Saturday, May 14, 2016

Wes Montgomery and Three Overmatched Strangers Play Four on Six

Wes always smiles. He was one of the most genial musicians ever. He had a challenging life, so he always seemed glad to be there, no matter where there was. It beat his factory job, and he knew it.

No one springs from Zeus' head without being an amalgamation of things that came before. That being said, Wes Montgomery came as close to inventing an original method of playing the guitar as anyone I can think of. It's the sort of thing that's born of endless work in obscurity for long periods. Wes used to play the guitar after he got home from his blue-collar job, and he didn't want to wake his wife and many kids. He used his thumb to gently strike the strings instead of a plectrum. It eventually led to half of his unusual sound.

The rest of it was this triptych soloing method. It was also born of playing alone for long periods. First comes a melody. Then he doubles it. Then he plays it passing through block chords. When you hear it, you think, "That's Wes Montgomery, or someone trying to sound like Wes Montgomery." He was trying to sound like more than one person at a time, and he didn't play the piano.

The fellows are Europeans coalesced from whoever's handy. They're not prepared for the tempo, or the hole they have to fill when it's their turn to solo. Wes just smiles. He's familiar with playing with inferior talent, but soldiering on regardless. He played alone for a long time, and he must have been inferior for a few minutes, surely.

[Update: Many thanks to longstanding friend Russell Maryland for his generous support via our PayPal tipjar. It is very much appreciated]

[Further Update: Many thanks to our friend Bill O in Tejas for his generous support via our PayPal tipjar. It's very much appreciated]

[Further Update: Many thanks to Thomas M. in Texas for his generous support via our PayPal tipjar. It is very much appreciated]

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Maine Spring

A Maine Spring is like bankruptcy. It occurs first very slowly, then all at once.

Early Spring is dreary. There are hangdog snowbanks here and there, slinking around in the shadows like teenagers outside a liquor store. The passing of the snow reveals the dirty landscape underneath. The ground has a hide of pasty russet leaves and trash lobbed out a car window. The world's color palette lingers in the crack between Payne's Grey and tanbark. Green will be a fever dream of heaven for many weeks.

I make the mistake of predicting leaves on the trees for weeks on end. "Tomorrow there will be leaves." It never happens. Then one morning you get up and look across the fallow field, past the highway that snakes along the river, and see a battalion of birches with an aureole of pure sap green, right from the tube. After that, the world falls off a green cliff.

It's the fog, you know. It's cool at night, always. There was ice in the birdbath three days ago. The sun has trouble shrugging it off in the morning, and a fine mist hangs on the ground like a comforter until sol wins out. The mist hurls down green shoots like a gauntlet.

People wonder aloud why anyone would live where we do. I'm people, so I wonder, too. But the six months from late Spring to Autumn here in the western Maine hills is as sublime a climate as I've seen. It's crisp in the morning, warm in the afternoon, and cool at night, every night. You can completely regulate your temperature by opening and closing a window, or putting on or taking off one garment.

If you ever wondered where the birds go, I don't. They're in my yard, living in the birdhouse you told me wouldn't work. The tree swallows jet all over the meadow, eating bugs and returning like a missile to their hole. Gold finches rocket overhead like buzzbombs. There's a mentally deficient robin named Kevin, who forgot to follow his fellows further north, who bangs on our window every morning, wondering if they're in there with us.

You can't miss Spring, and you can't miss Spring. Our neighbor gave us a dresser, so we gave him a birdhouse. My little son and I made it together. He painted it and nailed on all the trim. It had the look of a person's hand, a rare thing. My neighbor is a nice man and a good neighbor, and makes it tolerably tolerable to live here, too. We knew his birdhouse would linger longer on his desk than was wise to cadge a bird's eye for nuptials and nesting. We offered to put it on a post in his yard, for he is truly a busy man.

He gave me another great gift, and let me take my son across the street to plant our flag of friendship in his yard. My little son dug the post hole, and we put in a post left over from shoring up our house. We screwed the little bird house on top of it in the lee of a forsythia bush just donning its trashy golden mantle. My son had dug a posthole for a birdhouse in our yard, so I wasn't totally stunned at his alacrity and efficiency. I was grateful for a chance to let our child do any sort of chore that would push his walk towards being a man forward even one step. 

The next day -- the very next day -- my neighbor sent us pictures of the bird that had moved into the house. It reminded me that Spring, and a boy becoming a man, occurs first very slowly, then all at once.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Meanwhile, In Maine

I live in Maine. Maine is, how does one say it -- different.

I don't pretend to understand Maine. I just live here and get along as best I can. As far as I'm concerned, Maine lets me sleep on the state's couch, so it would be impolitic of me to start complaining about the accommodations. It's like being Maine's indie-rock drummer. Anyway, I just look on in wonder, and wonder.

Last week, a guy that I don't know, but know people who know him, tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head. Three times. With a flare gun. While parked by the side of the road. In his truck. Which runs on propane, for some reason. He didn't die, because two passing motorists saw him and pulled him out of his burning truck. Because Maine.

Every single person in Maine owns a gun, but no one ever shoots anyone else. They won't even shoot themselves with a gun. They generally commit suicide by texting and driving.

The classified ads are a little different around here:

That's a real Craigslist ad. The fellow is selling his "tank." Needs cash. Don't we all?

It's from far-southern Maine, at least compared to where I live. You can tell it's not from real Maine, because the ad is on Cragislist, not Uncle Henry's. Real Mainahs use Henry's. No one actually sells anything, though. You can put anything in Uncle Henry's, but it will never sell. You'll just be swamped with calls offering to trade things for what you've got. I put a drum set in Uncle Henry's, and was offered everything in trade from firearms to boat motors. Everyone has everything but money in Maine.

The syntax in the ad is pure Maine:
This is a rare demilitarized 114 tank runs and drives awesome 283 small-block Chevy engine has rubber inserts to drive on the street on the tracks make it any kind of tank you want will carry a 10000 pound pay load an right now the total weighs 7000 pounds all aluminium drive it right on a over the tire trailer an take it home u won't find one of theses last one I saw on ebay sold for 25k
Of course it's not a tank. It's an armored personnel carrier, the M114. It was popular during the Vietnam war. Of course it was popular with the Viet Cong, not Americans, which is why a guy in Maine was able to buy one. It's made of aluminum. If you've ever gotten the urge to go to war with an overturned bass boat over your head and tank tracks under your feet, this is just the ticket. Some M114s were fitted with a Red Ryder-grade turret that made it nearly a tank, almost, kinda, sorta, but for the most part, you just shot back with whatever you had handy. Like a flare gun or something.

Anyway, the advertisement buries the lede, as they say in the newspaper industry. I call it saving the best for last:
will take vintage Star Wars in partial trade 
So. Very. Maine.