Saturday, May 31, 2008

Walt Whitman's Birthday

As the Endlessly Rocking Cradle Rocks Us All Away From Here
The mockingbird sings so mockingly as all around him are dead bodies. Francois Villon wrote about the courbies flying around the hanged bodies dangling up on the Montfalcon, crackle-headed birds who joyed in pecking out the bulging eyes of the fresh hanged, tasty snacks for courbies. Walt Whitman walked among the dead and wounded during his sojourn into the Civil War, checking on his brother who was in a string of the fiercest of that stupid war's battles around Washington "Even Then," District of Corruption.

And no, I didn't run off half-soused to Davenport this time, though, yes I did virtually sit by Bix's grave yesterday--I'm virtual, so why not?
There, have a seat with me and let's talk a little idiomatic theory. Let's contemplate cranes falling all over New York City--soon the shoddy sky-high buildings these cranes are helping assembly line build will collapse down flat into a stack of concrete and twisted aluminum pancakes with human blood as syrup.

Let's talk about Donald Trump--what a worthless piece of condemned crap Donald Trump is and there he was yesterday morning saying on New York City teevee, "Hey, I see cranes and I love it because then I know an economy is growing. Hey, let's face it, construction sites are dangerous places--I don't walk anywhere near them...." What a pompous fool ass. Four illegal-immigrant construction workers with Spanish names were killed when a crane on one of his ultra-tacky glass-box combo-hotel-condos going up on Spring and Sixth Avenue here in mad-money, real estate-giveaway Manhattan went out of control and slugged a big swiping hole in the top 4 floors, knocking 4 workers to their demise--"Hay, mamacita, papacito, look at me, I drive big crane...whoops, hay caramba!" 'Scuse my Spanish. Some of my best friends are illegal Mexican immigrants, like the cooks all over Manhattan now; like the women working the deli registers in Manhattan now--they used to all be Asian--and you all know how I love Mexico and Mexicans and grew up living amongst Mexicans both illegal and legal, Tex-Mexians, Refugees, Wetbacks, Chicanos; I played golf on my high school golf team with Isabel Arispe and Adolfo Martinez and my best amigo en Cuidad Santa Fe, El Senor Tito!, the chorizo-making troubadour, who once said, "It's never been New Mexico to me; my family have known it as Mexico for 200 years; there's nothing fucking 'new' about it to us."

And Donald Trump and our little-man billionaire mayor says we gotta get used to cranes falling--either that or get the fuck out of Manhattan, 'cause he and the city council are rezoning like mad and giving tax breaks like hell--hell the real estate gang are sucking the little mayor's dick and he's rewarding them with big development deals--I mean, this little prick allowed the sale of a partially city-funded affordable housing project, the largest block of privately owned land in Manhattan, it's boundless, Stuyvesant Town is what it's called and it was originally built by an insurance company with the help of the city to offer a diversity of affordable housing based on your income, etc. Some people have lived in Stuyvesant Town 50 years--a big real estate developer got a bargain from our billionaire little man mayor--I think that block of land sold for 65 billion--and already the new owner is kicking tenants the fuck out of there and already the developer is talking destroying and rebuilding--hotels, hotels, hotels--my god how New York City needs more hotel rooms--so we can soak the stupid tourists who come here--though, OK, mostly I see Euro Trash over here enjoying the good life and rubbing the cheap dollar into our fucking desperately afraid faces. What a bunch of ninnies New York Citians have become.
It sure is peaceful here at Bix's grave, isn't it? I'm beat again and I mean that the beatitudinal way the way Jack Kerouac used it--"I'm hip." Hep cats. Hepped up in the blues idiom and I'm reading Albert Murray for the first time now and he's slow-draggin' me into his "blues idiom" theory of art appreciation and creative advancement in terms of art and being an artist and knowing what art is without having to ponder too long, race-horse-fast thinking needed, and "play that, you motherfucker" and "OK, motherfucker, here ya go, 36 choruses up your ass" and "Damn, is that the best 36 you got? Catch a face full of my shit." I'm going beat again--like I'm looking for that shower of rose petals that fall all over Saint Teresa--yes, she the main character of Gertrude Stein's libretto--to Virgil Thomson's music--of her opera Four Saints in Three Acts--Saint Teresa of Avila--but I left my heart in Avalon, beside the sea, as played by the Benny Goodman Trio back in the Swing Era!

I'm beat--"Beat me, Daddy, eight to the bar." And it's Uncle Walt Whitman's birthday--and soon Doomsday is coming up--and I thrilled as Simon Loehkle went sarcastic-mad this morning on his WBAI-NYC-Pacifica show--a cynical unshielding of his sword and then hacking 'em down to size, which he was doing, condemning the New York Times as being an obsolete medium, as obsolete as radio, he said--and then he read Uncle Walt's Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking--DEATH!

Does the word DEATH scare hell out of you? As I type this there are Chinese still buried alive in the piles of rubble left by the earthquake and the continuing aftershocks over in billions-to-spare China. We've drained all the oil out from our poor old Mother Earth--how do we know our old Mother doesn't need that oil as a lubricant between her constantly shifting tectonic plates? Maybe the Earth's old joints are inflamed. Certainly Mother Earth has lung trouble--plus she's getting thirsty as hell, too.

So I didn't go to Davenport but went to a sports bar instead and watched the Yankees successfully beat the Minnesota Twins--who foolishly are building an open-air baseball stadium in downtown Minneapolis--they are tearing down the Humphrey Dome, a roofed field--yes, one of the worst stadiums in baseball--and they say they can't afford a retractable roof type stadium now--it's just too expensive. Boo hoo-hoo. Double boo-hoo-hoo. So if Minnesota happens to get into the late September/early October playoffs, there'll be snow on the field in Minnehaha. And the Yankees played amazin'-ly well--with Abreu goin' wild--Matsui going wild--A-Rod going 2-3--and of all the weird things, Mike "Even Steven" Mussina has now won 8 in a row--he's 8-3, I think--don't make me swear--and we Mike Mussina fans know he'll probably lose five before he wins again.

I'm hip...are you?

for The Daily (Brooklyn Eagle) Growler

Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking (the complete poem!) by Uncle Walt Whitman

OUT of the cradle endlessly rocking,
Out of the mocking-bird’s throat, the musical shuttle,
Out of the Ninth-month midnight,
Over the sterile sands, and the fields beyond, where the child, leaving his bed, wander’d alone, bare-headed, barefoot,
Down from the shower’d halo, 5
Up from the mystic play of shadows, twining and twisting as if they were alive,
Out from the patches of briers and blackberries,
From the memories of the bird that chanted to me,
From your memories, sad brother—from the fitful risings and fallings I heard,
From under that yellow half-moon, late-risen, and swollen as if with tears, 10
From those beginning notes of sickness and love, there in the transparent mist,
From the thousand responses of my heart, never to cease,
From the myriad thence-arous’d words,
From the word stronger and more delicious than any,
From such, as now they start, the scene revisiting, 15
As a flock, twittering, rising, or overhead passing,
Borne hither—ere all eludes me, hurriedly,
A man—yet by these tears a little boy again,
Throwing myself on the sand, confronting the waves,
I, chanter of pains and joys, uniter of here and hereafter, 20
Taking all hints to use them—but swiftly leaping beyond them,
A reminiscence sing.


Once, Paumanok,
When the snows had melted—when the lilac-scent was in the air, and the Fifth-month grass was growing,
Up this sea-shore, in some briers, 25
Two guests from Alabama—two together,
And their nest, and four light-green eggs, spotted with brown,
And every day the he-bird, to and fro, near at hand,
And every day the she-bird, crouch’d on her nest, silent, with bright eyes,
And every day I, a curious boy, never too close, never disturbing them, 30
Cautiously peering, absorbing, translating.


Shine! shine! shine!
Pour down your warmth, great Sun!
While we bask—we two together.

Two together! 35
Winds blow South, or winds blow North,
Day come white, or night come black,
Home, or rivers and mountains from home,
Singing all time, minding no time,
While we two keep together. 40


Till of a sudden,
May-be kill’d, unknown to her mate,
One forenoon the she-bird crouch’d not on the nest,
Nor return’d that afternoon, nor the next,
Nor ever appear’d again. 45

And thenceforward, all summer, in the sound of the sea,
And at night, under the full of the moon, in calmer weather,
Over the hoarse surging of the sea,
Or flitting from brier to brier by day,
I saw, I heard at intervals, the remaining one, the he-bird, 50
The solitary guest from Alabama.


Blow! blow! blow!
Blow up, sea-winds, along Paumanok’s shore!
I wait and I wait, till you blow my mate to me.


Yes, when the stars glisten’d,
All night long, on the prong of a moss-scallop’d stake,
Down, almost amid the slapping waves,
Sat the lone singer, wonderful, causing tears.

He call’d on his mate;
He pour’d forth the meanings which I, of all men, know. 60

Yes, my brother, I know;
The rest might not—but I have treasur’d every note;
For once, and more than once, dimly, down to the beach gliding,
Silent, avoiding the moonbeams, blending myself with the shadows,
Recalling now the obscure shapes, the echoes, the sounds and sights after their sorts, 65
The white arms out in the breakers tirelessly tossing,
I, with bare feet, a child, the wind wafting my hair,
Listen’d long and long.

Listen’d, to keep, to sing—now translating the notes,
Following you, my brother. 70


Soothe! soothe! soothe!
Close on its wave soothes the wave behind,
And again another behind, embracing and lapping, every one close,
But my love soothes not me, not me.

Low hangs the moon—it rose late; 75
O it is lagging—O I think it is heavy with love, with love.

O madly the sea pushes, pushes upon the land,
With love—with love.

O night! do I not see my love fluttering out there among the breakers?
What is that little black thing I see there in the white? 80

Loud! loud! loud!
Loud I call to you, my love!

High and clear I shoot my voice over the waves;
Surely you must know who is here, is here;
You must know who I am, my love. 85

Low-hanging moon!
What is that dusky spot in your brown yellow?
O it is the shape, the shape of my mate!
O moon, do not keep her from me any longer.

Land! land! O land! 90
Whichever way I turn, O I think you could give me my mate back again, if you only would;
For I am almost sure I see her dimly whichever way I look.

O rising stars!
Perhaps the one I want so much will rise, will rise with some of you.

O throat! O trembling throat! 95
Sound clearer through the atmosphere!
Pierce the woods, the earth;
Somewhere listening to catch you, must be the one I want.

Shake out, carols!
Solitary here—the night’s carols! 100
Carols of lonesome love! Death’s carols!
Carols under that lagging, yellow, waning moon!
O, under that moon, where she droops almost down into the sea!
O reckless, despairing carols.

But soft! sink low; 105
Soft! let me just murmur;
And do you wait a moment, you husky-noised sea;
For somewhere I believe I heard my mate responding to me,
So faint—I must be still, be still to listen;
But not altogether still, for then she might not come immediately to me. 110

Hither, my love!
Here I am! Here!
With this just-sustain’d note I announce myself to you;
This gentle call is for you, my love, for you.

Do not be decoy’d elsewhere! 115
That is the whistle of the wind—it is not my voice;
That is the fluttering, the fluttering of the spray;
Those are the shadows of leaves.

O darkness! O in vain!
O I am very sick and sorrowful. 120

O brown halo in the sky, near the moon, drooping upon the sea!
O troubled reflection in the sea!
O throat! O throbbing heart!
O all—and I singing uselessly, uselessly all the night.

Yet I murmur, murmur on! 125
O murmurs—you yourselves make me continue to sing, I know not why.

O past! O life! O songs of joy!
In the air—in the woods—over fields;
Loved! loved! loved! loved! loved!
But my love no more, no more with me! 130
We two together no more.


The aria sinking;
All else continuing—the stars shining,
The winds blowing—the notes of the bird continuous echoing,
With angry moans the fierce old mother incessantly moaning, 135
On the sands of Paumanok’s shore, gray and rustling;
The yellow half-moon enlarged, sagging down, drooping, the face of the sea almost touching;
The boy extatic—with his bare feet the waves, with his hair the atmosphere dallying,
The love in the heart long pent, now loose, now at last tumultuously bursting,
The aria’s meaning, the ears, the Soul, swiftly depositing, 140
The strange tears down the cheeks coursing,
The colloquy there—the trio—each uttering,
The undertone—the savage old mother, incessantly crying,
To the boy’s Soul’s questions sullenly timing—some drown’d secret hissing,
To the outsetting bard of love. 145


Demon or bird! (said the boy’s soul,)
Is it indeed toward your mate you sing? or is it mostly to me?
For I, that was a child, my tongue’s use sleeping,
Now I have heard you,
Now in a moment I know what I am for—I awake, 150
And already a thousand singers—a thousand songs, clearer, louder and more sorrowful than yours,
A thousand warbling echoes have started to life within me,
Never to die.

O you singer, solitary, singing by yourself—projecting me;
O solitary me, listening—nevermore shall I cease perpetuating you; 155
Never more shall I escape, never more the reverberations,
Never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent from me,
Never again leave me to be the peaceful child I was before what there, in the night,
By the sea, under the yellow and sagging moon,
The messenger there arous’d—the fire, the sweet hell within, 160
The unknown want, the destiny of me.

O give me the clew! (it lurks in the night here somewhere;)
O if I am to have so much, let me have more!
O a word! O what is my destination? (I fear it is henceforth chaos;)
O how joys, dreads, convolutions, human shapes, and all shapes, spring as from graves around me! 165
O phantoms! you cover all the land and all the sea!
O I cannot see in the dimness whether you smile or frown upon me;
O vapor, a look, a word! O well-beloved!
O you dear women’s and men’s phantoms!

A word then, (for I will conquer it,) 170
The word final, superior to all,
Subtle, sent up—what is it?—I listen;
Are you whispering it, and have been all the time, you sea-waves?
Is that it from your liquid rims and wet sands?


Whereto answering, the sea,
Delaying not, hurrying not,
Whisper’d me through the night, and very plainly before day-break,
Lisp’d to me the low and delicious word DEATH;
And again Death—ever Death, Death, Death,
Hissing melodious, neither like the bird, nor like my arous’d child’s heart, 180
But edging near, as privately for me, rustling at my feet,
Creeping thence steadily up to my ears, and laving me softly all over,
Death, Death, Death, Death, Death.

Which I do not forget,
But fuse the song of my dusky demon and brother, 185
That he sang to me in the moonlight on Paumanok’s gray beach,
With the thousand responsive songs, at random,
My own songs, awaked from that hour;
And with them the key, the word up from the waves,
The word of the sweetest song, and all songs, 190
That strong and delicious word which, creeping to my feet,
The sea whisper’d me.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Gothic eMail

From Parts Unknown, We Received the Following eMail

I may never write again--I don't feel right doing
it--or it doesn't feel right doing me--I don't know--I
start writing about a dam condition in Haiti and I end
up on an endless Haitian journey that will turn into a
Paul Bowles-like book--me among the Haitians--walking
through the Haitian hills with a barefoot girl who
makes my salads every night in the hotel
restaurant--or waking up that morning in another world
with a whole other bunch of people and a dead woman
laying naked in the next morning's garbage out under
the huge banana tree, the one several big rats come
out of every evening to frisk about around the garbage
cans--and the rats had eaten the dead woman's face
away.... Rats! You see what I mean. I'm tired of
writing--I'm reading now--Jane Eyre is growing into a
weird young woman who's gettin' hot--especially for
foggy ghostly dream men who she should know are gonna
do her wrong....

from parts unknown
who's this Michael Collins you be accusin' me'a
kidnappin' right from under your lovely nose?
I think I'll sit out by Bix's grave tomorrow.
We Turn to Our Auxiliary Staff--We're Pointing at Walter Crackpipe--Hit It, Walter!
Why me? Because I'm bitter? Because I'm wracked towards psychoses because of the neurotic way in which our sissy country is reacting to FEARS? And listen to who we namby-pambies are afraid of: Al Queda--a nonexistent world-dominating brilliant military force capable of bringing the United States down with a robotic airforce or a camel caravan of mad bombers perhaps--a camel caravan coming across the Siberian flats, across the frozen Bering Straits, and then straight down through Canada, already a hot-bed of Al Queda terrorists--what ever happened to those Canadian Al Queda-ists who were going to blow up Ottawa or the Peace Tower in Toronto or something mild like that a couple of years ago now?--oh well, or should I say "Orwell"--1984's coming late but it is still coming--anyway, so we FEAR a nonexistent world terrorist force, one made up and put into action by our own CIA and the skullduggery of the frightening Neo-Cons, most of whom have resigned in humiliation or are serving time--like Scooter Libby, taking the fall for the real crooks, for Unka Dick and his Gunga Din, Boy Georgie Porgie the Millionaire-Goof-Ball who through the miraculous power of Jesus Christ is faux president in spite of his long list of total failures, including a cocaine habit, a drinking habit, messin' with Messkin gals in the Boys Towns of La Frontera--spoiled brat rich boy used to since elementary school getting his way and whatever the hell he wanted, especially from his mom, old Babs herself, who ruled that wimpy roost with a bulldyke hand--Howard Stern once called Babs Bush "George Washington With Boobs"--and at one time, Babs did look like George Washington including the powdered gray wighair--and she and her family and her stupid sons are a bunch of Whigs, too; Tories; they worship royal families and hell, in world social circles they consider themselves a royal family. Pappy and the Bin Ladens's (though they're officially off the Board now) old Carlyle Group, thought to be on the verge of bankruptcy due to bad investments, has made a spectacular comeback--comeback enough to buy Booze, Allen & Hamilton, the nation's largest PRIVATE spying company, actually a corporate branch of the CIA and Homeland Security, for several billion bucks. Oh how easy it is for the Plutocrats to just buy their way out of danger with paper deals--nonsense deals, like JP Morgan-Chase (Samuel Chase, by the way, was a total nutjob)(JP Morgan, called the ugliest man in the world behind his back, was a pompous peasant who rose to power through truly crooked and crooked-as-a-snake-at-night snake oil salesman deals, a dude who stole everybody's money and made himself so filthy rich he bought his way into the Corporate Val Halla where these rich pompous assholes think they can squander away economies with impunity--and, by God, they're right) bailing Bear Stearns out. They didn't bail Bear Stearns out, We the People bailed 'em out through our dumbass Federal Reserve that pumped 30 billion dollars into that deal--can you imagine, We the People of the USA giving a corporate bunch of scoundrels who should be doing time for being felons 30 billion dollars so they can save face?--why not let Bear Stearns go under?--it wouldn't matter to 90% of Amuricans if Bear Stearns went belly up--wouldn't affect their foreclosures or credit debt or job-security fears or fears of Acts of God. What it does do is enable Morgan-Chase to fire half Bear Stearns staff and of course half of their own staff, too--I mean, somebody's got to pay that Federal Reserve loan back! What! Oh, I'm sorry, it seems they don't have to pay it back after all--it'll just be sold off to the Communist/Capitalist Republic of China (yep, Commie China, once our FEARED enemy--why old wily General Douglass-Double-ass McArthur warned us that if Red China was allowed to cross the Yalu (sic) River the whole world would soon file over like a lining up of dominoes that's been tapped into action, the whole world falling to Communism! And now look at the world! The two growing-est economies in the world are: Commie China and Russia! Yep, folks, no longer do you come to the USA to get rich--now you go to Commie China or Russia--your cup will runneth over, unless the Russian Mafia (old Putin's mob) does you in, maybe putting a little plutonium in your tea.

for The Daily Growler

Huntington Hartford Is Dead

Yeah, we know, "Who?" And, yes, we admit, we thought he died years ago--when his museum on Columbus Circle in New York City was abandoned to ruin, maybe given to the city by Huntingon. He was notorious for blowing millions with total abandonment. He blew 30 million on Hog Island in the Bahamas and then renamed it Paradise Island and then forgot about it--we think the Merv, Merv Griffin, ended up owning it in the last zesty years of his fatass wealthy life. Huntington Hartford thanks to an inheritance (the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company fortune) was able to blow bucks as though they grow on trees--that's why we Growlerites are so against inheritance--estates--foundations--tying family fortunes, passing it on and on to the worthless family lines, jokers who because of their original family wealth, probably gained on the shady side, like the Kennedy wealth is based on bootlegging during prohibition; or how about that worthless bunch of old Sam Walton's kids? H.L. Hunt's illegitimate sons?
One of Many Huntington Hartford Wedding Photos--Four Times or More?
We raise a growler of Old Growling ale to a The Daily Growler Great Amurican Hall of Famer, Huntington Hartford--that bastard had his cake and he ate it, too.

for The Daily Growler

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Brown Hills of Haiti

Barren, Starving Haiti (A Story Begins to a Beguine)
In 1974, in January, on a Sunday morning, a normal Sunday morning for me and my wife that became just out of nowhere totally out of the normal. In New York City. On Manhattan Island. And we did what millions of up-and-coming or down-and-going New Yorkers did every Sunday morning: breakfast either in bed or at the breakfast table or the kitchen counter--with plenty of coffee and the New York Times Sunday edition split apart into my favorite sections and her favorite sections or vice versa--we both liked reading the "Arts & Leisure" section and we both read the "Business" section, her for the business news and me for the classifieds since I was always searching my areas in the classifieds for THAT better and easier way of making my living and we shared the Review of Books, but I got exclusive use of the "Sports" section and I steered clear of her "Fashion" and "Science" sections.

I, like the faithful pup I was to this woman, went out late every Saturday night and picked up the earliest edition of the Times--sometimes not all the sections were out yet--unless my wife and I were pub crawling around the jazz joints that were still cookin' in those days when big real original jazz stars were still alive and drawing big crowds in New York City jazz joints and clubs and halls, the Village Gate, the Top of the Gate, the Cedar Tavern, the Vanguard, the Half Note, Bradleys, Slugs, Mikell's, the West End, the Village Corner, 7th Avenue South, Sweet Basil, Eddie Condon's, Jimmy Ryan's, the Metropole, the Roundtable, the Knickerbocker on Fifth Avenue, ETC. And if we were up late Saturday night pub crawling, then on the way home from the crawl, usually around 4 or 5 Sunday morning, we'd pick up a Times from one of the many tumbling open newstands along any of the avenues, big bursting wide-open stands on big corners, especially one on a corner in the Village, though they were actually all over the city in those dear old days, and the Sunday Times would be in sections piled around the outside of the newstand and you went around and put your own sections together or waited while one of the newstand dudes put one together for you.

A typical Sunday morning in my wife's and my fabby New York City apartment and for so young a couple it really was fabby, though we were naive to just how fabulous it was since we had just moved to the Big Apple from living in a villa on the side of a mountain overlooking the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico, on East 56th Street and Sutton Place. You couldn't get much better than that--unless your building entrance was actually around on Sutton Place.

My wife was reading her section of the Times on our yellow couch that made a bed in our apartment living room. I was in my Eames chair reading the Review of Books with my earphones on listening to Bach on my stereo. I was taking it easy. I was paying no attention to my wife. Then I felt something tapping at my left foot. Then my left foot got kicked. I popped up in the Eames, flipped off the headphones. "Yeah, Toots, what's up?" "I want a divorce." "OK. Take care of it." And then I was back under the headphones listening to Bach and reading some smartass review of some new-hyped book where the reviewer always seemed to be more concerned about his or her own writing clevernesses rather than the intent of the writer's long days into nights work on a book they were reviewing, a book the NYROBs college-prof reviewers were either tearing apart or praising to a high-brow heaven. [When I use the word "high brow," the critic named Russell Lynes comes immediately to mind. Russell Lynes who wrote for Harper's and became famous in the late 40s and early 50s for writing an essay on the highbrows, lowbrows, and middlebrows in American culture--a rather elitist put down of a new American culture evolving out of World War II. Lynes's essay became a big thing to debate in my Sociology classes during the late 50s and early 60s and in my American Studies classes late in my failed attempt to get a PhD.]

Oh the dreams my young beauty smart-ass wife and I had about getting our PhDs and teaching at some smarmy upperclass-fool private college, like Lake Forest in the Chicago suburbs--oh how we dreamed of teaching at Lake Forest (rich girls; beautiful campus)! Both our PhD chances were dashed when I was told I wouldn't pass my orals because of my contrarian attitude and so I gave up on that achievement and my wife got in big clashes with her Yaley professor-types and she got pissed and quit her chase for the graduate-degree chalice--she had gone to three different colleges until she finally got her B.A. from Hunter College in New York City, once a woman's college, coed though when my wife went there, though she graduated under the first-ever woman college president. She came out of Hunter speaking fluent Italian, already speaking Spanish, better at French than Franklin Delano Roosevelt who Gore Vidal ridiculed for not even having a knowledge of restaurant French--hell, even I at one time thought I had a good handle on restaurant French, until I got to what I thought would be a gay old time in Gaite Parisienne--I came away hating Parisian French--and who the hell doesn't, even the Provincial French hate 'em.

I'm the kind of guy who turns quickly on people who look down their fucking noses at me (like Russell Lynes's essay mentioned above)--just because they consider me a typical American--or because I have a Texas accent, an English accent that sounds so strange to Europeans and utterly unintelligible to Asians--like the bloody British, for instance, and believe me, though I was soused to the gills most of the time I was London, I told many a snooty foppish Brit bastard to kiss my bloody arse as I wobbled around Hyde Park acting like an American-soused Dr. Johnson. "This is the worse fucking food I've ever eaten, and I've eaten half-alive guinea pig fetuses on the north bank of the Amazon, by God, and they tasted better than this shit." I became notorious in my short stay in London, like in Claridges over a Hunter's breakfast--or at the Dorchester bar over a jugged hare--"Holy shit, how long's this rabbit been dead, a year or two?" I've never been proud of being an American. Uh-oh! Is that Blackwater coming after my subversive ass? I've never been proud of being an American and I've never wanted to go to a foreign country and be forced to be a tourist no matter how long I live there--though I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Mexico City, Nuevo Laredo (now controlled by the Mexican Mafia), Monterrey (I got married in Monterrey one time--how many of you can say that?), Juarez--my wife was the New Mexico State racing secretary at that time (her boss was the New Mexico State Racing Authority) and the Juarez horse track and the dog track were under her jurisdiction and she had a free pass to the jockey club at the big horse track there--and we've many a time hosted parties in the Juarez Jockey Club with big tablesful of quail, venison and beef steaks, stuffed jalapena mushrooms, Mexican pickled vegetables, tortillas, tostados, gaucamole, mole sauces, red beans, cabrito (pit barbecued goat)--holy shit. I've got to shake this past off, dammit. I'm shakin' like a dog.

And did I tell you about the night my friend Big Tall Tom, the Oceanside, California, poker king, and his Hawaiian model wife and my wife won every race at the Juarez dog track one night while betting at the Central Avenue betting parlor in Juarez. And every time we won, they played march music over the loudspeaker and the whole room got up and applauded, the applause and the gritos getting louder and louder until the final race and we won again and they announced that we had won again and we were tributed with whoops and bravos and whistles and tons of Cruz Blanca beers coming our way, and tons of chips and dip and hell even a dude went out and bought us a huge platter of tacos and nachos which we shared with the betting parlor. And we left the betting parlor loaded with bucks and went back to the Plaza Hotel in El Paso and feasted on special steak fingers, huge chunks of strip sirloin rolled in flour and cracker crumbs, all peppered and salted, and deep fried--and oh my god, what a night of reveling for the four of us--we were all slovenly drunk and high and what a wonderful world it was then.... I hate sentimentality. I hate the future. I love the NOW! The only thing we have until we have it no more and we'll not know when we have it no more just like I didn't know that Sunday morning, had no clue, my sweet money-making wife was contemplating divorcing me. OK, so she'd caught me in bed with several women...the Cuban-refugee ballet dancer in New Orleans; the lieutenant governor's daughter in Santa Fe; the black stripper in Palo Alto, California; her best friends in New Orleans--and oh how wonderful old New Orleans was then--and how I loved New Orleans when I lived there--how free I felt there--how different from the rest of the United Snakes it was--so different a food, the creole cooking, the French cuisine, the just-plain-old southern cooking, the raw oysters, the fresh crabs, the crawfish boils, the po' boys, the oyster loaves, the fisherman's platters at Victor's--again, I leave it in the past and come back to the NOW, and the story of how I ended up flying one late afternoon into Port au Prince airport where I was met by a lawyer named Napoleon Bonaparte. I said, "Napoleon Bonaparte, I thought that was a bad name in Haiti," to which he smiled but didn't reply, and that's when I realized, Napoleon Bonaparte hadn't understood a word I said and my restaurant French didn't work on him either--right then and there riding out of Port au Prince city and up into the Haitian hills to the mountainside village of Petion-ville and the hotel the divorce package had reserved a room in for me.
The Villa Creole Hotel, my home while I sojourned in Haiti for 3 months. I wrote by that pool every morning until the sun got so hot I withdrew to the bar, just over to the left there, and Tyrone the bartender immediately starting making me the first of many Planter's Punches I would quaff down before the day ended, made with lots of Barbancourt rum--I'd been up to where they made Barbancourt and had met one of the original family so I preferred Barbancourt to all the other Caribbean rums--Barbancourt had that sugar caney taste, sort of a sorghum taste, to it I liked.

My wife began the divorce proceedings faster than I had expected. She worked for one of the world's top 100 wealthy dudes, a Lebanese with Saudi Royal Family and British Petroleum money behind him, keeping him in his 21-room Park Avenue-apartment. This guy's chauffeur had a bigger apartment than my wife and I. She'd used his lawyer to draw up the separation papers. To get divorced in New York State was going to cost us a bundle--it was going to cost HER a bundle since I had not much of an income, working leisurely like I was freelancing at Time-Life, working on call, working 3 or 4 days a week at $9 an hour, which was good money, but nowhere near what my wife was making, $42,000 a year when she said she wanted the divorce, plus stocks in her boss's big California oil and refinery company--a lot of Washington, District of Corruption dinners and shit--big time for my sweet little Tex-Mex-Choctaw-Welsh wife, beautiful but coldly intellectual and boldly honest among such a den of thieves. These birds loved my wife, not sexually, but for her practical insights into problems, especially money problems, from which all the rich birds my wife worked for suffered: (1 in New Orleans; 1 in Santa Fe; 2 in New York City). She called 'em all "paper cowboys"--all their worth on pieces of paper--no cash at all in their pockets--always getting calls from their credit card companies--"When will Mr. Big Shot be paying on his American Express statement, which is currently at $6,000 in arrears? Could we maybe see a full payment by the 21st, say, or we will have to turn this statement over to our collections division, those arm- and leg-breaking guys."

My wife's logic in divorcing me was based on her making at that time 6 times more than I was. This was the early seventies in NYC, still a rather inexpensive and easy-to-get-a-job place to live--I was making $7,000-plus a year, which wasn't bad at all, but compared to her making $42,000, come on, I was a "landless peasant" trying to live in a "cakes and ale" society.

The phrase "landless peasant" comes from Haiti. Back a few years ago, with the insistence of the Americans--who have ruled Haiti one way or another since they gained their independence back around 1776 same as the good ole USA's independence revolt--the biggest river in Haiti, the Artibonite, it flows out of the Dominican Republic, was damned--with the world's tallest damn structure--as a result thousands of acres of farmland were flooded and the farmers were left to flee to the hills, losing their farms, and leaving them, as the Haitians said, "landless peasants," from successful farmer/landowners one minute and landless peasants the next, thanks to the IMF, the kind and considerate good ole US of A.
Peligre ("Dangerous") Dam--the dam that created the "landless peasant" in Haiti

At first, we refused to recognize Haiti's independence--just flat refused--and we used gunboat diplomacy against them from the time of Abe Lincoln on through the Billy Jeff Clinton time in office (or orifice in his case) when Billy Jeff sent all the Haitian refugees to Guantanamo Bay and then surrounded Haiti with Navy ships in order to keep the starving desperate Haitians from boarding an innertube and riding the risky waves over to Miami, once a Haitian haven of rest but since a natural haven of hate for Haitians. You know why Haitians are despised by most white and Spanish colonizers? You guessed it, because they were black men and they kicked Napoleon's French Army's ass, their rebellion started by Dutty Zamba Boukman and the revolting slaves and then led to final kick-ass victory by the military genius of a man named Toussaint L'ouverture.
Toussaint L'ouverture (top photo); Painting: "Boukman Rallies the Slaves" (bottom photo).

NOTE: thegrowlingwolf suddenly, as is his habit, began growling and howling around the beautiful The Daily Growler underground offices near Yucca Flats, Nevada, then he harrangued for 15 minutes about this Haitian post was now a BOOK and he didn't want to write a book right now--"God-dammit," he was heard to growl, "I'm readin' books right now, not writing them. I hate having books rattlin' around freely in my cranium." He then bolted the office but not before tucking a $30 bottle of Michael Collins Irish Whiskey under his foreleg--we hope he isn't headed for Davenport. If he is we may not see him for a week or two.

for The Daily Growler

Sports Extra With marvelousmarvbackbiter
What a game, last night, at Shea, Willie vs. Joe. And Willie beat Joe. But what fun it was and Joe got a standing O and let me tell ya, Willie loved the win--and damn if he didn't need it--just to get the Mets fans back in his corner--they were turning on Willie thanks to the fucking baseball press--dumb ass newspaper men who know nothing about baseball really--who were bellyaching about Willie being a loser and wanting a new manager. The Mets stood behind Willie. The manager always gets blamed for a team losing, though managers really have little to do with buying the players or keeping an eye on the farm teams, etc. The manager is there to manage a game at a time--and of course a terrible manager can fuck a team up and a good manager, like Joe Torre, like Mike Scotia, like Bobby Cox, like Earl Weaver, like Casey Stengel, like Sparky Anderson, Whitey Herzog--I could go on namin' 'em for a few more whiles--the minute they start managing losing teams, the faster they fade into the cruel record books where even the greats soon fade to yellow as the years pass and the records fall and baseball history overgrows its bounds and so many great players and managers will be lost to time.

for The Daily Growler

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Fast-Passing Past

"So Long, It's Been Good to Know You"
I was reading about Joseph Oliver's last years of his life. He was still not old, in his fifties, but finished as a musician, the times having come along and bulldozed everything out of his reach, the old clubs in which he starred as the King of the New Orleans Cornet Players gone, the tours dried up, his players having left him, and King Joe Oliver soon found himself desperate. He'd taken over the title of King of the New Orleans Cornet Players from Buddy Bolden and Freddie Keppard--the book, Jazzmen, by Ramsey & Smith, has this whole wonderful chapter about King Oliver, the book was published in 1939 and the chapter was written in 1938, the year the King died in a mostly forgotten state and in utter poverty in Savannah, Georgia, too humble and polite to ask even his daughter for money enough to get back to New York City, his dream, though by then he had lost all of his teeth suddenly to pyorrhea--a cornet player without teeth isn't very successful--and then he developed a bad heart problem--he was a big man who was notorious for his eating habits--his usual main meal was 6 to 12 hamburgers at one sitting--he once on a challenge ate 12 full pies at one sitting--his dream though was to get back to NYC, where he thought, like all washed-up once-star musicians think, he could put together another band and start another come-back. All musicians who've experienced even the slightest bit of fame or cult heroism are constantly looking for their thing to come back around again to give them their second chances, second chances that most times never happen. King Oliver was a legend and still is among true jazz lovers and understanders--the King played a short horn, the cornet, like Buddy Bolden, like Freddie Keppard, and then King Oliver taught all he knew to a young New Orleans kid named Louis Armstrong. All along King Oliver knew Louis was gonna one day cut his ass. Louis was young and had more lung power than Joe did and could hit higher notes than the King though he hadn't put his thing together yet and then he followed the King up to Chicago where he became part of the King Oliver Creole Jazz Band, with greats like Honore Dutrey on trambone, Baby Dodds on drums (and blocks and bells and stick tricks), Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Louis on second cornet (at one time Louis also took up the long horn, the trumpet), Bill Johnson on string bass or banjo (they used banjos in recordings because the bells didn't pick up the bass slaps that well) or Johnny St. Cyr on banjo, and Lil Hardin, the fantastic Lil Hardin, on piano, a young swinging pretty black girl from Memphis, Tennessee, who studied classical piano early in life and then briefly at Fisk University though she took to sneaking out of her house and going off into the wild side of Memphis and playing with the jazzbos, eventually being discovered by King Oliver who then paid her way to Chicago where she became the piano player in his band to become eventually an integral part of the "hot jazz" world, ending up after a failed first marriage marrying Louis Armstrong. King Oliver and Lil Hardin (a great reader of and composer of music) also came up with the idea of writing down King's blues lines and the tunes he'd written and starting a publishing company so that King's music could be copyrighted. Then King and Lil also got to writing down all the blues tunes and blues lines of other writers and players and publishing them for a slight fee.

Gradually, the King ended up in New York City at the tail end of the "hot jazz"/"Creole jazz"/"New Orleans jazz" phenomenon--his band of 11 pieces was really too big and clumsy to play the new line of fiesty compositions and fast swinging syncopated blues the smaller bands, like Louis's Hot Five, could handle with facile ease. Soon the King's long-lasting club dates began to vanish and one-nighters is all he could get and then even those got few and far between and due to a bunch of managerial problems and a last-chance tour of the Old South that fell through--how the King ended up in Savannah, Georgia stone broke--going on this final tour though most of his NYC band had abandoned him, including Louis who quit Papa Joe's band to go with a more lucrative band (Fletcher Henderson), ending up in New York City with ex-Papa Joe pianist (brilliant pianist, too) Luis Russell--these guys leaving Joe's band hurt the King badly--he didn't understand why they abandoned him--and his tour of the South ended in his being stranded down there in Savannah without a dime to his name, getting a job in a pool hall setting up tables and making just enough to try and pay his rent--and though he had gotten treatment for his heart trouble, he quit taking his once-a-week heart treatment because he couldn't afford the $3 it cost each week. And that's the butcher that finally cut King (Papa Joe) Oliver down. His daughter spent all of her savings to bring King back to New York City; then she gave up her plot in Woodlawn Cemetery, up in the far north end of the Bronx, and that's where King Oliver is buried--for years his grave was allowed to go unmarked.
King Joe Oliver & The King Oliver Creole Jazz Band: LR: Baby Dodds; Johnny Dodds; King Joe; Honore Dutrey; Louis Armstrong; Johnny St. Cyr (?); Lilly Hardin. It was the best jazz band in the world in 1923.

You called Joe King Joe and not Joe "King" because he was the KING in terms of New Orleans music, a royal title he earned by coming in and blowing Freddie Keppard away one night after Freddie had taken the crown from Buddy Bolden when Buddy went "off his conk." King Oliver was THE king of the New Orleans bandleaders but mainly he was the king of the world cornet players, which means he not only led the band but played the melody line over the intertwining configurations of Johnny Dodds's clarinet and Louis's second trumpet/cornet weaving in and out of King's lead line with Lil and Baby Dodds keeping the beat slammed down tight and Bill Johnson slappin' that big string bass 1-2-3-4--one beat at a time or Johnny St. Cyr strummin' hard and tight on his banjo. You can't tell how amazing this band was from their recordings--I mean the quality of recording then was in its infancy--King and Louis were such powerful blowers they had to stand 20 paces away from the recording bell--no mics in those days--you were positioned at places back from this big bell of a device depending on what you played and how loud you played, with the bass/banjo player and the piano closest to the bell, then the trambone, then the clarinet, then King and Louis even behind them 5 or so paces. When the band recorded at the Star Record Shop (Paramount record label) in Richmond, Indiana, in 1923, they almost destroyed the equipment on the first test run--they usually recorded 3 test recordings in those days, chosing the best of the three to be the master--and King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band was the best band in the land at that time--working in Chicago, Illinois, at the Lincoln Gardens or the Dreamland or the Paradise Cafe.

I have always admired Lil Hardin. She was one bright, smart, chic, and sexy cookie, quiet talented both as a reader of music and a player of the piano--she'd developed pretty far into classical music at Fisk University in Nashville (she didn't stay long), but it was Jelly Roll Morton's playing, which she watched closely up close when he visited Memphis first and then later when she saw him in Chicago when she first got there to join the King's Creole Jazz Band--and she said she figured out why Jelly Roll was the leading pianist of the day--she said it was because she never saw any musician, especially a pianist, play as hard as Jelly Roll played--she said you could see the music coming out of his soul down through his arms and into his strong fingers as they found the right notes from that fountain of jazz creation that called himself Jelly Roll. And Lil Hardin fell head over heels for this "new" jazz and at that time, Lil ranked up there with Jelly Roll. I followed Lil's career after she retired to Chicago--living in Chicago up into the 70s (she was born in 1898)--and holy moly, Lil died the way any musician if he or she has to die would love to die, at her piano, in 1971, while televising a Louis Armstrong memorial show--Louis had died in 1971. Here's an excerpt from Lil's Wikipedia entry:

A visit by Jelly Roll Morton would profoundly affect Hardin's musical education. "He sat down," she wrote in her unpublished biography, "the piano rocked, the floor shivered, the people swayed while he attacked the keyboard with his long skinny fingers, beating out a double rhythm with his feet on the loud pedal. Oh, was I thrilled and amazed. He finally got up from the piano, grinned and looked at me as if to say, 'Let this be a lesson to you.' Well it was a lesson." When a small crowd urged Hardin to play something for Morton, she did. "I laid Witches Dance and Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C Sharp Minor on him."[4]

When Louis Armstrong died, in 1971, Hardin was deeply shaken by the loss. She traveled to New York for the funeral and rode in the family car. "I think Louis would have found a way getting back at me if I hadn't put Hardin in that car," his widow, Lucille, told Albertson. [8] Returning to Chicago, Hardin felt that work on her autobiography could now continue, but the following month, performing at a televised memorial concert for Louis, Hardin Armstrong collapsed at the piano. She died an hour later.
Lil Hardin in her heyday (top photo)--1920-21-22-23; and the later (bottom photo) Lil Hardin in the 1950s/60s--she had her own band in the early 1940s, ironically with Freddie Keppard on cornet/then she had an all-girl band for a while.

The womantrumpetplayer called Sociobiology "moronic" and got me to thinking about morons. Why'd the little moron go up on the roof? Because he heard the drinks were "on the house." Uggggh. It takes a pretty swift moron to come up with so moronic a "little moron" joke. The biggest moron besides Hill and Bill I saw this week was good ole Reverend Mike Huckabee explaining like a Cheshire cat why he made the statement about Obama falling off a chair thinking he'd been shot--or having a gun pointed at him--some such bullshit--some racial high-jinks Mike thought he was safe to crack, you know some "let's shoot Obama" jokes, since he was speaking in front of a bunch of NRA gun nuts. Charlton Heston, by the way, is still their official celebrity spokesman even though he's DEAD now--that's how backwards and primitive the NRA is. Hey, crackers, let's talk about pointin' a gun at Obama the N-worder's black ass--and watch that motherfucker run. Mike was on Tavis Smiley's show trying to explain all his racist bullshit away as a big mistake on his part--blah, blah, blah--the way they all have to apologize for being their real selves and not their made-up selves that we usually see on teevee.
LOOK OUT OBAMA, Mike Huckabee's got his male genitals out--why look, he's pointin' one at you! "Jest jokin',, I mean, I mean O', why can't I git that boy's name right."

My black girlfriend says all white people are racists--that we're born that way--sociobiology, I suppose, would back us whiteys up in our claim that we're the most serious race--the savior race--'cause we got the best genes, baby--and we're lily white, too, the same color as Jesus X. Christ when the Christians call him "The Lily of the Valley." According to my black girlfriend, Hillary is just as big a racist as Mike Huckabee--I mean, Hill spent her becoming-a-true-hillbilly time in Arkansas, one of the most backward and full-of-white-racists states in the Union; and I'm sure Mike and Billy Jeff told each other some N-worder jokes in their day--Mike's from Hope, Arkansas, too, just like White Trash, Trailer Trash Billy Jeff Clinton.

The Daily Growler hotshot political wits were cockily saying Hill was gonna bring the final decision down to the floor of the Convention where she had a chance of winning over Obama. She's still gonna try a coup--I know she is. I can feel it in my bones.

Speaking of morons, how about Bob Barr running as a Libertarian?

Congrats to Mr. Met and the Mets Ownership
For giving Willie Randolph a fair shake--saying he was their manager, under contract for two more years, and he was their manager for the rest of the season. And by golly that was really honorable of Fred Wilpon to back Willie up. Hey, it ain't Willie's fault that Omar has saddled him with some bum pitchers, like Pedro Martinez and El Duque and, hell, even big-purchase Santana is having trouble pitching in the National League--it's different, folks, even though it's still baseball. The Mets look lousy, yeah, losing a series to the Braves was horrible, but, hey, folks, it's the Florida Marlins in first place in that division, and the Mets, though under .500 same as the Yankees, they're only 4 back (I am sorry to say as of today, the Mets are now 6 1/2 games out of first; the Yankees also are 6 1/2 games out of first though they have a better percentage than the Mets)--they can easily catch up with the Marlins by winning 4 or 5 in a row--that is, if Willie can get the Mets pitchers to get reliable--something that Joe Girardi can tell Willie ain't possible.

Joe Torre's laughing his ass off at both of them, keeping the should-be hapless Dodgers way over .500 and only 3 1/2 games behind the seemingly invincible Arizona Diamondbacks.

for The Daily Growler

Monday, May 26, 2008

Jimmy McGriff and Sociobiology

Death of a Fatback Groover
I just read on a Canadian jazz Website that Jimmy McGriff just kicked the bucket. Jimmy was one of the original "groovin'" organists who galloped along from out of Philly in the late fifties, along with Jimmy Smith (also from Philly), Richard "Groove" Holmes, John Patterson, Brother Jack McDuff--and Jimmy McGriff was really the chuggin'-swinging-est of the fatback groovers, when pumped up high and mighty on top of his B-3 with the Leslies going full fan, you couldn't chase Jimmy McGriff with a jet plane. Yeah, they were all blues players--Jimmy Smith, of course, took the organ over into pop land--especially with his "Walk on the Wild Side," from the movie of the same name, from the book of the same name written by Nelson Algren, featuring Dove Linkhorn a jack of all trades who ends up working in a New Orleans whorehouse as a "cherrybuster," a male who is given virgin daughters to break in by prominent fathers--a profession that becomes so degrading to old Dove, he starts drinkin' heavily and eventually tragically falls in love with the highest paid whore in New Orleans. Nelson Algren--not forgotten really, but almost, I'll bet. Walk on the Wild Side is a damn good book, by the bye--all about Nelson's time spent in southern Texas, on La Frontera, driftin' around lookin' for fame and glory.
Jimmy McGriff 1936-2008

I go on jazz sites and I know there's lots of jazz still being played out there, all around, in L.A., Canada, NYC, and I see a lot of names I recognize, like Joe Lovano, Scott Hamilton, Mike Stern, Ravi Coltrane--and a lot of guys with Latin names are playing jazz--but, I'm not familiar really with any of these people's work and I've totally lost track of what's now called mainstream jazz and have a feeling young up-and-coming musicians are mainly copycats--still trying to play faster than Bird or Bud or Dizzy or supercooler than Miles--and, yes, there are some slick babes out there wailin' jazz, especially some damn good-lookin' hot chicks who play jazz piano and sing jazz--I know these kids are slicker and more well-educated than any musician I ever admired and in whose footsteps I tried to follow but still...--like Parker learned to play jazz right straight out of his head--he didn't play "by ear"--well-musically-educated white musicians love to put down what they call "playing by ear"--New Orleans early white jazz guys called 'em "fakers"--Parker didn't play by ear--he played by feelings, by the urges he had coming from within, from his solar plexus, the seat of what we call "the soul," according to me and D.H. Lawrence--fuck the mind, D.H. said, that's Freud's toy, give me the source of all hunger, sexuality, and all the associative emotions and butterflies and pangs and tempers and the unflaring of music as well, the music you are born into (I think like a behaviorist still--I'm not yet up on Sociobiology yet--here let me let the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy tell ya about it:

The term ‘sociobiology’ was introduced in E. O. Wilson's Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1975) as the application of evolutionary theory to social behavior. Sociobiologists claim that many social behaviors have been shaped by natural selection for reproductive success, and they attempt to reconstruct the evolutionary histories of particular behaviors or behavioral strategies.

For example, evolutionary biologists have been long puzzled by cases of apparent altruism in certain animal societies: sterile workers in insect colonies, warning calls, resource sharing, and many others (see Darwin, 1859, pp. 235-242; 1871; 1872). Such behaviors appear to incur a cost to the cooperating or altruistic organisms, which would seem to make them impossible to evolve by natural selection. To explain the existence of altruism, sociobiologists first articulated the conditions under which altruistic behavior might be advantageous. In a series of theoretical papers in the 1960s and 70s, evolutionary biologists cleverly showed that natural selection would in fact favor behaviors that decrease the reproductive fitness of their actors, provided that close relatives sufficiently benefit (Hamilton, 1964; see also Trivers, 1974). Those models were later expanded to show how altruistic behaviors could evolve among unrelated organisms within social groups (Trivers, 1971; Hamilton, 1972; Maynard Smith, 1974). Further developments in the 1980s allowed evolutionary biologists to model more complex social dynamics (e.g., Axelrod and Hamilton, 1981; Maynard Smith, 1982; for a fuller treatment, see the entry on biological altruism). Sociobiologists then tested the explanatory adequacy of particular models for a given case by independently testing some of their parameter values and underlying assumptions.

That's old Ed Wilson (E. O. Wilson) and there's a pretty good little PBS show running currently about Ed--it's called The Lord of the Ants. Ed believes we are genetically programmed. Ed surely knows we are animals, monkeys?, yes, monkeys and apes--did you know there is a "Monkey Island" off Puerto Rico? Ed believes in instincts, too, but he also believes your instincts are the messages of your genes. Ah, Social Darwinism covered this, didn't it? Some critics sort of insinuate that Ed favors eugenics--selective breeding--which relates old Ed back to Dr. A. Hitler and his final-solution effort at controlling evolution.

Tribute to Jimmy McGriff

James Harrell McGriff was born on April 3, 1936, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, birthplace of many of jazz's greatest organists. He started playing piano at the age of five and by his teens, was also playing alto sax and upright bass. His first group was a piano trio, which found him playing bass in the band. When he joined the Army, McGriff served as an MP in Korea and settled in on a career as police officer for Philadelphia's finest, a gig which only lasted a little more than two years.

Music kept drawing McGriff's attention away from the police force. His childhood friend, organist Jimmy Smith, had begun earning a substantial reputation in jazz for his Blue Note records (the two played together once in 1967) and McGriff became entranced by the organ sound while Richard "Groove" Holmes played at his sister's wedding. Holmes went on to became McGriff's teacher, friend and, on two occasions in 1973, his sparring partner for two Groove Merchant records.

In April 1960, McGriff made the switch and started playing organ. He was greatly influenced by the energy and dynamics of organist Milt Buckner and the diplomatic aplomb of Count Basie. But such local pianists as Sonny Gatewood, Howard Whaley and Austin Mitchell held his favor too. McGriff formed a combo that played around Philadelphia and often featured upcoming tenor sax player, Charles Earland, who soon switched permanently to organ when he saw how much fun McGriff was having at the organ. During this time, McGriff also accompanied such artists as Don Gardner, Arthur Prysock, Candido and Carmen McRae who came through town for local club dates.

In 1961, McGriff's trio was offered the chance to record an instrumental version of Ray Charles's hit "I've Got A Woman" by Joe Lederman's Jell Records, a small independent label. When the record received substantial local airplay, Juggy Murray's Sue label picked it up and recorded a full album of McGriff's trio, released in 1962. The album also turned out another huge hit in McGriff's "All About My Girl," firmly establishing McGriff's credentials as a fiery blues-based organist, well-versed in gospel soul and fatback groove.

I used to have a Sue 45 rpm of Jimmy haulin' organ ass on "Broadway" and on Bird's "Jumpin' the Blues." And that album with Jimmy and Groove Holmes is a masterpiece, too; with Herman "Junior" Parker on it--supposedly recorded live in New Jersey.

For the moment:

for The Daily Growler

Let's See How Joe Torre's Doing Managing the Dodgers--Piss-Poor, You'd Probably Think If You Are Thinking Like a Duped Loyal Yankees Fan--So Check It Out [Keep in mind, the Yankees are in last place in their division, 6 1/2 out of first, playing 1 game under .500]
National League West
Arizona3021.588-19-811-135-93-620-54-6L 1
L.A. Dodgers2624.52015-1111-135-49-911-95-5L 1
Colorado2031.3921012-148-175-46-67-205-5L 1
San Francisco2031.3921011-159-164-56-1410-93-7L 2
San Diego1933.36511½11-148-192-77-109-144-6W 1

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Trick of Shapes and Light and Movement

I'm Booked for At Least a Month
Got another batch of books in the mail today--god-dammit, I'm screamin' as I pull out a snatch of thin hair from my fevered head--of course the first book I unwrapped was a book I'd been wanting to read for years, Frederic Ramsey, Jr., and Charles Edward Smith's 1939 Jazzmen, which starts off with a "Letter to the Editor" from Willie G. "Bunk" Johnson--"Now here is the list about that Jazz Playing, King Bolden and myself were the first men that began playing Jazz in the city of dear old New Orleans and his band had the whole of New Orleans Real Crazy and Running Wild behind it."
Bunk blowing strong.

Oh, golly roaring horned Moses, I gotta read it and read it now--this after being in bed for the past two nights with Charlotte Bronte--she wrote Jane Eyre under the pseudonym of Currer Bell (which could refer to "church bell" or Recurring Bell or "ding-dong," as Lester Young would put it), a manish kind'a name, though, trust me, Charlotte's quiet a warm-bodied woman--and she's charming me with the constantly changing seasons of poor little rooked Jane Eyre--hey, come on, I love Charlotte and Jane both, though I know they're the same girl kids--though Charlotte didn't grow up really an orphan--she was half-an-orphan (like Lester Young called Peewee Marquette a half-a-motherfucker) since her mother died when Charlotte was quiet young--like 11 maybe--but Jane is certainly an orphan and what an orphan--I'd adopt her just because though she says she's dumb as a board she's not--in fact, I'm fascinated to the point of traveling on with Charlotte due to Jane's persistent "good" observations--I gotta see where the hell she's leading me--toward some kind of Calvinist moral--God, I hope not--Jane's already said she finds it hard to believe in a God--a "thing" she just doesn't understand--especially as she's in bed with her spiritual friend, Helen Burns, who's tragically dying in a typhus epidemic that hits Lowood School for Orphan Girls, though ironically Helen doesn't have typhus but is suffering from consumption--and Jane climbs into bed with fevered and coughing deeply Helen--and they converse, it's great, read: "'I am very happy, Jane; and when you hear that I am dead, you must be sure and not grieve: there is nothing to grieve about. We all must die one day, and the illness which is removing me is not painful; it is gentle and gradual; my mind is at rest....'" Jane responds by asking, "'But where are you going to, Helen? Can you see? Do you know?'" Helen answers, "'I believe; I have faith: I am going to God.'" And Jane asks, "'Where is God? What is God?'" That hooked me right there, anti-Christian that I am (anti-desert religion). Where and what. Good questions, and Helen Burns answers them like a good trusting orphan; God to her is "'My Maker and yours, who will never destroy what he created. I rely implicitly on his power, and confide wholly in his goodness: I count the hours till that eventful one arrives which shall restore me to him, reveal him to me.'" Jane though still not sure of it all, grills Helen some more: "'You are sure, then, Helen, that there is such a place as heaven; and that our souls can get to it when we die?'" Helen blabbers on about how she's sure there's "a future state" and God is good and love and bullshit like that. Jane asks after this God-is-love testimony, "'And shall I see you again, Helen, when I die?'" And I love Helen's answer (I spelled her name "Hell-en" and then I caught it): "'You will come to the same region of happiness: be received by the same mighty, universal Parent, no doubt, dear Jane.'" And, Jane, what a babe, is still not sure and thinks, "Again I questioned; but this time only in thought. 'Where is that region? Does it exist?'" Skeptic Jane. And she then cuddles up against the dying Helen; they kiss and then fall asleep. The next morning: "When I awoke it was day; an unusual movement roused me; I looked up; I was in somebody's arms; the nurse held me; she was carrying me through the passage back to the dormitory. I was not reprimanded for leaving my bed; people had something else to think about: no explanation was afforded then to my many questions; but a day or two afterwards I learned that Miss Temple, on returning to her own room at dawn, had found me laid in a little crib; my face against Helen Burns's shoulder, my arms round her neck. I was asleep, and Helen was--dead." In the last paragraph after that piece of slam-bang writing, Jane says, "Her [Helen's] grave is in Brocklebridge churchyard: for fifteen years after her death it was only covered by a grassy mound; but now a grey marble tablet marks the spot, inscribed with her name, and the word 'Resurgam.'" [Chapter Nine, Jane Eyre, 1950, Nelson Doubleday edition.]

RESURGAM. Latin: "I shall rise again."

Charlotte caught me with this line: "She [Helen Burns] sat down on the ground near me, embraced her knees with her arms, and rested her head upon them; in that attitude she remained silent as an Indian...." "Silent as an Indian." What the hell did Charlotte think an Indian was? I'm curious. Another word she uses caught me eye: "Cuyp like groups of cattle." You know what a Cuyp-like group of cattle is? I didn't either, but, shit, seems Charlotte knew something about art, Albert Cuyp, a Dutchman she certainly could have learned about while studying French in Belgium.
"Cuyp like groups of cattle."

How about this use of the word "Canadian" by a 19th-century young woman isolated in the pits of Yorkshire, England, though like I said, she did venture over to Belgium for two years--where she fell madly and fatalistically in love with the man of the family she and Emily lived with while studying French--Emily not going back the second year--but Charlotte did, mad with love and direct intentions. Gutsy babe that Charlotte. I like her. "... the nights and mornings no longer by their Canadian temperature froze the very blood in our veins...." Her image of Canada was one of coldness--mine, too, and I've actually been to Canada a couple'a times.

And I started reading Ramsey and Smith's Jazzmen: "A FANTASTIC and wonderful city. A city with a hundred faces. The hard face for commerce and the soft face for making love. Scratching figures on the back of an envelope where the girl with the deep dark eyes waits on the counter. Smell of burnt coffee and sound of ships. The deep face for a sad life and pinched face for poverty. Marching, singing, laughing. The silver and copper laugh of the prostitute, and the toothless chuckle of the old man who remembers Buddy Bolden at Bogalusa." Oh shit. I'm reading yet another book--that means I'm reading Gunther Schuller's two books on the history and musical meanings of Jazz, Early Jazz and The Swing Era; and I'm reading Jane Eyre; and always my little Phillip Wylie bible is handy: An Essay on Morals; then there's two new books of Ez's poetry from City Lights--both collected poems--one collected Cantos; and Ted Joans's book of poems, BLACK POW-WOW--marathon reading while listening to all these new CDs I've gotten, listening now to Prez live at Birdland in 1951, with John Lewis, Gene Ramey, and Jo Jones--with an occasional appearance by Lester's trumpet-discovery Jesse Drakes--Jesse's trumpeting much more clever than history gave him credit. Ask a hundred people at random if they know who Jesse Drakes is and I'll bet you my car and dog all 100 won't know who the hell Jesse is--nor care who he is.

And then, god-dammit, in the mail yesterday came Toni Morrison's novel Jazz--and my girlfriend, a black chick, had told me I'd never be able to finish Jazz since it wasn't what I thought it was--she thinks I'm white dumb about everything black--and she's right about me and Toni Morrison, no, I'd never read her. I started reading Jazz--Toni pushed little orphan Jane out of my life for a whole afternoon--from Jazz: "Little of that makes for love, but it does pump desire. The woman who churned a man's blood as she leaned all alone on a fence by a country road might not expect even to catch his eye in the City. But if she is clipping quickly down the big-city street in heels, swinging her purse, or sitting on a stoop with a cool beer in her hand, dangling her shoe from the toes of her foot, the man, reacting to her posture, to soft skin on stone, the weight of the building stressing the delicate, dangling shoe, is captured. And he'd think it was the woman he wanted, and not some combination of curved stone, and a swinging, high-heeled shoe moving in and out of sunlight. He would know right away the deception, the trick of shapes and light and movement, but it wouldn't matter at all because the deception was part of it too. Anyway, he could feel his lungs going in and out. There is no air in the City but there is breath...." [p 34, Toni Morrison, Jazz, a Penquin Plume book, 1993.]

Jesus, good writing drives me into a crazy state of inward isolation. Does that make sense?

for The Daily Growler