IT HAD TO BE YOU


Big shopping day at Costco yesterday; three items divided between the two of us. Seems a waste of time to have such a short list, but it was a nice day to get out. Dr. A has joined a large group of people who have become highly aware of the ethnic clientele in Costco. I have begun to appreciate my failing vision, because though I hear the music of multiple languages, all I see are legs and feet. In this time of year we see shorts, colorful saris, and all sorts of pants on all sorts of bottoms. As for shoes, there are high heels, low heels, sandals, flip flops, trainers. School is still out for another week or two, and there are progeny of all sorts clammering for attention. A trip to Costco is an education.

While at the check stand I heard a voice softly singing the old song “It Had To Be You” with which I have been intimately attached to for 74 years, because it is “our” song, claimed shortly after Dr. A and I decided that we liked each other well enough to have a song. The words in this one seem to convey affection without becoming too mushy.

Do people today have songs they claim as “their” songs? I suppose they do, but it’s hard to get romantic listening to the music of today. It evokes such tender feelings to hear a song which has meaning to both parties. I was insulted years ago when attending a friend;s birthday party where they played “our” song for him. I confess that I have the problem of becoming proprietary about things like names, songs, etc.

I was sorry to hear about the death of Aretha Franklin today. Her inimitable music will be greatly missed. It was music with meaningful lyrics delivered by an amazing God-given voice. RIP Aretha.

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THE SOUND OF MUSIC


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It’s easy to imagine Rogers and Hammerstein hearing music pouring out of those hills, especially after a Spring rain. Niles is a lovely district tucked up against the hills in Fremont where I live. In the summer the hills are golden with dark green accents of oak in the hollows, where we imagine families of small animals congregate to pass the time of day until the cool of the evening. In Spring after a healing rain, shades of green challenge the painter’s palette, and herds of cattle appear over the crest thankful for Nature’s bounty.

I didn’t hear any music coming from the hills, but Julie Andrews would be happy to know that I saw this intrepid little red-winged blackbird hunching his shoulders and auditioning for a Spring concert.

Each of us, wherever life may have led, has something that sustains us. We won’t find it by looking over our shoulder, but if we’re lucky, it’s forever right beside us, waiting to be called upon.

You must have been warned against letting the golden hours slip by. Yes, but some of them are golden only because we let them slip by. (James M. Barrie 1860-1937)

THE NAMING OF CATS


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THE NAMING OF CATS, BY T.S. ELIOT

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all,there’s the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo, or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey—
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter—
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkstrap, Quazo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum—
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover—
But the CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable, effable
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

T.S. Eliot was the inspiration and wrote the lyrics for the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical CATS. It was based upon “OLD POSSUM’S BOOK OF PRACTICAL CATS”. Old Possum was the name Eliot used for himself in playing with his godchildren.

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A TOAST TO JOHN BARLEYCORN


Edouard_Manet_006Some of us refer to this season as “Fall”, while to others it is “Autumn”, I suppose it depends upon which part of the country one comes from. At any rate, the season between summer and winter prior to the 17th century was referred to as harvest season, and wheat, corn and barley were at their ripest before the winter freeze. The hops too were ready for harvest, which incidentally provided the raw materials and may led to the making of more flavorful beer, since the hops provided the “seasoning” or flavor to the beer.

I have written before about the year during the War, when Oregon’s hop crop was in dire prospect of drying on the bines for lack of harvesters. The city of Grants Pass, Oregon actually closed down banks, shops and postponed school openings. The entire town came out and picked the crop. I was one of the high school students who faithfully arrived at daybreak and stripped the bines of their glory.

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The process of barley harvesting was revered and even mythologized. The song or poem “John Barleycorn” is primarily an allegorical story of death, resurrection, and drinking. The main character, John Barleycorn, is the personification of barley, which is attacked, beaten, and eventually dies—or as we prefer to think of it, grown, reaped, and then malted.

After John Barleycorn’s death, he is resurrected as beer, bread and whiskey, a reference some say, to Christian transubstantiation. There are many different versions of the story, which began appearing around 1568. Scottish poet Robert Burns published his own take on the story in 1782. In the British folksong, John Barleycorn is a personification of the important cereal crop barley and of the alcoholic beverages made from it, beer and whiskey. In the song, John Barleycorn is represented as suffering attacks, death and indignities that correspond to the various stages of barley cultivation, such as reaping and malting.

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Countless versions of the song exist, and though it wasn’t the original, Robert Burns version became the model for most subsequent versions of the ballad. In later years, the words were put to music and one of the most famous of these is by the band Traffic on their 1970 album, “John Barleycorn Must Die”.

An early English version runs like this:

There was three men come out o’ the west their fortunes for to try;
And these three men made a solemn vow; John Barleycorn must die,
They ploughed, they sowed, they harrowed him in, throwed clods upon his head,
Til these three men were satisfied John Barleycorn was dead.

Jack London gave the title John Barleycorn to his 1913 autobiographical novel that tells of his struggle with alcoholism.

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As truly sad as I am for the death of John Barleycorn, I am happy to say that this years’ harvest has provided the opportunity for many Octoberfest celebrations. We were guests at a local Octoberfest two weeks ago, where eight different beers were sampled, after being served by authentic “German” frauleins dressed in charming costume, and pretzels, German sausage, polka dancing and music got the blood flowing.

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Munich Octoberfest

The two paintings were by Eduard Manet, At the Cafe

SO YOU WANT TO BE A COWBOY?


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“Home On The Range” oil painting

The lure of the Old West remained strong through the 20th century for small boys strutting around in chaps and oversize cowboy hats. Annie Oakley made it possible for little girls to join in the games as well, reining in the spirited outlaws and slapping them into the make-believe jail until their mothers called them in to eat dinner.

Tom Mix, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and all the other great cowboy stars of the silver screen in the 30’s and 40’s were roll models for these make-believe cowboys and girls. Saturday afternoon double feature movies were filled with kids dreaming of a Wild West they never knew. The horses played a big part in the Western fascination. Until Roy’s museum closed forever in Branson. MO in 2009, his great golden palomino Trigger, Dale’s horse Buttermilk, and their Wonder Dog Bullet, all products of the taxidermist’s art, were big attractions.

horses Matt

The TV Westerns otherwise known as horse operas of the 50’s and ’60’s were a phenomenon, with 26 Western shows playing in the same period. Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassiday, The Rifleman, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, the Cartwright family in Bonanza, Maverick starring James Garner, Gunsmoke, and who can forget Rawhide, with a young Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Gates? These are but a small number of shows still playing on the smaller channels.

Willie Nelson’s song “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” about explains the life of a cowboy. “They’re never at home and they’re always alone”. They’re a different breed. They love animals, and a horse is part of their anatomy and their family. They don’t mind mucking out stables, shoeing, planting and baling hay, working in rain or hot sun, it’s all part of who he is.

I once told an teenage boy that no one could be a cowboy forever, but I was wrong. Sometimes the draw of the rodeo circuit and the love of what they do is worth the long hours, broken bones and time away from home.

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My eldest grandson on the right who proves that you CAN be a cowboy forever and also balance it with a successful business life during the week.

We all have a second life filled with things we love to do; perhaps it’s travel, ball games, camping, fishing, and golfing; it all sounds romantic. But some people want to be a cowboy.

WHEN WE WERE CHILDREN


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The Church Pew” stoneware sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen

I was not a willing churchgoer as a child. Beyond dressing up in my hat and little white gloves, I was probably like the child on the far right of the sculpture. And then I discovered music.

The music in the church of my grandmother did not reach in and grab me by my soul as I thought it should, but by my teen years I had quietly visited a number of other denominations, including a Southern Baptist church where mine was the only white face. I found the music uplifting, and the faces of the faithful inspiring.

I dressed my daughters in hats and little white gloves and sent them off to church, until my youngest embarrassed us all by singing an old Salvation Army song in the middle of the service; “Put a nickel on the drum, save another drunken bum, Hallelujah!” at which time she was whisked off the stage. Be careful what you sing to your children.

Sitting in the front pew at a guitar Mass in the 70’s I looked down at a quiet grandson and stage whispered him to “Sing”; “I don’t sing” he said. “Of course you sing. EVERYONE sings.” “I don’t sing”. When we left the church I asked him “If you don’t sing, why do you want to go to church?” His answer was “I like the stories.”

My father was an agnostic, sent off to a parochial school as a child after being suspended for being somewhat of a troublemaker. His delight during his stay at the new school was researching the Bible to refute any chapter the teacher had assigned. He had a sharp wit and an astonishing memory and was able to point out dozens of phrases which contradicted a previous one. He was not beloved by his teachers, but the other children loved him.

My maternal grandmother set the style of my religious education, and my mother and aunt followed in her footsteps. I’m sorry to say I was a rebel and a disappointment to them, but my wise little grandson was right; the stories are not bad.

THE ART OF PREDICTION


King Sunny
“King Sunny” by Jacques Dorier, Resin and washi papers

We humans are big on prediction; the end of the world, the outcome of a horse race, how much junk food we can eat at one sitting. Nostradamus may have been one of the first to earn his living predicting things, but how often was he right? Luckily Harold Camping was NEVER right.

Horse races don’t fare any better. California Chrome, racing for the Triple Crown, caused a lot of people to bet a lot of money predicting his win which fell to another. A cautionary ditty from the past said “I bet my money on a bob-tail nag, somebody bet on the bay.”

A local meteorologist was given the sack because he said you couldn’t predict the weather as much as seven days ahead. Now they do it regularly, but are they always right?

Television has hijacked the weather and stolen its mystery. Poetic ruminations about the moon and the stars and the wind have no place in TV’s world of scientific charts. They show us continental maps filled with circles and arrows amid large sections of color purporting to tell us of oncoming floods, tornadoes, snowstorms and hurricanes heading our way. No pity softens the voice of the person telling us that tomorrow’s temperature of 96 degrees will have a “real-feel” temperature of 107.

An earlier breed of sky watchers didn’t take weather so seriously. America’s early songwriters knew in their bones that there were blue moons, buttermilk skies and even rain wasn’t an event to get your knickers in a twist. It’s a state of mind, the stuff of dreams and yearnings.

To lyricists in the 20’s and 30’s the weather was a meteorologist’s playground, and they didn’t hesitate to write about phenomena not known to science: blue moons, paper moons, stardust, stars falling on Alabama, pennies from Heaven, a storybook life over the rainbow.

Johnny Mercer wrote about 1500 songs, and along with Harold Arlen and others, realized that the weather served songwriters as a metaphor for a broken heart. Torch songs as they were called in that day, were mostly sung by women, and bad weather predicted bad news, the end of the world. “Stormy Weather” is a slow lamentation of lost love. And what could be worse?

We hear that the bride is happy if the sun shines on her. We are left to wonder what might happen if it rains on the wedding day.

That kind of weather doesn’t get recorded on any television chart.