Tuesday, November 29, 2011

That Glorious Song Of Old

Over there in my ramshackle blogroll thingie, you'll find Daughter of the Golden West. There aren't enough blogs like that on the Intertunnel. Or people like that on the planet, now that you mention it. It's pleasant, and it's location specific. If I need a dash of Southern California, I go over there and get a fix. One of the greatest services a blogger can perform is to simply depict what's outside their windows. I used to live a few hours north of there, and I miss it sometimes.

The Daughter and her daughter have a business. They sell vintage Christmas ornaments and assorted other Yule swag at 32 Degrees North. They sent my sons Advent calendars. Marvelous.

When I was young, such things were rampant. We had little caroling books --and used them-- and made garlands from strips of construction paper and wreaths from computer punch cards. We hung up those big, garish Christmas lights with red, orange, blue, and white bulbs, on the tree outside the door. We wrapped our front door like a present. We had fake snow in the corners of the windows. We favored all sorts of things we don't see much of now. In many ways I feel as though my life has been thrown back in time. Because we didn't have very much, we had to take a bit of time and care with everything. Little trifles become more memorable that way. It's certainly like that for me again.

My little son has a very orderly mind and likes calendars and lists and thing of that nature, and he's quite taken with his Advent calendar. We're quite taken with him, of course, and grateful to people who are kind to him and his brother.

32 Degrees North

O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

Monday, November 28, 2011

All The Things I'm Missin', Good Vittles, Love, and Kissin', Are Waiting At The End Of My Ride

When my wife and I were looking for a house a couple years back, we drove all over Maine using Google maps. The realtors would never tell you if there were twenty-five cars up on blocks in the neighbor's yard, but Google is Sauron's eye.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

When I'm Good And Ready

If I got to go get a roscoe I'll get me a roscoe and then what? But I don't need no roscoe for you. This place is nothing but a dunghill, but I'm the cock on top of it, brother. You don't wanna come down here into my chicks. Ask anybody. You got a razor? I like it when they got a razor or some knuckles. Nothing but a minute's work and then the Man don't care what I done to you. But you don't look like you could do nothing anyway.

You see that car out front? That's me, brother. I go where I please and I do what I want and there's no bud dee can tell me different. You cats always be measuring yourself to other peoples but I'm the only yardstick here and you better know it. You don't know what you don't know and that's bad for your health if you get a notion. Why don't you slide on down the rail and let me be. There's high test and wimmins enough for everybody after I'm through and gone.

When I'm good and ready.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Orange Line

I wished I had you in Carrickfergus,
Only for nights in Ballygrand,
I would swim over the deepest ocean,
The deepest ocean to be by your side.

But the sea is wide and I can't swim over
And neither have I wings to fly.
I wish I could find me a handy boatman
To ferry me over to my love and die.

My childhood days bring back sad reflections
Of happy days so long ago.
My boyhood friends and my own relations.
Have all passed on like the melting snow.

So I'll spend my days in endless roving,
Soft is the grass and my bed is free.
Oh to be home now in Carrickfergus,
On the long road down to the salty sea.

And in Kilkenny it is reported
On marble stone there as black as ink,
With gold and silver I did support her
But I'll sing no more now till I get a drink.

I'm drunk today and I'm rarely sober,
A handsome rover from town to town.
Oh but I am sick now and my days are numbered
Come all ye young men and lay me down.

I wish you'd put the battered kettle on
The bag could take one steeping more
I'd walk for miles across a rocky down
To hear the whistle we're all waiting for

The gulf yawns wide and I can't leap over
Until my time is drawing nigh
You're laid to rest in the nonesuch clover
When you were here you slipped on by

Those Christmas days and our destinations
Trolley rides through the dirty snow
My childhood's gone, like passing stations
Eyes full of tears, some from the cold

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Vice-President In Charge Of Trefoil

Still some wicked cool benches left over at Sippican Cottage Furniture's Ready To Ship page. They're all very nice, but none as nice as this one.

My little son is eight. He "helps" me in my workshop. He's fond of earning a quarter by vacuuming the floor, for instance. He gets an equal amount of dust on himself and into the vacuum, but either way it's not on the floor anymore.

An eight-year-old is prone to flights of fancy. He's as likely to ask you if we could vacation on Jupiter as anything more mundane. The world is full of possibilities for him. There's very little world in the rear-view mirror to discourage him in any way.

In a lull in the dust fighting, he looked at me in a way I'm  accustomed to seeing just before some sort of trouble. It's usually followed by a request for us to make a ray gun with a paper towel tube and the hot glue gun. It wouldn't be so bad except that he expects it to actually emit some sort of rays when we're finished, or it's a failure. He hears not now too often, as I work most all the time at one thing or another.

"Why don't you put a shamrock or a heart on your benches, dad, like you do with your steppers? It would look nicer, and then you could sell them for more because they're better and you could pay me for inventing it. Then I'd have lots of money and could buy a Bionicle."

I began to disabuse him of this notion as a wild flight of childish fancy and impractical and daddy's too busy to...

Then I stopped and realized it was a bona fide good idea, and made one. If you buy it, the kid gets 10 bucks, and I probably won't get my floor vacuumed again for the forty weeks worth of quarters that represents.

Sippican Cottage's Ready to Ship.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

If Silence Was Golden, You Couldn't Raise A Dime

Everyone loves Mose Allison. Tom Lehrer. George Carlin. Mark Twain. They belong to a select few that can spend a goodly portion of their time being irascible, but somehow manage to make being the rock in the world's shoe feel like a massage to the pedestrians.

"If, after hearing my songs, just one human being is inspired to say something nasty to a friend, or perhaps to strike a loved one, it will all have been worth the while." --Tom Lehrer

Friday, November 11, 2011

I Am Not A Good Father. This Is A Good Father

I am a father. I take that rather seriously. News media refer to the persons simply responsible for impregnating women as "fathers." I don't.

The word father does not allow for any hyphenations or qualifiers to me. You either are, or you aren't a father. Pass/fail. If I am proud of anything in this life, it's that I'm told by people I respect that I pass as a father. It's enough praise, but it's not enough accomplishment to suit me. I keep trying.

I'll break my own rule now, and use an adjective to describe a father. The man in the video, little Ivor's father, Jorge Cardile, is a good father.

He is not a good father because he succeeded in his effort. If it had failed miserably, and had no effect whatsoever, it wouldn't have affected my opinion of him one whit -- quite the opposite -- for a prayer is not the pull of a lever expecting a gumball.

Jorge Cardile

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hostile Workplace

In a previous life, I supervised the construction of commercial buildings -- filling stations, convenience stores, restaurants -- that sort of thing.

After a short while, I was in charge of most everyone. When you're in charge, all the ticklish things make it to your desk. The staff tries on their own for a while, and then it escalates to supervised trying, and finally at the end of the winnowing process, there's nothing left but really tough things that only a person with the keys to the kingdom can handle.

The worst stuff was what employees would hide for years at a time. Carrying uncollectable debt on Accounts Receivable forever, never quite completing a project until a place needs to be remodeled before it's officially finished, stuff like that. A couple of times project managers went into the hospital for short periods and a casual look over what was hidden under their desk blotter gave me an aneurysm. The passing of an employee out of the building was like the old business saying about the tide going out: It affects everyone the same amount, but you get to see who isn't wearing any swim trunks. It was at the tail end of one of those cathartic employee convulsions that I gazed upon the second most beautiful woman in the world. You don't forget people like that.

There was a convenience store/ gas station combo that had been built before I was even employed by the company, but was never really finished to the last jot and tittle, and there was some money left on the table and I had to go get it. The building was in the inner city of Boston. I arrived in the late afternoon after a long drive. The place looked as neat as a pin, like it was ten minutes old. I got out to look around a bit, then went inside.

The building was built in what we termed "the urban style." What was meant by that was that it had to be constructed to withstand a zombie apocalypse, a full-on riot, a nuclear strike, and World War III at the same time. The building was constructed of textured concrete block. The block was ribbed to make it harder to deface. A concrete block might seem substantial to a layman but it's hollow inside and won't stop a high-caliber round. While laying up the blocks, each cavity in the wall was specified to be filled completely with mortar instead of the insulation a regular wall might be filled with. Reinforcing steel bars were put vertically through the webs before the mortar, because it was common for hijacked cars and trucks to be rammed through the sides of such buildings for smash-and grabs. In addition to the wall reinforcement, bollards were set deeply into the ground in front of any part of the facade with any sort of penetration in it. The bollards were steel pipe that were filled with concrete.

The roof was flat with a short parapet wall, as is common with such structures. HVAC (Heating,Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning) and other mechanical contrivances were installed on the roof. In the "urban" environment, every opening that was required in the roof , some large, some very small, had to have a steel grate welded over it before the units were installed on them, to protect from entry to the building after removal of the machinery from their bases.

The front of the building had a lot of glass, centered in the facade. It was all bullet-proof glass, and not ordinary bullet proof glass, but a form of it the suppliers often referred to informally as "military." That was just to protect the building during the day when it was open; there was an enormous sort-of steel garage door that was lowered over the glass part of the facade after the business closed for the night.  The building became a short, squat metal and masonry bunker that showed no opening whatsoever. At one time, these sorts of buildings has a four-inch square window in the back door so that employees going out to the dumpster could look outside first, but a would-be robber had shot an employee in the face through the window at another building, and the architects changed to a blank, steel, bullet-proof door with a camera instead. There were cameras all over gas stations already, to allow the clerks to shut off dispensers if people were smoking and so forth; one more didn't cost that much more. That other employee at the other place died, by the way, and the robber couldn't reach the knob by reaching through the window hole, so he never did get inside.

All the money in such places was treated like radioactive waste, and we used to install safes that were welded onto a sort of steel sled, and the concrete floor was laid over and around them. There was a kind of slot with a slim rammer that you folded folding money over, and injected it into the safe. There was no way for any employee taken hostage to open the safe. 

I went through the front door to talk to someone about whatever needed attention before we got our money. It was a conventional convenience store, with all the usual stuff that's in one.  But instead of entering the store, you entered a sort of quiz-show booth, about the size of a roomy phone booth or a cramped handicapped bathroom, maybe. Nothing and no one in the store was accessible to a customer. Items were displayed on shelves facing the door. There was a stainless steel drawer, like maybe you'd find in a supermax prison, and everything going in or out went through it. I was in the noticing business, and noticed that the size and shape of the drawer was painstakingly designed to keep a robber from being able to put a hand holding a gun and turning the barrel up to the cashier when the drawer was half-opened; it would break your wrist to try it.

The glass inside was way, way more bulletproof than the bulletproof glass on the outside. It gave a hint of greenish parallax to the view inside, like everything was under water filled with algae. It was like a window on a submarine. You were expected to point to what you wanted, pay first, and the item would be placed in the drawer. There was no penetration of any kind, and I knew from blueprints that the glass went all the way to the underside of the roof deck, so you couldn't climb over it. You spoke to the attendants through an intercom only.

There was a young girl behind the counter. I am in the describing business, but I cannot do her justice by telling you how beautiful she was. It would be easier to build a time machine, go get Titian and DaVinci and bring them back and have them work in shifts trying to paint her picture. I'll bet the picture would never be completed because they'd be fighting over her with knives before fifteen minutes was up. She was so pretty that a normal person, which I sometimes am, would just look at her, slackjawed, and forget how to breathe or think or behave. If God has some plan for mankind it is surely inscrutable because no one else would put this daisy on the far side of Pluto like that.

She was very pleasant, but didn't speak English very well. I was expected, and even though she was barely an adult, she had been left in charge and given instructions on what to show me. She told me to go outside, and she appeared from around the back of the building and showed me some trifling problem I can't remember right now; a busted hinge on a dumpster corral, something like that.

There wasn't anything left to discuss. We'll fix it, you'll pay, case closed. I leaned on my car and was writing some notes about the meeting, and she put her hand on my arm. She was very worried, and told me that I must leave, right away, because the sun was going down, and very bad people would come out. She pointed to a park across the street and said it was very dangerous, and that after dark no one like me should ever show their face there. She wasn't frightened, exactly; she was frightened for me. I was born a few blocks from that place, and for all I know my parents took me to that park when I was an infant, but I didn't mention that. She lives here all the time now. That's seven no trumps. She went inside, and I left.

I'm told recently that if someone looks at you funny twice, or maybe if a guy with bad breath instead of Fabio pectorals asks you out on a date at your cubicle farm, you're working in a "hostile workplace."

I've been to a hostile workplace. I'll raise my hand when you're in one.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

I Cannot Fiddle, But I Can Raise A Great State From A Little City

Van Morrison is not handsome. His voice is not of a particularly pleasant timbre. He refuses to project a phony aura of likeablility, and is likely incapable of projecting a real one. He's strange and prickly and inscrutable. It's likely that all of the members of the band he's playing with are more musically cultivated than he is. Some might be better singers. Hell, the audience probably has dozens of people with more musical chops than he has. He only brings one unusual thing to the table. No one knows what that one thing is; they only recognize it when they encounter it.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Late 60s Yin And Yang

Boris Raskin adapted an old Russian song about the "good old days." The song was popular with folkies in New York, who like to wax wistful about every damn thing. Everything sucks until it's in the rear-view mirror, and then magically morphs into the bestest time there ever was. Paul McCartney produced the Mary Hopkins version, which was a big hit when I was a little kid. The radio used to be much more diverse than it is now.

Those Were The Days 

Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And dreamed of all the great things we would do

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
La la la la...
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days

Then the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
If by chance I'd see you in the tavern
We'd smile at one another and we'd say

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
La la la la...
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days

Just tonight I stood before the tavern
Nothing seemed the way it used to be
In the glass I saw a strange reflection
Was that lonely woman really me

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
La la la la...
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days

Through the door there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh my friend we're older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
La la la la...
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days

About the same time, straight-up cocktail lounge music used to come blaring out of the car speakers, too. Peggy Lee:

Peggy Lee was like your mother's friend that drank a lot and smoked like a chimney and didn't care very much if their husband was away on business. She dressed like a cross between Cleopatra and a hat check girl. They were always prying her out of a car wrapped around a tree. She'd yank her elbow away from the policeman like a queen as soon as he propped her up on her tottering shoes. She was nostalgic for a tomorrow that never came.

I loved the music hall vibe of the thing. A novel read aloud:

Is That All There Is?

I remember when I was a very little girl, our house caught on fire. I'll never forget the look on my father's face as he gathered me up in his arms and raced through the burning building out to the pavement. I stood there shivering in my pajamas and watched the whole world go up in flames. And when it was all over I said to myself, "Is that all there is to a fire?"

Is that all there is, is that all there is If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing Let's break out the booze and have a ball If that's all there is.

And when I was 12 years old, my father took me to the circus, the greatest show on earth. There were clowns and elephants and dancing bears And a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads. And as I sat there watching the marvelous spectacle I had the feeling that something was missing. I don't know what, but when it was over, I said to myself, "Is that all there is to a circus?"

Is that all there is, is that all there is If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing Let's break out the booze and have a ball If that's all there is.

Then I fell in love, with the most wonderful boy in the world. We would take long walks by the river or just sit for hours gazing into each other's eyes. We were so very much in love. Then one day, he went away. And I thought I'd die -- but I didn't. And when I didn't I said to myself, "Is that all there is to love?"

Is that all there is, is that all there is If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing I know what you must be saying to yourselves. If that's the way she feels about it why doesn't she just end it all? Oh, no. Not me. I'm in no hurry for that final disappointment. For I know just as well as I'm standing here talking to you, when that final moment comes and I'm breathing my lst breath, I'll be saying to myself:

Is that all there is, is that all there is If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing Let's break out the booze and have a ball If that's all there is.

That's a Lieber and Stoller composition. Tin Pan Alley is dead, dead, dead. Back then Randy Newman still needed honest work, and arranged and conducted the orchestra. The whole hot mess is a pretty sophisticated thing to come out of a radio, ain't it?

Here we are now, entertain us, is a message from the performers to the audience. When I'm the audience I don't want to do all the heavy lifting, thanks.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Martin D-18. Some Assembly Required, But Supplied. It's Up To You To Shake The Notes Out Of It

Oh man. High ceiling. Banks of big windows with the sill at bench height. Steam heat. I could make things in that shop.


In a pawn shop in Odessa in the fall of '64
The pawn shop man was leavin' he was lockin' up the door
I ran up just in time and I hollered through the screen
Hey, man, you got any good guitars in here,
he said "I got this D-18"

So I gave him a hundred dollars and I took that sucker home
I cleaned it up and strung it hit a chord and heard that tone
It was crisp and clean, rich and full, all a guitar ought to be
I said Thank you, Mr, Martin, you made this D-18 for me

I Said Thank you, Mr. Martin, I'm alright
'Cause once again this old guitar helped me through the night
I'm mighty grateful to you, you know how to make 'em right
I said Thank you, Mr. Martin, I'm alright

If I'm feelin' down and worthless and I haven't got a dime
Wonderin' if I spent my life just wastin' my time
I pick up that old guitar, some paper and a pen
I say Thank you, Mr. Martin, you saved my life again.

I've written songs about my lovers, my family and my friends
My wife, my child, the old home place and the road that never ends
Heroes hobos rock n' roll and a honky tonk queen
I wrote 'em all without exception on my Martin D-18

Now It was made way back In '43 when I was just a kid
I believe it's about the best thing Mr. Martin ever did
It plays real good, it stays in tune, and never treats me mean
Thank God for Mr. Martin and that fine old D-18.

Well there's your Gallagher, your Gibson, your Goya, Gretsch, and Guild
I've played every kind of guitar that them guitar makers build
I' picked on a lot of axes but the best I've ever seen
Is my funky beat up wonderful old Martin D-18

They still make the very thing: C.F.Martin D-18

Martin D-18P Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar at Amazon

Friday, November 04, 2011

More Woodworking Music

My people are Sicilian, so we can't see anything Venetian without muttering tedeschi under our breath, but isn't it a grand performance in a grand place?

The Interpreti Veneziani homepage

Buy their stuff through Amazon here:   Interpreti Veneziani

They're heavy on Vivaldi, but I think that one in the video is Albinoni. Not sure. Anybody?

( Thanks to fellow thumbsmasher and good music devotee Rob Williams for sending that one along)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The First Piece Of Music Ever Broadcast

There are long periods of time during the workday when I have a mask over my face and earmuffs clamped on my head. It lends itself to a sort of underwater effect.

I have an MP3 player hooked up to some old computer speakers in my workshop. The little harddrive holds a lot of music, but I don't bother much with it. With all the racket I rarely hear much of it, so the same things can cycle around quite a bit without getting boring.

Sometimes, during a quiet interregnum, the music will synch itself with the slant of the light through the window, and the lull in the fighting, and the effect can be quite profound. Like the shade of a tree on a hot day. Which brings us to Ombra mai fu, from Handel's opera Xerxes. It's an aria about the shade of a tree, after all.

Tender and beautiful fronds
of my beloved plane tree,
let Fate smile upon you.
May thunder, lightning, and storms
never bother your dear peace,
nor may you by blowing winds be profaned.
A shade there never was,
of any plant,
dearer and more lovely,
or more sweet.

Ombra mai fu was probably the first piece of music ever broadcast on the radio.
On the evening of December 24, 1906 (Christmas Eve), Fessenden used the alternator-transmitter to send out a short program from Brant Rock. It included a phonograph record of Ombra mai fu (Largo) by George Frideric Handel, followed by Fessenden himself playing the song O Holy Night on the violin. Finishing with reading a passage from the Bible: 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will' (Gospel of Luke 2:14). He petitioned his listeners to write in about the quality of the broadcast as well as their location when they heard it. Surprisingly, his broadcast was heard several hundred miles away, however accompanying the broadcast was a disturbing noise. This noise was due to irregularities in the spark gap transmitter he used. (Wikipedia)

Hmm. A beautiful piece of music, during a time of quiet and reflection, interrupted by a disturbing noise. Handel had me pegged.

(The whole opera on DVD at Amazon:  Handel - Serse / Rasmussen, Piau, Bayrakdarian, Bardon, Hallenberg, Peirone, Lippi, Rousset, Les Talens Lyriques, Dresden Opera)

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

When Genghis Khan Shows Up At Your Door You Best Be Handing Over The Snickers, My Friend

A few years back, I wrote something about Halloween that was republished here and there on the Intertunnel. In the fifteen years or so we lived at our last home, we never had one trick-or-treater show up. But things are different here in western Maine. We left The Heir home with a big bowl of Hershey bars, and went out into the receding snow under the bracing starlight after dinner with The Spare. And it was -- exactly, precisely, to the last jot and tittle -- what I described as the way Halloween should be:
At around dusk, small children dressed in cute and fantastic costumes will visit the doors of their nearby neighbors, who will give them a little Snickers bar for their trouble. Any child old enough to be unaccompanied by an adult is too old to trick-or-treat. The children's parents will stand slightly behind their children and wave to the neighbors and they will exchange pleasantries. The home will have a pumpkin or two on the step, and perhaps the silhouette of a witch on a broom and a black cat, cut from construction paper by a gradeschooler, in the window. These small children will not be frightened by this activity, and startling people for your amusement will get you only a rap on the head from a Maglite flashlight that you will commemorate for several weeks by rubbing the lump it leaves on your addled head. The small children will be home and asleep at the regular hour, more or less.

It was marvelous. There were a few homes on our little route around our neighborhood where the denizens were out, but they left bowls of candy on their front step to be neighborly.

Now I've got to go turn my fleece-lined workshirt rightside-out and go down to the tablesaw.