Friday, March 27, 2015

Sing-a-long with First Aid Kit

The soundtrack for 1968 doesn't have an equal that comes easily to mind.  I, whose adventures seem to have been always inadvertent rather than intentional, spent a part of that iconic year in Washington, D.C., a volunteer typist for what they called then "the New Left" and, additionally, employed by the Washington Post.  I did find and sign on for the underground press gig.  Adventure would describe it.  I wish, though, that I could claim a fearless nature and pioneering spirit, both growing stronger with age.  Alas, it is not so.  I did not go off to search for America but find, especially as sung by the sisters of First Aid kit, the song brings me to tears.  Whether it is the tsunami of memories from that year, my roommate and I driving to find the rural crossing where we watched the train carrying Bobby Kennedy's body back to D.C. or the National Guard camped at the end of Church Street after Dr. King's assassination, or the immediate wondering, so many decades later, if today's 22 or 23-year-olds feel the song as I and my contemporaries still do.

"America" is from Simon and Garfunkle's album, BOOKENDS.  Even though we listened to the same music in each others' apartments or funky row house co-op, everyone with a record player owned the same albums.  My life was too transient for that, yet radio was what we thought radio would always be, nothing but our favorite music.  Otis Redding, "Scarborough Fair," Dylan and more Dylan and the Doors.  I think I've officially become part of a dwindling generation that knows its own ghost-filled past better than it knows the present.  There is a place for us in those long-ago rooms.  It is not nostalgia but another reality.  First Aid Kit sings it as though they'd been there, too.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Word of the Week - 55

"I once sent a dozen of my friends a telegram saying 'flee at once - all is discovered.' They all left town immediately."
--Mark Twain
also attributed to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Note sent by Ty Cobb.

Word of the Week: MISSIVE

I'm sticking with the pre-computer definition of missive as a frequently handwritten note or bit of communication, not an email or text.  As wildly passionate as I am about typewriters, I suppose it is my own narrow thinking that seeks penmanship.  We can leave the debate open on that.  Dictionaries differ on the content of a missive - some say lengthy , others say brief, urgent - and remain, shall we say, flexible about the handwritten requirement.

Picture the cardboard rectangle that arrives with a bouquet of flowers or a tiny folded card with room for just a few meaningful words.  These are mementos to be saved, perhaps even glued into a baby book.


On the occasion of her birthday this past week, an artist friend shared a handwritten note from her father, telling her of his feelings on the day she was born.  Reading it made me wish, as do many things, that I'd saved every loving, cheering missive I'd ever received.  To have not just the good wishes or sincere feelings of those we've loved but their distinctive handwriting as well, what a treasure.

Asking myself why, with such a fondness for pens and papers, I send so few pieces of real snail mail, I have only one answer.  Inertia.  I am a reasonable email correspondent or sender of Facebook messages.  A letter IS a letter.  Electronics do not render it invalid or inferior.  Still.

As proof that I am not the only one presently concerned with missives and their importance in our lives, here are some projects and/or products that are able defense witnesses.

At Letters of Note editor Shaun Usher is at work on Volume II of collected correspondence.   Among the "most fascinating" letters on the blog is this, excerpted, from John Steinbeck to his eldest son:

"If you love someone—there is no possible harm in saying so—only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another—but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.



And at Letters In The Mail, you can subscribe to receive two letters a month from authors.  Read more at the link.  A plus, "Think of it as the letters you used to get from your creative friends, before this whole internet/email thing. Most of the letters will include return addresses (at the author’s discretion) in case you want to write the author back." 

Headline: "Letters In The Mail" Turns Your Favorite Author Into Your Pen Pal.

Now go to the Post Office or and find colorful postage to speed your missives on their way.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Previously, in Billington's Cove - A recap

In preparation for what I hope will be the continuation of goings-on in Billington's Cove, here is a previous episode (or two) to refresh all our memories.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Mooning about in the Billington's Cove sunshine

Gloria's sandwiches, borrowed from here.
Robert was thinking, "lucky day" as he watched his workmates head out to string the fairy lights for the dance.  They had actually drawn straws, a commodity the hardware store could produce, to see who had ladder duty that day.  The Reading Man was willing for any task that needed doing and was also grateful to be more earthbound.

If he'd been working in the field, so to speak, he could have swung by Gloria's for lunch.  Any of the voices he heard that morning included conversation about sandwiches for workers.  Someone mentioned feta and sun dried tomatoes on ciabata.  Maybe they could bring him back a few.  (Fisherman's pants! his mind half shouted at him, but the vision of an ample lunch refused to shrink.)

The other half of his mind had begun to fill with music, all of it decades out of date, all of which he had danced to, sometimes with enthusiasm, sometimes with a detachment he hoped seemed cool.  Shuffled in among best loved oldies were the few songs he'd overheard Gloria singing in her kitchen.  Folk songs in a sweet voice that made him think of a mandolin and girls with long, straight hair who had, once upon a time, laughed, it seemed, from the soles of their not-quite-clean feet, only knew how to cook spaghetti and didn't complain.  He remembered they had each grown dreamy from the smell of his porch-dried chambray shirt and shampooed hair.

Good thing they hadn't assigned him power tools today, Robert thought.  Saws, drills and their ilk in combination with ladders.  He had sidestepped into his time machine, the state of suspended disbelief discovered in childhood where now became any time he wished, either with clear memory or soaring imagination.  He knew from experience it would be a jolting re-entry to find himself back behind the cash register, his youthful wonder boy self disguised as a man of increasing years.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thoughts of the summer dance transfix Billington's Cove inhabitants - part 2

Bite-size grilled cheese sandwiches.

Cake bites.
The bite-size buffet worked before, Gloria knew, but not a serve-yourself free-for-all.  There would need to be servers,  sharp-eyed servers, and a way for guests to feel abundance and not lack as they carried their treat-filled plates to a table beneath the strings of fairy lights.  She talked to all the other restaurant owners and volunteer chefs in town, a menu was set, commitments made, watches synchronized.  She scanned the tearoom to see which of her most reliable helpers was already present, which would need to be called.  After a quick inventory of supplies on hand, she started the first batch of cookies.

She was of two minds about how she wished she could spend the day.  What a luxury to be a girl again, all dreamy and a'swirl in tulle and silk, trying on gowns, party dresses, nearly hypnotized by anticipation and her youthful image in the dressing table mirror.  Truth was, she was as enamored of preparing her treats as she had once been of, as she called it, sashaying about, fussing with her hair, writing some boy's name over and over in a notebook, wishing for things she couldn't actually name but felt she would recognize  when they arrived.

Work was a tonic, a cure-all, even when no actual ailment was present.  She was not moonstruck, not adolescent and definitely not confused.  No, she amended.  She WAS moonstruck and with good reason.  It was rare in what she knew of the world to be so aware of another's essential self as she was of Robert's, without having been told.  Gloria believed we possess aspects that never lie to us, that simply receive what is true and allow it to flow freely, a stream returned to life with the first snow melt.  Though this was a new experience, she could trust it.  She wondered if she ought to rethink trusting the townsfolk not to serve themselves too generously at a buffet.  The answer to that was not yet clear.


Space and time

For the times we feel idle, when it seems that we give no evidence of forward momentum, I think how greatly we undervalue the fact that we are passengers, astronauts by loose definition, who each year travel around the sun. A year's journey of 583 million miles at roughly 67,062 miles per hour is but a pinch of the 225,000 to 250,000 year voyage our solar system makes around the Milky Way galaxy.  Idle?  Hardly.  I bless gravity, not always my best friend, for without it all our energy would go into just holding on.  Instead we have so many other options, too often forgetting that the not-simple act of being needs to rank high on the list.

We fret and wonder, have we wasted our gifts, resources, time, love on the way to this moment?  It seems to me that life is a cumulative business, no parts can be discarded as lost or misspent for they all contribute, minute by minute, to who and what we are today, adding themselves to who and what we will be tomorrow.  It is all experience, opportunity for learning, making adjustments, altering and evolving.  Energy is not intended to be frittered on regret.  The knots into which we can tie ourselves over the mistakes, the seemingly grievous errors of our pasts, hobble us.  I believe each moment is the chance for a new beginning, one of the reasons why New Year's resolutions have never held much appeal.  Time and space, the next moment, the entire solar system, what an adventure.  I hope we are all gentle and patient with ourselves today, our dance cards are very full.
Vintage dance card.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Word of the Week - 54

Walt Whitman

Word of the Week:  CONTAIN

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

The word "contain" takes me in so many directions.  At first I thought of the likelihood that others who fancy pens and notebooks, as I do, are also drawn to things that hold other things.  If we have pencils, we need a pencil box.  If we have color pencils, we need an array of easy-to-access storage in which to sort them into color families, types, manufacturers.  There is pleasure, for some of us, in winnowing them into smaller and smaller categories, like biological classifications: class, order, genus, species, and variety.
A version of my back-to-school favorite giant pencil.
Then I thought, "I can't contain myself," to describe a state of such heightened excitement that we start to overflow our banks.  Containing one's self or the attempt to do so may fall into the category of overrated actions.  I have probably mentioned before my aunt's comment when asked about a comedy film she'd just seen.  "It was so funny I could hardly keep from laughing."  Decorum.  I'm not so sure.

Among us pen types, I suspect that old luggage is a favorite, right up there with cigar boxes.  It is the odd but not uncommon heart which rejoices at a stack of vintage suitcases.  And where else to keep real treasures but a cigar box.  Literature supports this truth.
Jem Finch's cigar box from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. (Thank you, Bobby Rivers TV.)
I like hard copies of things, an address book full of crossed-out, rewritten entries, scrap paper notes, torn envelopes, held closed with a rubber band.  Because my father kept files of things like clippings, correspondence, carbons of his stories, I am lured by file folders and file cabinets.  I grew to adulthood working in offices, filing.  The emphatic sound of a metal file draw sliding shut will never be mistaken for anything else.
From Staples.
Containers' delight.
I have tried, without success, even consulting my poetry angel, to find the source of a poem I think I remember from a high school or junior college class in the 60s about how bag people go looking for bags, box people go looking for boxes.  Having fallen short of that goal, here is a bit more Whitman, wiser than many men.  I think this is so lovely.  Contained by time.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Happy Birthday, James Taylor

Thinking of 1970, release date for "Sweet Baby James."  Time flies.
His bio says James Taylor was born March 2, 1948.  That means when I listened to this album at 25 he was a youthful 22.  And had created this.

I am thankful that music and poetry do not require us to explain why we are touched.  The phrase "galvanic skin response" is as close as I come in words to saying how I am moved by the ineffable.  Some things simply are.

"Hard Times Come Again No More" included on this CD.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Change Is Gonna Come

We are just now watching the final five episodes of TREME.  Knowing they were there,  that they existed whole and fresh and unconsumed, was a $20 bill stuffed deep in the pocked of a seldom-worn raincoat.  When John Boutte (accent above the "e") stepped slowly into his goosebumps version of "A Change Is Gonna Come," it felt like being home.  I missed these so-human characters and their stories.  I promised myself to be unswervingly diligent about making what music I make.  The thought "making music and cooking" appeared as an image of my hand, writing the words in my planner.  Not the "To Do" list, the "Must Be" list.  Part of my not-entirely vague manifesto states that there can only be one thing at the top of a list.  That is generally true, yet here I am with making music, cooking, writing and drawing and other heart-driven choices side by side like piano keys, claiming my time, elbowing each other across the first line in the notebook.

Boutte's voice has more than hints of Sam Cooke.  When he starts to sing in the episode, I start to sing.

We each find solace where we can.  With loss consuming so much of life, I see it as miraculous that we do anything other than grieve.  There is music, there is tomorrow, there is hope.  Perhaps all joyful pursuits, all that dazzles and transfixes us,  living versions of Dr. Seuss showing us how impossibly happy the Whos are at Christmas, are whistling in the dark.  The only sensible option is to keep whistling.

From Wendell Berry, this: