Archive for July, 2010

To round out the first full month of those Amazing Humans let’s depart from my recent trend of choosing old or dead people to draw and write about. As a matter of fact this young woman is a Mississippi Saxophone (harmonica) prodigy. She bonded with the harp at 7 years old. She first caught my eye a few years back at the Sonoma County Fair’s Annual Blues Festival. She must have been sixteen or seventeen then. She shared the stage with an accomplished old blues artist (whose name I can’t recall). As he sang about the joys of squeezing that lemon till the juice runs down his leg, I had grandfatherly protective feelings about this shy little school girl, looking down occasionally, smiling, waiting for her solo. Then her opening came, she jumped right on it. More than stood her own, playing with appropriate nastiness, intensity and skill, way beyond her years.

She’s already played with a lot of the greats including Charlie Musslewhite and Mark Hummel, and I expect you’ll hear a lot more of her in the future. I was going to make a sexist comment about the rarity of cute female harp players but I decided against it. Play on Santana Kirk!

Other Santana Kirk facts (courtesy of  an article written in the Blues Festival Guide, 2006, Carrying On the Tradition, by Robin Thrush Sr.):

– She played The Russian River Blues Festival at ages 12 and 13.

– Charlie Musslewhite guests on her first CD, “Ain’t Kiddin’ Around”.

– She has also shared the stage with James Cotton and T-Birds front man, Kim Wilson.

-She was featured on a PBS program, “Blues Variations” and The Johnny Otis  Radio Show.

And for me, one month in the books, 334 Amazing Humans to go.

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A man named Shirley.

I’m so old now that even the coaches, hell the general managers of NFL teams look young to me; the players look like big steroid babies. But back in the day, for the briefest glimmer of time geologically speaking, I was a football player. A 215 pound tackle, to be precise. In those days the platoon system was in its early experimental stages, most tackles were still expected to play both offense and defense.

In the 8th grade a perceptive coach recognized my potential for violence and precocious bulk. He recruited me to a championship Jr. High football team, undefeated that year. I continued on through high school, earning a varsity letter for four consecutive years. But I was starting to see larger and larger guys lining up across from me even then. I began to suspect that it might take a little more meanness and conviction than I was able to bring to the table, to succeed at the next level.

But my high school football resume did enable me to get into a quality university, with a partial scholarship and a student loan (that took me twenty years to pay back). The school did not subsidize athletics but my high school grades were good enough that with a little inside pull ( my high school coach knew the head coach at Sewanee, Shirley Majors, and put in a good word for me) I was a Freshman at The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennesse.

But by the time I reached college I was already beginning to dread two a day practice sessions to the point where I was considering maiming myself to avoid them. Those daily double-dips of pushing myself to the limits of my endurance of pain, the physical and mental assault on my delicate sensitivities, began to cramp my style. In the words of Ferdinand the Bull, “I just want to sit under my favorite tree and smell the flowers.” And apparently everything I’d learned about football before was wrong. As the days progressed I recognized that I was destined to fulfill the role of tackling dummy, at best, on this team.

Since my scholarship was not contingent on my participation in sports, I chose to exercise my option to boogie.

So that brings us to Those Amazing Humans, # 30, Shirley Majors. During that one painful year of discovery that I didn’t have what it takes to be a football player at the college level, he was my football coach. I also do not have what it takes to write my true feelings about this gentleman. I will have to simply provide an anecdote which illustrates the “strength of his convictions”.

I did not sign up for the Pre-season Football Camp the following year, and let it be known that I intended to devote more time to my studies (of beer and girls and rock and roll). A month or two later as I was walking to my next class, I passed Coach Majors and a couple of team stalwarts in conversation. I must have been close or he was a champion spitter, because he came within inches of coating my “Bass Weejuns” (the loafer du jour) with Bull Durham. As he wiped the tobacco/saliva residue from his lips, I could hear him mutter, “Quitter!” You can’t argue with that kind of motivational skill. So I motivated on out of there.

He must have been a good coach, though. The year after I quit, the team had an undefeated season. That was no coincidence. I was becoming a cancer on the team. I had to quit.During his stint as head coach he had an excellent win-loss record. He barely missed out on being selected the Small College Coach of the Year, when the team went undefeated. He has been installed in the Sewanee Hall of Fame.

He was the Shogun of the Majors Football Dynasty, which should impress you SEC historians. Suffice it to say the name Majors is synonymous with strong character and football savvy in the canon of Southern Football.

Listen, I know it’s hard being a coach. I coached my son’s 6th and 7th grade basketball teams. There were times I definitely felt like spitting on the kids, but you have to draw the line somewhere. I guess I don’t have what it takes to be a coach either.

I am enjoying this! Why else would I continue to draw and write, even when it appears that the more I do, less and less people show up to see it. Oh well, like I said, it is fun: dredging up memories and thinking of folks who have meant a lot to me, folks who show promise, folks who disappoint, folks that are just plain weird. I am still fully committed to my random selection method, as endorsed by my one and only fan. Random is my middle name now that I am semi-retired.

At this point in my blogging adventure I am wondering if it will ever get harder to choose the next subject. Things are popping into my head easily for now, my internal to-do list is always shuffling around a few possibilities, hence today’s bonus or tomorrow’s early edition (however it shakes down).

Without further, adieu, mon amis, “Here’s Jonny!”

"I seen one (UFO) fly over the Brainard Cee-ment factory, my stepson works there."- Maude Frickert

When I was a kid, I wanted to be Jonathan Winters. I would beg and plead, do extra chores, anything to be able to stay up late on a school night if he was on Jack Paar or some other late night talk show. Some how he was a little rawer, more out-there on the late shows. On his prime time appearances he was still good, but I got the feeling that he was pulling his punchlines so as not to damage the minds of mainstream America. I would put away funds for the next JW/ LP release. The records gave me the opportunity to listen to his routines over and over till I memorized them and spouted them back to friends. I can still remember snatches of them to this day. When he recorded those routines he was probably improvising or “Winging it” as he described it. But to me these words were the Gospel According To Jonathan. Not till Robin Williams was there any one to match his quickness, fluidity and random bull-goose lunacy.

I went to his official website before writing this. I knew the man was multi-talented  but the volume and variety of his creative output is astounding. He’s an artist (acrylics), cartoonist, best-selling author, Emmy Award Winner, film actor, animated feature voice-over artist. He’s even done an inspirational CD with readings from poetry and scripture.

Dude is 85 years old, was a Marine in the Pacific Theater, WWll; was married to the same woman for more than 60 years; has two “kids”, five “grandkids”; he’s gone through a few “Looney Tunes” stretches, had some problems with the juice back in the 60’s; he’s still working on one thing or another, what more can I say? You can be stone crazy and still have a full productive life. How inspiring is that?

The sketch I did, besides being unworthy, is intended to reflect my boyhood enthusiasm for this young, still “up-and-coming” madman.

Extra! Little known fact about The “Writer”: He wrote a youth column for his church newsletter entitled “Ask Maudie”,  a humorous Q and A/Advice effort. He even posed with a granny wig and spectacles for the header photo. An early homage to Winter’s character, Maude Frickert, or a predictor of future futile forays into funnyland, or maybe both, as if it makes any difference in the grand scheme of things (whatever the freak that is).

We owe this unprecedented double-dip edition of TAH to none other than The”Writer”, whose internet conspiracy sleuthing led to the following revelations:

King Solomon is considered the “Godfather” of secret societies. It is said that his many wives introduced him to the sacred symbols of power invoked by their various cults and religions. These symbols were later assimilated and used by the Illuminati in their own rituals.

The “Key of Solomon” was an article of magic that enabled him to exert power over the Nephilim, ancient demon/giants who were purged from Paradise with Satan. Among the 700 wives and 300 concubines with whom Solomon is said to have consorted was one Nabilikah, a Philistine woman, supposedly a descendant of Goliath, a known Nephilim. Modern scholars have established a direct bloodline connection leading to deceased professional basketball player, Wilt Chamberlain.

Chamberlain’s supernatural height and athletic ability made it possible for him to soar through the air without the aid of artificial devices or performance enhancing potions. On one occasion he scored one hundred points in a single NBA contest. Like Solomon, Chamberlain’s love of womankind was legendary. He claimed to have copulated with ten thousand women in his 63 years. This eclipsed the records held by Solomon, but one should bear in mind that there were less people and therefore less women in Solomon’s day. Also, as a professional basketball player, Chamberlains travels took him over a much larger geographical area than Solomon’s relatively small Middle Eastern haunts. Conversely, Chamberlains greater concupiscence seems to have taken a heavier toll on him. Solomon’s life span, though often debated by scholars, is certain to have exceeded Chamberlain’s by at least four decades.

His "Star Begotten" seems to predict human gene manipulation.

This has been one of those days I anticipated when I made this committment (to make a sketch a day for 365); those days that present challenges that make blogging problematic. Today it was a massive hemmorhage in the mobile mansion’s  main water pipe. We called in an RV expert. He arrived at 9AM. Unfortunately he was overaged and overweight and wanted nothing to do with the demanding  job which involved crawling behind and under the RV. He took one look at the damp, dark, weedy underbelly of the mansion and said, “I think I’ll pass on this one.” 

After letting our fingers walk through the yellow pages, we came up with another candidate. He was thin enough to crawl into the space where the leak was located and had the will to do so. We listened to him carry on an active conversation with himself, sometimes breaking into song, for close to three hours, wondering if we had made the right choice. But in the end he got ‘er done.

At any rate, here it is 10:35PM and I am just now posting, Those Amazing Humans, #26, H.G.Wells. War of the Worlds has always been a favorite of mine. I enjoyed both film versions, read the book, the Classics Illustrated, and listened to the Orson Wells broadcast that caused such a furor. I even have an LP and CD of the groundbreaking radio show. But one of his novels that is all but forgotten (and one of my favorites) is “Star Begotten”. “Star Begotten” is the story of one Joseph Davis, an historian, who begins to suspect that his own son and other chosen children have been purposefully altered by a bombardment of “cosmic” rays of an unknown origin in the reaches of outer space. Although it is later surmised that it might be the malignant interference of those pesky Martians again, when all the “alterations” prove to be positive in nature: increased intelligence, robust health and a universal dedication to the improvement of humanity, Professor Davis begins to believe that this generation of Star-begotten youths might be the only hope for a civilization bent on war and self-destruction.

Eric's Back!

Eric Lindell is a local legend. Just ask my daughter. She’s been a fan and follower of the bluesman from the old Grand Junction days, to the Eric Lindell and the Reds days and beyond. So I always knew what Eric was up to. Eric’s at the Forestville Club. Eric’s going to New York. Eric’s going to New Orleans. Eric’s getting married. Eric’s back at the Forestville Club. Eric’s got an EP out. Eric’s signed with Alligator Records. Eric’s split with Alligator and has a new record on his own label.

He is a talented soulful performer and I have seen him on several occasions, even opened for him and Nick Gravenites for one memorable Halloween gig that I don’t actually remember. (I should definitely get someone more reliable to write my memoirs.) I do remember that we (True Slack) did an OK set. Eric, playing with powerhouse keyboard player, the late Stu Blank,  rocked the house. By the time Nick came on I was long gone. I think I saw a couple of guys steal a keg from behind the bar, the rest is a blur. A pretty nice blur, as blurs go. 

He is a young turk, as bluesmen go, at 40. He should have many more successful years, especially since he’s ditched most of his bad habits along the way. I wish him the best and look forward to hearing his new recording, “Between Motion and Rest”. He is something of a purist. If you are a purist as well, you can enjoy his latest release on vinyl.

I did this sketch from a photo on the cover of “The North Bay BOHEMIAN”, the July 21-27 issue. Inside you can find a much more informative article by Gabe Meline. And, not so incidentally, you can see Eric at The Sonoma County Fair’s Blues Festival on Saturday, July 31st at 4PM, So Co Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa, CA.

Still nothing irregular at the Grove entrance, but The "Writer" knows otherwise.

The “Writer decided to try his hand at reasoning. A large congregation of black helicopters , though a bit off-putting , does not in and of itself indicate R.B.S.* on the radar. It could be a legitimate military presence as added security for a very special group of Bohemians. But those strange pod-shaped attachments, what could they contain? And the array of silver tubes? Way too ominous. Especially with the huge crowd of Americans sure to show up for the big BoHo Show less than a week away, and the hidden heliport less than a mile from the Monte Rio Amphitheater. This will not do.

The end result of the thought processes described above was that The “Writer” sat himself down in front of the TV (where the Giants were clinging to a 2 to 1 lead in the bottom of the 5th @ Arizona) calmly took out a fresh sheet of shiny magic paper, picked up his Pilot Precise V7 Rolling Ball Pen, and proceeded to write:

From the “Santa Rosa Press Democrat”, 7/24/2010

“Well, I know those helicopters weren’t chocolate when they woke me out of a sound sleep at 2AM, with their whop-whop-whoppin’. Stealth, my ass.” said Railroad Avenue resident , Don Godair.

If those sound like the comments of a rational man you should have no problem believing the rumors that have been spreading like LSD-laced peanut butter throughout the small resort town of Monte Rio. Some of the locals take seasonal employment at the grove and they are hearing and repeating some pretty strange stuff.

Where there’s strange stuff you often find black helicopter sightings and these stories are no exception. First came the calls from residents of homes in the vicinity of The Bohemian Grove, most complaining of the sound, some reporting visual sightings. Then the report of a maintenance worker who had stumbled onto a hidden heliport on his rounds was circulated around local watering holes. Supposedly he was alarmed by the number of black helicopters he saw there and was particularly nervous about the strange pod-shaped tanks attached to the choppers. When he returned to see if they were still there later in the evening he found the heliport lit up by several powerful spotlights. He described a scene of chaos: black clad military types, cursing and moving around what appeared to be giant dark chocolate versions of the black helicopters he had seen earlier. Stranger yet is his claim to have seen two rugged looking operatives break off a tail section of one of the choppers and jump back as a cascade of creamy white filling gushed from the cracked copter to glisten in the bright glare of the spotlight. Knowing that no one would be likely to believe so strange a tale, he returned at dawn the next day to see if he could retrieve some kind of evidence of the last evenings hi-jinx. Several of his bar mates claim to have seen the chunk of chocolate that he brought out of his weathered backpack. One said it was as large as a human head and still coated on one side with a creamy residue.

When asked to comment on the persistent rumors of dark chocolate helicopters Grove spokesperson, Rock Hardplace, retorted, “Please!”, as his limo window hissed shut and he roared away, leaving this reporter in the dust and this tiny community clouded in mystery.

And that is how The “Writer” dispatched a threatening brood of Black Death Angels with a single phony news story. (Eat your heart out Jon Stewart.)

But there ‘s still another few days before the BoHo Show. Plenty of time to thwart a couple more nefarious plots. The “Writer” smiled, appreciating the challenge and mentally dedicating himself to the safety of his beloved but weird little community. He also smiled, appreciating the explosion of offense that had brought the Giants from behind to a 6 to 4 lead in the bottom of the 7th.

This frozen moment of excellence was utterly shattered by frantic Gojira barking, thumps and rattles, meowling of a cat, sparking noises, bright flashes and an acrid smell, all going on just outside the door to the mobile mansion.

In the light of the full moon The “Writer” could make out The Cat With No Name astride a dark writhing rodent with flashing red eyes, sparks spraying from its broken neck. Its tail was lashing about so fast it was almost invisible. The Illuminati had sent another of their unholy electronic minions to monitor his every move.

The elation he’d felt only moments before was history as he used his Jack Daniels Worlds Fair Memorial Walking Stick to finish off TCWNN’s handiwork. It took four satisfying blows to extinguish the hellish light from the digital demon’s eyes.

*RBS- Really Bad S**t

The "Writer" displays the business end of his lethal Jack Daniels Worlds Fair Memorial Walking Stick.