Monday, August 19, 2013

Existing in New York City: Goodbye to John Graves, a Writer

Foto courtesy The Brazos River
Say Goodbye to: Marian McPartland, Brit born American jazz pianist deluxe...Marian had a long and involved life in the world of jazz...married Dixielander Jimmy McPartland when very young. Marian McPartland, 95, British-born American jazz pianist, writer, composer, and radio host (Piano Jazz.
From The Daily Growler, May 31, 2010: We Were Already Telling You That the CIA Overthrew the Democratically Elected Mossadeq Government in Iran in 1953...a Little British Petroleum History (those crooked bastards!!!):

Here's a little BP history from its Wikipedia entry.
In May 1901, William Knox D'Arcy was granted a concession by the Shah of Iran to search for oil which he discovered in May 1908.[7] This was the first commercially significant find in the Middle East. On 14 April 1909, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) was incorporated to exploit this.[7] In 1923, the company secretly gave £5,000 to future Prime Minister Winston Churchill to lobby the British government to allow them to monopolise Persian oil resources.[8] In 1935, it became the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC).[7]
After World War II, AIOC and the Iranian government initially resisted nationalist pressure to revise AIOC's concession terms still further in Iran's favour. But in March 1951, the pro-western Prime Minister Ali Razmara was assassinated.[9] The Majlis of Iran (parliament) elected a nationalist, Mohammed Mossadeq, as prime minister. In April, the Majlis nationalised the oil industry by unanimous vote.[10] The National Iranian Oil Company was formed as a result, displacing the AIOC.[11] The AIOC withdrew its management from Iran, and organised an effective boycott of Iranian oil. The British government - which owned the AIOC - contested the nationalisation at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, but its complaint was dismissed.[12]
By spring of 1953, incoming U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorised the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to organise a coup against the Mossadeq government with support from the British government.[13] On 19 August 1953, Mossadeq was forced from office by the CIA conspiracy, involving the Shah and the Iranian military, and known by its codename, Operation Ajax.[13]
Why lookie, lookie, lookie...Iran enters the spotlight. Seems like Ike Eisenhower was out playing golf or else having another heart attack when all of this was going down and he adlepatedly approved it--the Dulles Brothers, John Foster and Allan, were in charge of the world at that time. John Foster Dulles gave us the "domino theory," the Cold War, and designated us as the World's Policemen. His brother Allan, gave us the Central Intelligence Agency. Even Ike admitted when he finally left office after 8 years of playing golf and having heart attacks that we should get rid of the CIA.

But we didn't, instead, we gave the CIA a blank check in terms of expenditures. We gave them their own Constitution and set of rules and laws; we gave them powers beyond belief. As an organization, the Central Intelligence Agency has gone about the world being assholes, pricks, exceedingly cruel ignorant motherfuckers (and, yes, everybody in the CIA would fuck his or her mother if the Big Cheese (Leon Panetta currently--a Clintonista) sends down that directive). They've assassinated heads of state (Allende in Chile); they've overthrown governments (Mossadeq in Iran--see above History of BP); they failed to assassinate Fidel Castro by sending him exploding cigars; they failed big time in the Bay of Pigs fiasco, though they may have, some have said, succeeded in assassinating the President of the US at the time, Johnny Boy We Hardly Knew Ye Fitzgerald Kennedy. Allan Ginsberg through Freedom of Information Act-retrieved documents proved that the CIA and the Mafia worked hand-in-hand in the US and Cuba--along with the big sugar companies and the oil companies--yes, there's oil in Cuba--around Cuba's shoreline. Ironically, though President Obama only a week or so ago forbade American oil companies from signing lease agreements with Cuba to drill off their coast, after the BP well explosion was obviously totally out of control, he recalled that forbiddance and American oil companies (BP and Shell included) are in old Habana now making offshore drilling deals with Raul Castro.

We are desperate for OIL! We the People of the US will start a nuclear war if we don't get control of the world's oil.
Say Goodbye to: Albert Murray, another writer whose books I've raved over for years, Train Whistle Guitar, about growing up Black on the outskirts of Mobile, Alabama; Stompin' the Blues, about the great jazz artists of long ago.  Hey, 97 years he got to live. Albert Murray, 97, American literary and jazz critic, biographer and novelist.
Say Goodbye to: Cedar Walton, jazz pianist supreme. Cedar, like myself, grew up hearing jazz as a youngster in Dallas, Texas.  Cedar Walton, 79, American jazz pianist.
Goodbye to a Writer
I was kind of taken when I read last week that John Graves had died.  The last time I had seen him was forty-some-odd years ago at my brother's goat ranch in Austin.  He met me then, but I'm sure after that he forgot me, though maybe he heard of me occasionally through my brother who knew John quite well.  But I knew him.  I knew him from way back, when I was a young man and living at my brother's house in Dallas.  I was just out of college and I was looking for a job and staying with my brother and his wife until I found one.  I slept in my brother's library and as I didn't sleep much in those days, I stayed up most of the night reading.  One of the books I read then was Goodbye to a River.  It was by a writer I knew little or nothing about in those days.  A Fort Worth writer named John Graves.  Though I didn't know the writer at that time, I did know the river he was writing about.  The Brazos River.  I knew the Brazos from its trickling headwaters, which started up around Lubbock to become the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos, the two offshoots of that fork, the Salt Fork of the Brazos that stretched off on a northern course, and the Clear Fork of the Brazos that swung off on a southern course, a course that led it lumbering over to my hometown, feeding into the source of my hometown's water supply, Fort Phantom Hill Lake.  From Fort Phantom Hill Lake, the Clear Fork of the Brazos went on its way east with a branch of it, Elm Creek, coming on down to zigzag its way on the western edge (in those days) of my hometown, and splitting off of Elm Creek came Catclaw Creek and Lytle Creek, Catclaw eventually ending up in Lake Abilene and Lytle Creek ending up in Lytle Lake,

The Clear Fork of the Brazos after leaving Fort Phantom Hill Lake eventually snaked over east of my hometown to roll down, by then having become the full Brazos River, from the Seymour area to hit the Possum Kingdom Dam that formed Possum Kingdom Lake at Mineral Wells.  From Possum Kingdom Lake, the river headed on a southernly direction to flow under a rickety old bridge that carried Highway 80  uphill to eventually take you up on the grassy plain where sat Weatherford and then Fort Worth.  From the Highway 80 bridge (it looked almost exactly like the bridge in the above photo) the Brazos flowed on south to eventually spill its waters into the Gulf of Mexico, by then becoming the 11th longest river in the USA.

My dad told stories of he and his brothers spending many a weekend camped out on the Clear Fork of the Brazos as it rambled through the sandy region of Jones and Fisher counties we called the Shinery.  The brothers Wolfe used to catch mudcats and yellow cats (catfish to those of you not hip to the vernacular of the ichthyological world) up in the deepest parts of that river.  They caught those catfish not with poles but by wading or swimming over near the banks that were bluffs or banks that had some live oak roots snaking out into the river where spotting a big cat swimming along the sandy bottom of the river, catfish are bottom feeders, they would slip their hands into the big front gills of the fish and bring it up out of the water on their arms.  In those days, it was possible to catch catfish that weighed upwards of 30 pounds.

A famous family story is told about my dad on one of those weekends on the Brazos.  My dad was a show-off.  And on this day, the Wolfe brothers had brought along their sisters and some of their girlfriends.  Anytime there were women around, my dad was at his showing-off best.  On this day, on the edge of the Brazos, my dad saw a small tail sticking out of a hole in the sandy bank.  With a big grin on his face, he dashed handsomely over to that small tail sticking out of that hole and he reached down, grabbed it, and pulled it hard as he could.  The result was, he kept pulling out more and more tail, tail that eventually turned into snake.  He ended up pulling out of that hole the biggest damn cottonmouth moccasin anyone there had ever seen.  On popping that large snake free of that hole, my dad suddenly had that grin wiped off his face as he ran like a scared rabbit into the arms of the closest girl.

My own knowing of the Brazos River came at a very early age when my parents took frequent trips over to Fort Worth on Highway 80 to visit with their friends the Youngs or, too, when we ventured off down on the long trip to visit my mother's relatives in Beaumont, in far south-southeastern Texas.  On the trip to Fort Worth, a trip full of fascinating sites, like the remains of the once thriving boomtown of Ranger and then coming off Ranger Hill seeing the ghost town of Thurber that sat on the plain on whose flats one could still see evidence of the many coal mines that dotted that area, and finally approaching the old rickety bridge that traversed the Brazos River.  The bridge bridged over the river's gorge from what to a young boy was high up in the air with the river far down below.  After you crossed that rickety bridge, you came upon two roadside landmarks, the Hilltop Cafe on one side and the River Cafe on the other side of the highway, both famous for their fresh catfish dinners.  And those dinners were magnificent, a huge platter of fried catfish fillets served with tubs of tartar sauce or catsup and horseradish sauce and a big basket of freshly baked cornbread.

On trips down to Beaumont, we not only crossed the Brazos on Highway 80 but after that, turning south, we crossed it at Granbury, then again at Waco, then again at Bryan, and finally crossing it at Navasota and then heading off east and into the piney woods that took us on down to Beaumont.

The Brazos as it flowed down the middle of Texas was notorious for big-time flooding in the spring rainy seasons.  I remember on one trip to Beaumont with the Brazos in a high flood stage we had to detour way out of the way and finally at Bryan to be ferried across the swollen river on a dollar ferry which was motored by a ferryman lugging the old wooden flat-bottomed ferry via rope that stretched from one bank to another.

My maternal grandmother was fiercely afraid of the Brazos.  I recall one spring my family along with my grandmother were on our way to Beaumont and it was during the rainy season and it was a rather cool cloudy day when we sailed down Ranger Hill and finally approached the rickety old Highway 80 bridge over the Brazos.  As we got right up to the point of crossing over the bridge, my grandmother screamed, "Stop the car, Karl...stop the car," which my father did, a moaning complaint on his kerbed tongue.  My grandmother got out of the car and walked up to the edge of the bridge and looked down at the Brazos.  When she came back and got in the car, she said, "You can proceed now, Karl, the Devil in that old river is asleep."

Later my grandmother explained that when she was a kid in Central Texas near the Brazos there were always reports of people falling into it and drowning, being washed away by its dirty red current.  Also the river was notorious for being full of quicksand.  It was a sandy-bottom river and when it was low you could see sand bars all up and down its bed.

As a young baseball player, I played one summer for a semi-pro oil company team out of Abilene in the Brazos Valley Fast Ball League and we bused over along the Brazos to play the other teams in the league, which were Breckenridge, Ranger, Palo Pinto, Strawn, and Mineral Wells.  I remember especially the game against the Palo Pinto Pintos when a very old Native American we called Chief Blazer pitched for the Pintos.  Seems like everybody on the Pintos was old.  Everybody on my team were young, strong teenagers, yet those old guys whipped our asses good more than once that summer.  I was later punished by my manager for using the word "Fuck" during a game...I had a bad temper in those days  As a result, I quit the team and went with my family on a trip to the Pacific Coast.

The last time I was on the Brazos was on a fishing trip up on the Clear Fork of the Brazos around Truby.  I had a brand new fishing rod and reel and was using a River Runt lure.  I stayed up 48 hours fishing on that trip and never even got one bite.  I wasn't the only one since nobody in that group, there were four of us, caught anything on that trip.

From Goodbye to a River, Examples of the Wonderful Writing of John Graves
"If a man couldn't escape what he came from, we would most of us still be peasants in Old World hovels. But, if, having escaped or not, he wants in some way to know himself, define himself, and tries to do it without taking into account the thing he came from, he is writing without any ink "in his pen. The provincial who cultivates only his roots is in peril, potato-like, of becoming more root than plant. The man who cuts his roots away and denies that they were ever connected with him withers into half a man.” 

"I would be annoyed if I were any more in tune with modern sensibilities. I was shaped differently. The world in which I grew up was Texan and Southern, and it had many, many failings. I think I've gotten rid of most of the bad things in myself from that earlier age, but I don't adjust to the way things are progressing now.”

“Neither a land nor a people ever starts over clean. Country is compact of all its past disasters and strokes of luck–of flood and drouth, of the caprices of glaciers and sea winds, of misuse and disuse and greed and ignorance and wisdom–and though you may doze away the cedar and coax back the bluestem and mesquite grass and side-oats grama, you're not going to manhandle it into anything entirely new. It's limited by what it has been, by what's happened to it. And a people, until that time when it's uprooted and scattered and so mixed with other peoples that it has in fact perished, is much the same in this as land. It inherits.”

A Sad Goodbye to John Graves

for The Daily Growler

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