude!”

“Take a sad song and make it better. . .”

Take an old song, and make it rock again . . . is what these guys do, the Classical Mystery Tour (they call themselves) along with our jubilant audience-participle thronging of us when-I-get-older-losing-my-hair baby boomers. I mean it was, like, so far out man.

Just how many 64-year-olds there were waving their devices and singing Hey Jude in that theatre last night, I do not know. But I can tell you this. A rocking good time was had by all, including the band. Just some good clean fun, y’all.

Tony also said something to us that, as he so poignantly pointed out, Paul had never said to a Beatles audience.  “Visit our website.”

Haha! Ain’t it the truth. Who’d have thunk it, that all this stuff would happen since those halcyon smoky days of yore.

    http://www.classicalmysterytour.com/

But hey, life goes on. Times change, and most of us get a little stuck in our minds back in that time of unsure discovery when we passed through teendom while wearing bell-bottoms, wondering who Lucy in the Sky was. And if you’re have trouble remembering the ’60’s, it’s probably because. . .

Never mind. Beneath the surface, something very special was always going on.

PianoPaul

Underneath it all, such a time as that had never happened before, nor would ever again.

But this is true even now; its part of the mystery tour of this life. Our kids will never view it, nor comprehend it, the same way we did. Nor could we see it the way our parents did.

Our parents had grown up in the 1930’s with Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington, Louie Armstrong and George Gershwin, and that was all well and good and they did their thing.

That greatest generation–who then grew up to  fight the Nazis back into their holes back in the 1940’s–that generation came back from the Big War, started generating us boomers like there’s no tomorrow. And at some point in the ’60’s, there was indeed some serious question about whether there would BE a tomorrow, because Khruschev and Kennedy almost blew the whole damn world up over those alternative-fact nukes down in Cuba.

When we boomers came along, the old War–the one they call WWII–was so intense, and still fresh in our parents’ memory and experience. But it was just history-book stuff for us. As John had sung:

“I read the news today, oh boy, the English army had just won the war.

A crowd of people turned away, but I just had to look,

having read the book.”

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read a newspaper, or a book, or hazard a listen.

Smoke

Tan Son Nhut 1970

October 9, 2016

VNamMus70

When Johnny came marching home again it was in 1971, although really, there was no parade.

He wasn’t actually marching, anyway, but rather flying commercial out of Vietnam on a PanAm from Cam Ranh Bay. The jet featured American stewardesses, and this was a very favorable detail that our exiting guys did not fail to notice as they soared off to Pacific destinations and ultimately all the way back  over here to the good ole USA. It was a long flight from the war, and a long time to have to watch stewardesses traipsing up and down the carpeted aisles, serving food and drink; but our guys managed to get through it.

My old friend Johnny’s departing flight from Vietnam was a reversal of his arrival there, a year earlier, on a commercial US aircraft.

But here’s a curious fact that he confided to me. The “scaredest” he ever got while in Vietnam was on that first day, during the jet’s approach into Cam Ranh, because the descending plane was drawing enemy fire!

Welcome to Vietnam! Haha!

Last week, during the first days of October 2016, my old neighborhood friend Johnny told me about his one year tour in Vietnam. He lives in Louisiana, where we both started life; now I live in North Carolina. We brought our wives and had a Florida panhandle reunion at the beach.

We were chums in high school, but after our graduation in 1969 he went his way and I went mine. I went to college; he went to Vietnam.

I was protesting the war; he was over there in the middle of it.

Before last week, I had not seen Johnny since about 1975.

Now I’m writing a novel about that period of time, and about some of the differences–and reconciliation– between those two diverging groups–“them that went” and “them that didn’t.”

As it turned out, Johnny’s year of duty at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, just north of Saigon, was, he admits, easier than the brutal combat some of our guys had to endure out in the jungles while they were on patrol  being relentlessly pursued by the silently stalking Viet Cong.

During our time of defending the former Republic of Vietnam, tons and tons of weaponry, machinery, and supplies had to be delivered into the country to supply our people there. Tan Son Nhut was a busy location for transport and communications, and we needed a lot of guys on the ground to keep systems oiled, protected and combat-ready. My friend Johnny was one of those men.

During high school, Johnny had acquired some work experience in appliances and refrigeration. After our high school graduation he was not inclined, as I was, toward college. He worked for a while. Then he saw, you might say, “the handwriting on the wall” about how career choices were shaping up in 1969-70. So he volunteered for the Army. After boot camp at Fort Polk (Louisiana) and some duty-specific training at Fort Belvoir (Virginia), he shipped out, which is to say, he was put on a flight path that landed him at the Cam Ranh Air Base where they almost got shot down before setting foot in the infamous theater of Vietnam.

StratCom

When my friend arrived at his post on the perimeter of Tan Son Nhut Air Base, he spent a year on guard duty, keeping watch over the rice paddies and distant jungles beyond the fence, and reporting whenever mortar fire or any other unfriendly thing was approaching the air base.

Inside the base, there were moments when our guys could take a little time off. Here’s a pic that Johnny snapped; it depicts a recreational session of high-stakes card-sharking, with maybe a little bluffing and probably some bravado bullcrap thrown in to keep the game interesting.

VNGame

Here’s a pic of Johnny, taken when he had only been in Vietnam a few days.

JLViet70

Last week, after Johnny showed me a few hundred photos that had been stored away at his home, I thanked him for taking the time to meet me in Florida so we could talk about Vietnam.

Because I can’t write a book about what was happ’nin’ in the USA in 1969 without talking about Vietnam. I also thanked my friend for his service to our nation.

And I thanked God that he survived it. There were 58,000 of “them that went” who did not.

If you were a college kid like me in the 1960’s-’70’s, you will find it well worth your time to visit a few of the men and women who did not do college at that time, but who served–by choice or by draft–in the military. Right or wrong, won or lost, however you call it, they did what our country called them to do.

We may need many more like them before it’s all over with.

King of Soul

Woke up with the Angels

April 9, 2016

Our first twelve hours in Los Angeles has already included a trip down memory lane.

It’s not that I ever spent much time here; I only breezed through  back in the early ’70s. But rather, this immediate reminiscence is triggered by a deeply insistent behind-the-scenes presence of this fabled city in my g-generation’s memory.

Not personal memory. Collective memory. LA was all over our baby boomer adolescence and young adult misadventures: Hollywood is here, with all its celluloid-manufactured dreams, along with the Dodgers, the surfers, the cop shows on network TV, even the Beverly Hillbillies.

I suppose I’m a 2016 hillbilly, blowing in last nigh from my back-east Blue Ridge mountain home. But I’m here to tell ya this megalopolis has made such an immense impact on my 64-year consciousness, I hardly know how to mention all the influences.

Our son and his bride-to-be fetched us at LAX last night, about eight o’clock. After the tension of negotiating our airport pickup–“negotiating” with all the other hundred passing vehicles and passengers at the curb of the A terminal, and “negotiating” with an irate neon-vested traffic controller about our hazardous rendezvous tactics in the midst of their managed confusion–after that little eye-of-the-needle thing, next thing I know we’re out on the freeway at night in a river of whizzing lights and gleaming glass, metal and speed.

On one heightened stretch of this highly energized raceway I caught a glimpse in the distance of this glistening mega-city into which we were fast propelling. Then out of nowhere a phrase from some old song was jangly in my head:

“but I couldn’t let go of L A, city of the fallen angels”

Not literally true of course. There are plenty of good people here, millions of them. But that phrase is a cleverly cynical play on the name itself: Los Angeles, Spanish for “The angels.”

I knew the phrase was from an old Joni Mitchell song; I could hear the line sung in my head, but didn’t remember which song.

This morning when we woke up, this was the AirBnB view from our window:

LosAngl1

After a couple of cups of coffee, and a time-warp discovery in our apartment of an ancient artifact:

Phonogrf

This must be what an MP33rpm looks like.

With that old turntable spinning snippets of misspent youth around in my brain, I decided to take a chance on writing this blog, as a vehicle for summoning up whatever memories are zinging around in my mind just now, while sipping coffee in eL A in the morning. Look at this old phonograph; grok its significance in the history of communication technology; cherish its unique position in the collective consciousness stream of my g-generation. You can perhaps imagine within its groovy vinyl-etched peaks and canyons, the adventurous wanderings of our g-generation as we sought far and wide for something we know not what nor where we might find it. Through those pathways of memory you may recall earlier mention, back in the first paragraph, of: reminiscence . . . triggered by a deeply insistent behind-the-scenes presence of this fabled city in my g-generation’s memory.

Joni Mitchell, back in the day, wrote a beautiful, piano-based song, Court and Spark.

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHEDdecvLpU&nohtml5=False   

Her crooning imagery, describing in this song some encountered street-singing man, captures well the wandering spirit of those times–the obsession with freedom in all things–love, travels, thoughts, romantic interludes that did or did not happen.

And it was in that song, Court and Spark, that the jangly phrase “. . . couldn’t let go of L A, city of the fallen angels” is found, in the very last line.

The flights of flirtatious fancy therein are a prospect that a man or woman could spend a lifetime pursuing.

But I do believe that, while the prospect of such a life of romantic rendezvous seems quite attractive and very compelling, the actual living of it, long term, is probably very problematical, perhaps traumatic, maybe even tragic. Tragic romanticism–I knew it well. For a while. And I associate it with the stuff of our dreams, my g-generation’s dreams that floated from Hollywood and eL A and the city by the bay and all that groovy stuff.

I imagine the lovely genius woman who composed that musical phrase about the city of the fallen angels; she  must have lived a life in adventurous pursuit of such exciting moments and passionate encounters, one after another for a whole lifetime.

Me, I did not. I settled down, got a hold of the Christian faith, became a one-woman man. After 36 years of shared adventure, including the present one of visiting Micah and Kyong-Jin in this great city of Los Angeles, Pat and I sit here contentedly this morning with our coffee and our leftovers from last night’s Korean feast for breakfast. And nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina California in the morning.

What a great ride!

Glass half-Full

One fine sparkl’n morn

November 27, 2014

I suggest listening to this tune from Jay Ungar while reading my poem below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaCazf36D3k

This sparkl’n morn

my mind got shorn

of modern stuff when

snowy fluff

flew in my head

instead:

I know I know

what memories these are I think I know

Pull out me ole buckboard wagon

while routine tasks  be laggin’

n sun-bright winter morn

of crisp cold sparkles leapin’

beneath them high-steppin’ hooves

it sho’ behooves

me here somehow in long gone valleys’ Appalachian

long lost memories a-hatchin’

buckboard dreams n

bak’n beans o’er the fire

n some long gone shire

I know I know

what flashes these be I think I see

me n thee trav’lin time and time agin

don’ know how don’ know when

but I know this I somehow know

Pull out me ole fiddle n

fiddle awhile sling out me ole singsong

n singalong tagalong we go

behind horse drawn in the snow

then sway’n ‘cross the kitchen flo’

while the ole fiddles wail

n horse’s whishin’ tail

where it come from I don’ know

yet I do know I know

I think I hear I hear it in the wind

same ole tune from long ago

maybe waltz

from mem’ries toss’d

them gran’pas have send

or gran’mas somehow do lend

to tune our imaginary ears

n sway away our twenty-first fears

how it was in that day n time

front porch boards whistlin’ in

winter wind while kickin’

snowy shoes at the door

before all this other stuff

come along I see

me an thee

when pony heals kick up fluff

cold n white n spark’n fine

n snowy valleys froze in time

in someone’s mind

I know it mine.

It sho’ do shine.

Glass half-Full

Garrisoning the best of Americana

April 18, 2013

Garrison Keillor’s unique retrospective is really about what America was; but somehow, it doesn’t end there. His profound entertainment does not get hung up in the past. It always seems to cultivate, in the back of our minds, an appreciation of Americana that is timeless, enduring.

You see, there is something deeply therapeutic about elaborating on a precious national heritage that we share together. And I declare that there is nothing morose or counterproductive about looking back, even though Mr. Keillor’s Brand-New Retrospective road show is tinged with a note of vintage melancholy.

Last Tuesday night here in Boone, North Carolina, he demonstrated to us that it is healthy, and  helpful, to find inspiration for the future in recollecting the best of what has gone before– remembering the way things used to be when we were young and foolish. Back in the day.

Nothing wrong with identifying what it was that characterized our baby-boom g-generation, then celebrating it with an evening of poetry, prose and singalong, orchestrated by the bard of the Prairie Home. At one point, Garrison started singing:

“Oh, she was just seventeen, you know what I mean.”

And the way she looked was way beyond compare. . .”

We boomers in the arena instinctively joined along. He knew we would, because, together, we remember. . . I clearly remember the first time I heard those lines sung, laying in bed one night listening to my transistor radio, probably about 1963 or so. The Beatles sailed into our young collective consciousness, via the  airwaves, during that rarified time of our youth.

My g-generation remembers that moment of the Fab Four’s arrival from England, shaking their hairy heads on Ed Sullivan and all that, My generation– who grew up under the strong leadership of  Ike and the dubious example of Elvis–my g-generation, mourning  JFK and Dallas, and believing in Walter Cronkite and Annette Funicello.  All these personality vectors framed our shared experience as the first-ever TV generation.

Oh what a time it was! Never be another like it.

But the first singalong we did with Mr. Keillor on Tuesday night was not that Beatles’ tune; it was an anthem much more sacred than anything the irreverent Liverpudlians would ever compose.  All of us gray heads remembered, from school, the refrain:

“America, America, God shed his grace on thee.

And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.”

Then the bard of the Prairie Home crooned us into Home on the Range. The words just come back, you know,  like riding a bicycle.  Most every boomer remembers the tune, accompanied by memories of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Howdy Doody, Dan’l Boone, Woody in Toy Story. Say what? Woody?

Anyway, after those two national hymns, somewhere in there was when Garrison evoked the Beatles contribution to our collective Boomer memory:

“Well, my heart went boom, when I crossed that room,

and I held her hand in mine. . .”

This is what it’s all about! But hey, it seems this kind of thing doesn’t happen any more.

A decade or so before the Beatles, when Garrison Keillor was about the age that I was when I first heard Lennon-McCartney, there was Buddy Holly. He was a little before my time. But Buddy was not before Garrison Keillor’s time; Buddy was right square in the middle of Garrison Keillor’s sensitive prairie-home experience, which had been birthed about nine years before mine had popped out down in Louisiana, but on the same River, the Mississippi.

At his retrospective concert last Tuesday night,  Garrison mentioned Buddy as he spun his web of preciously memorable treasures. I had a feeling he might mention Buddy Holly, because I knew the importance of the deceased singer’s legacy in Mr. Keillor’s mind.

I knew, because many years ago, it was Garrison Keillor’s tenderly shared recollection of Buddy’s small-plane-crash death that first drew my attention to the rare, provocative experience of listening, on Saturday nights, to a Prairie Home Companion radio show. ‘T’was then I heard the Minnesota bard’s poignant, homespun yarns about Lake Wobegone,  which is a quintessential small-town  somewhere out there in the mythical, archetypical, Prairie Home that we all seem to remember, even if we didn’t grow up in Minnesota.

There is so much I could say about our tender evening with Garrison Keillor, but I will not dwell on it, because you are, after all, reading this online, with the attendant post-Boomer short attention  span and so forth. You would. . .ah. . .you’d have to be there. But I will say this:  just to hear Rich Dworsky’s piano playin’ was better than nirvana.

And know this: America’s resilient character lives on and on, despite what soulless fanatics may do to maim and kill innocent bystanders in Boston, or in Texas or in Oklahoma or New York, or in any other place in these United States.

Garrison Keillor’s shared music and monologue continues to reinforce preservation of our precious Americana cultural legacy in every venue he addresses. He is a man garrisoning the best of what America has been, is, and will be.

Boomer’s Choice

In Atlanta, cool fizzies and fuzzy worries

February 26, 2012

A surprise emotion bubbled up inside of me yesterday at the World of Coke: Joy.

There I was, sitting in the crowded theatre in Atlanta.  There, at the epicenter of Coca-Cola’s worldwide advertising mastery, whilst I least expected it, the tears rolled.  Their fuzzy video trip down memory lane worked its fizzy wonders on me.

But then again anything done in excellence has always moved me to tears.

All the cool retro images of droplet-laden green bottles being lifted to luscious lips on smiling faces had softened my jaded mind. That’s how it started. Then somewhere in all the carbonated imagery flow,  angel choirs of diverse singers appear, gathered  on a mountaintop somewhere in our hopeful world. Their universal brother-sisterhood effervesces as a song: I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. That’s when I felt the little drop of Coke rolling down my cheek.

I mean, this whole thing surprised me from the start. I went into it with a curiosity about the history of Coca-Cola, which had started here in Atlanta back in 1865. Dr. John Pemberton had concocted the magic formula back in the day, in his drug store that had existed just a few blocks from where we now stood with this myriad of happy Coke imbibers.

Moving steadily through long (though quite speedy) lines of happy consumers, we had entered the huge pavilion. Disneyesque, it was. And large. Big space, bright, colorful, lots of people, children, and fluidic middle-class abundance at sixteen bucks a pop, maybe less for the kids, I don’t know. Ours our grown. Katie was with us.

The cool fuzzies exuberance had gotten to  me by the time I had gone through the four or five movies adventures inside.  All about the fizzy drink, of course. The last phase of your World of Coke experience comes in the samples corral, where those hundreds of excitable drinkers, me among them, get rounded up for some sweet diversities of tasting.  The folks are all spiriting around like bubbles, drawing samples into little clear plastic cups, through a multitude of soda fountains with all cokish drinks of the world.

That’s when it got to me. These people are having a great time! Its beautiful! Peace and love, man. And hey–it’s Coke, not cocaine. American as mom’s McD apple turnover and Chevy Volt.  Let us teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.

And it burst my bubble of environmental worry that had built up a few days ago while listening to a radio show on recycling. The law of unintended consequences is universally at work here, and throughout the world, wherever you see soft-drink bottles laying in the gutter or on some neglected hillside or roadway, not to mention all the unseen containers in landfills. PET plastic, polyethylene terephthalate, everywhere you go in the world, after I have enjoyed the pause that so refreshes.

It didn’t used to be that way.

I mean, when I was a kid– like, about the age of most of those young’uns we saw at the World of Coke yesterday– we’d pay bottle deposts at the store when we bought the Cokes. After slurping the drinks down,  we’d get the deposits back when we returned the bottles.

Whatever happened to that? One of my best memories was thinking that those much-loved little green glass bottles were being washed and refilled in a Coke plant somewhere, for other smiling drinkers to enjoy.

Glass half-Full