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“Raining in Baltimore”

Posted by purplemary54 on April 27, 2015

As if things weren’t bad enough.

I spent much of the weekend watching footage of Kathmandu, Nepal literally crumbled to pieces by a 7.8 earthquake.  There were occasional reports on the volcanic eruption in Chile, and I’d switch to other news which really wasn’t much better.  Fire, war, murder–in other words, the usual.  I thought things were relatively okay in Baltimore, in spite of this being the location of the latest death of an unarmed* black man in police custody.

Today shows me just how wrong I was.

I don’t know much about the arrest, injury, and subsequent death of Freddie Gray.  Frankly, neither does anyone else except for the arresting officers and the late Mr. Gray.  The mystery of how he was supposedly walking and talking when he was put in the back of the van and ended up with a nearly severed spinal cord and crushed voice box is one that has not been solved yet.  But the investigation has been fairly swift, and, since it involves the Feds, looks like it will be thorough.

The Baltimore PD has already essentially admitted they screwed up.  The brass has also made it pretty clear that the officers involved not only made mistakes, but that there will probably be criminal charges of some sort.  How do I know this?  Because the line when something like this is usually, “We believe our officers acted appropriately, and we stand behind our brothers in blue.”  But by saying that mistakes were made, and that further investigation is warranted, the department is throwing these guys under the bus.  One of the six officers involved has pled the Fifth, which tells me something really bad went down.  While the anger of the citizens of Baltimore, especially the African-American community is fully justified, I think all they had to do with this one is wait a couple of weeks.  I don’t know that charges will come down, but it looks like things are leaning that way.

Peaceful protests were held, but things started going downhill.  Today, after Gray’s funeral was held, rioting broke out on the streets of Baltimore.  There has been looting, police vehicles have been burned, and at least seven officers have been injured.  Who knows how many civilians have been and will be hurt. Tonight’s baseball game was postponed due to the rioting.

I get the anger.  Like I said, it’s justified.  But violence never is.  And looting businesses that didn’t have anything to do with any of this bullshit is really unnecessary.  The only people harmed by rioting are the people who are rioting and the innocents who happen to be in their path.  Baltimore has pretty much turned into a war zone, with stupid people taking advantage of genuine problems to create havoc.  If only rain were the only thing happening in Baltimore today.

*It’s been reported that Freddie Gray had a switchblade knife on him, and that’s what precipitated his arrest.  But a switchblade against the firearms of six policemen really doesn’t count as a serious threat to me.

Posted in Music, Rock, Singer-Songwriters | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“I Will Always Love You”

Posted by purplemary54 on April 21, 2015

It was announced today that doctors have determined that Bobbi Kristina Brown’s brain damage is “global and irreversible.”  While there is some slim chance that her condition could change, she is currently unresponsive and unable to care for herself in any way.

I’ve refrained from posting anything about this sad situation because I wanted to hear some kind of definitive statement from the people in charge of her medical care.  Her father, R&B  performer Bobby Brown, recently said that he believed she was awake and watching him.  That’s totally understandable; he wants his baby to recover.  But the chances of this poor young woman returning to any semblance of normal life at this point are practically nil.

And I hate that.  I never cared much one way or the other for Bobbi Kristina, except to feel bad about the hand she’d been dealt in life.  Sure, she was the famous child of two famous and talented people, with the money and means to do whatever she wanted with her young life.  But both her parents were troubled, their marriage volatile, and Bobbi Kristina lacked a solid foundation.  When her mother Whitney Houston died suddenly a few years ago, this child seemed so lost and alone in the world–even though it was clear she had plenty of family support.  There was such a sadness in her eyes.

Bobbi Kristina was found face down in her bathtub on January 31st and placed in a medically induced coma.  Everyone was hopeful for a full recovery at first, but without knowing how long she’d been without oxygen, there was no way of knowing what kind of chances she had.  As the weeks wore on, it became clear (to me, at least, with no medical background whatsoever) that Bobbi Kristina would not recover, at least not enough to be an active participant in her own life.  She is technically alive; there must be some kind of activity in her brain.  But whatever life she has is so compromised, I can’t imagine what it must be like for her or her family.  I hope she doesn’t have any real awareness of what’s happening to her, that whatever spark that made up her is not trapped inside that living shell.  That sounds like the worst kind of horror to me.

Her drowning, for want of a better term (police are still investigating this as a crime) happened just before the third anniversary of her mother’s death.  Houston died in a similar manner, which makes this all so eerie.  But I know that whatever else may be the case in this horrible tragedy, Whitney Houston is with her child in some way.

Posted in Music | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Repost: “Silent All These Years”

Posted by purplemary54 on April 20, 2015

I don’t really feel like I have anything interesting to say today, so I figured a repost would be a good way to go.  This one seemed more than appropriate for a day when I’m feeling less than talkative.

Wanna feel old? The song that introduced the weird and wonderful Tori Amos to the world is more than 20 years old. I had no idea it had been around that long. That would put me in my very early 20s when it was released; it still speaks to everything I am.

I’ve always felt like I was invisible, forgettable. . . not quite silent, but near enough. The first time I heard “Silent All These Years,” I thought, “that’s me.” No, I was never a slightly troubled girl making some rather dubious decisions involving men and pregnancy (I’m not saying the decisions I’ve made about men were especially wise, just never quite this dramatic). But I was a dreamer, wondering if “twenty-five bucks and a cracker” would be enough. I was always a little unrealistic, a little silly. I didn’t care. I wrote my poems and dreamed of running off with a rock star. I dreamed of starring in movies with Andrew McCarthy. I dreamed of traveling the world with U2. I dreamed that everyone who ignored me or teased me would meet me years in the future when I was rich and successful, and feel a little bit bad about ignoring or teasing me. I dreamed of being noticed.

Of course the point of this song is not dreaming “what if I’m a mermaid in these jeans of his with her name still on it.” It’s about dreaming, but not “waiting for somebody else to understand.” It’s about taking control of your life and finding your own voice, your own power. People might ignore you, or say crappy things about you. But none of that matters. Because you are a mermaid. And a rock star. And a poet. You are whatever you make yourself.

“Hey, but I don’t care because sometimes I hear my voice, and it’s been here. Silent all these years.”

I’m not silent anymore.

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Repost: “Do It Again”

Posted by purplemary54 on April 18, 2015

I was bored the other night, and changed up the look of the blog.  I’m not sure why changing things up a little makes me think of this song, except for maybe the lyrics I reference.  Today’s been generally not a good day, too.  Which makes me think of the vicious cycle that is life.  Let me know what you think of the new look, okay?

One of my favorite Kinks songs, “Do It Again” chronicles the boredom and alienation of life, the greatest vicious cycle of them all. I don’t mean that life is bad, or anything negative. But it is just one damn thing after another. “Day after day, I get up and I say, ‘C’mon do it again.'” It doesn’t really matter what you do, how much you love your job or your family, eventually it wears you down. You get fed up and tired. And it doesn’t matter what you do to change things up, you’ll still be the same person who will eventually get fed up with everything all over. “The days go by, and you wish you were a different guy, different friends and a new set of clothes. You make alterations and affect a new pose: a new house, a new car, a new job, a new nose. But it’s superficial and it’s only skin deep, because the voices in your head keep shouting in your sleep, ‘Get back!'” (A possible homage to the Beatles?) What are you trying to get back to? I suppose that depends on who you are. And who you want to be.

There’s a sense of history to this song, but that’s no surprise. Ray Davies has always been the most British of the British Invasion rockers. He seems to carry his nationality with him like a touchstone. It’s a big part of the reason why the Kinks never had the same commercial success in the U.S., but it’s also what makes him so interesting. He understands that a large part of his identity is tied up in his Englishness, and that much of what makes him English is bound up in the history of England. He gets that it’s just another cycle, and he’s just another spoke in the wheel.

I guess that’s how I’ve been feeling lately. I’m not in control of anything that goes on (as if I ever was), but I can control how I react. I’m still working on that one.

Posted in Music, Rock | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

On Anniversaries

Posted by purplemary54 on April 15, 2015

Today is the 150th anniversary of the death of President Abraham Lincoln.  He held this country together when fools and traitors would have torn it to pieces just to preserve so-called states’ “rights” and the vile practice of slavery.  And yes, all those secessionists in the south were essentially traitors.  They practiced treason and sedition.  Anyone who wants to fly the Confederate flag should remember that they are flying the flag of a self-declared foreign country that attacked and made war on the United States of America.  Anyone who thinks they’re some kind of patriot for flying the stars and bars should maybe think a little goddamn deeper.

Interestingly enough, today is also Jackie Robinson day in the MLB.  Every single player on every single team wears the number 42 in honor of the first black man to officially play for a Major League team.  (Confused nerds who don’t know this might wonder why all the players are honoring The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but they can be forgiven for that.)  Jackie Robinson helped make this country a little more equal by braving the insults and threats he received just for playing the game he loved at the highest level he was capable of.  It’s this kind of thing that the Civil War was fought for, the right for all men and women to determine their own lives, no matter what the color of their skin.  Millions of people fought and died so that everyone got the same rights.

Sadly, we’re still fighting that war.  And the battle extends to so many different groups, more than Lincoln ever could’ve imagined.  Even though the founding fathers were really only thinking of men like themselves when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the rest of us took that whole created equal and pursuit of happiness think seriously.  So take a moment today to remember Lincoln and the Civil War.  Take a moment to remember that the fight that ended 150 years ago is still being fought in ever more subtle and insidious ways.  Toss a baseball with your kid, or watch a game.  Thank that fast food worker who is making a minimum wage that falls well below a living wage.  Think about all the people who were just running a marathon when the world literally exploded around them.  Remember that April 15th isn’t just the day you have to run out to the post office at 11:15 pm to mail that check to the IRS.  There’s a little more to it than that.

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Percy Sledge

Posted by purplemary54 on April 14, 2015

Famed Soul singer Percy Sledge has died from natural causes at 73.  While he had a number of popular songs, Sledge was best known for his first and biggest hit, “When a Man Loves a Woman.”

I figure if you’ve got to be known for one song, this is a pretty good one.  It’s loving and tender and kind of sad.  I admit it’s never been a favorite, but I think that’s partly because I’ve heard it so much.  “When a Man Loves a Woman” is one of those ubiquitous songs that just about everyone knows to some degree.  You heard it on the radio growing up, or it was in your favorite movie.  Or maybe this was the song your older sister danced to at her wedding.  Maybe your dad used to sing it to your mom when he thought all you kids had gone to sleep.  The very presence of this song in so many people’s lives tells me that it’s a classic.  If that’s the only thing fans remember Percy Sledge for, then I think he did all right.

Posted in Music, R&B/Soul | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

“Pancho and Lefty”

Posted by purplemary54 on April 13, 2015

I got a call from the partner of one of my Dad’s oldest friends over the weekend.  Eddie drifted out of Dad’s life a few years before he died.  It seems he got kind of weird and cut himself off from all his friends.  Daddy always kind of thought Eddie went back to the reservation (he’s Native American, although I can’t remember what tribe).  We hadn’t heard from him in so long, I kind of thought Eddie was already gone by the time Daddy died, and I wasn’t sure how to get a hold of him anyway.  Well, Eddie’s still around, but his partner (can’t remember if they got married) says he’s probably not long for this world.  He was asking for my dad.  And I wish to whatever god might be listening that I could deliver him.

The Indian was a hard-drinking, hard living son of a bitch.  He rode a motorcycle until he wiped out and messed up his leg; always walked with a limp after that.  He told even taller tales than my old man did–that’s why they called him True Story, because he’d always claim it was a “true story” no matter how ridiculous it was.  One of Dad’s favorite stories about him was how they went into a local bar that turned out to be a cop bar, and Eddie got into a fight with a few of the cops and got them banned.  But he was funny and generous; Eddie would give you the shirt off his back and never ask for anything in return.  Eddie was one of a kind, and it breaks my heart to know that he’s dying without the one friend he was asking for.

The news about Eddie has got me thinking about Dad a lot.  I sent a message out into the universe for him to go see Eddie, and I hope he listens.  And I hope when Eddie gets there, they go out drinking and lie to the waitresses and get into a couple of fights.

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“Just a Song Before I Go”

Posted by purplemary54 on April 9, 2015

“Just a Song Before I Go” was written as something of a challenge.  One of Graham Nash’s friends didn’t think he could write an entire song before they got to the airport.  Turns out, Nash could do exactly that.

It’s not a complicated tune, to be sure, but is sweet and quite emotionally effective.  It’s a gentle, acoustic ballad about a guy leaving the one he loves behind as he flies out on business.  There’s an edge to it, though, and undercurrent of fear and distance that signals that maybe this relationship is a little rocky.  “Just a song before I go, a lesson to be learned.  Traveling twice the speed of sound, it’s easy to get burned.”

Two things I feel I should note here.  The first is that the Wikipedia story about the writing of this song differs a bit from the version I heard (from a radio DJ in the late 80s, I believe).  The Wikipedia one may well be closer to the truth, but I like mine better.  The second is that this is clearly written about flying on the Concorde, the supersonic plane that took people from one side of the Atlantic to the other.   It may have flown other routes, but I only remember it flying from Europe to the United States.  It most famously flew Phil Collins from the London to Philadelphia so he could play both sets of Live Aid in 1985.  The Concorde stopped flying in the late 90s, I believe, because it was just too expensive and not enough passengers were using or could afford to use the plane.

Posted in Music, Singer-Songwriters | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

“The Cuckoo”

Posted by purplemary54 on April 7, 2015

Yesterday afternoon was just a bit unsettling.  We have a large picture window in the living room that faces the backyard.  There’s some plants on the porch, but no obstructions.  By the garage a few yards away is a bird feeder that gets plenty of action.  Well, I’m sitting on the couch, watching a little Keith Olbermann on ESPN2, when all of a sudden there was a bang on the window.  Birds have flown into that window before, so I knew right away that’s what it was, but this was louder than any of the previous collisions.  I looked out, and saw a medium-sized tan/gray bird on its back, gasping and twitching a little.  I immediately went outside, praying it had just been stunned and would be up and about as soon as I got there.  No such luck.  The poor thing had broken its neck, and died just a minute or two later.

I felt terrible.  I know I couldn’t have done anything to help the bird, but I really wanted to.  I tried to be respectful as I disposed of it; that seemed the least I could do.  And I know this kind of stuff happens all the time.  Like I said, birds have flown into that window before, but this was the first fatality I know of.  (There are a lot of cats in our neighborhood, so there may have been other bird accidents that were disposed of in a more food chain-friendly manner when I wasn’t around.)  But these kind of things are omens in the movies all the time, so it left me feeling just a little off-kilter the rest of the day.

Which makes “The Cuckoo” the best bird-related song I could use for this post.  This is a deeply unsettling tune.  It’s an old English folk tune about gambling and true love and stuff like that, but the mood is so dark and creepy that it could be about birds killing themselves in windows.  Or a Hitchcockian avian uprising.  Or a murder.  It’s eerie.

The more famous version is probably Clarence Ashley’s, which I heard on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music.  But the clip isn’t the greatest; you can watch it here if you’re interested.

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Repost: “Black Coffee in Bed”

Posted by purplemary54 on April 6, 2015

I originally posted this for International Coffee Day.  Which today is not.  So I did a little judicious editing.  Really, i just took the opening sentence and Twin Peaks clip out.

Okay, so I’m not much of a coffee drinker (but lord, do I love how it smells). I prefer tea for my hot breakfast beverage. I also know that drinking coffee is sometimes less about the drink and more about the ritual. Dad says that he stopped drinking as much coffee when he quit smoking; the two always just went together in his mind. Coffee shops are gathering places, just like bars, where the drink is a shared communal experience. And there’s just something soothing about sitting down with a cup of something warm and comforting.

Squeeze managed to parlay all the emotional connotations of coffee quite nicely in the charming “Black Coffee in Bed.” The guy has been dumped by the girl, and all he has to remember her by is a coffee ring left on his notebook. But he moves on, going “out with a friend, with lips full of passion and coffee in bed.”

Coffee in bed becomes the metaphor for intimacy. Or a lack thereof. . . I’m never quite sure with this song, and I like the ambiguity. Real relationships are full of that kind of ambiguity all the time. He misses her, but he doesn’t. He’s moved on, but he keeps thinking about her all the time. Love and break-ups are messy, resolution a myth. There’s always a coffee stain left in a notebook somewhere.

And sometimes the only thing you can do is have another cup of coffee.

Posted in Music, Pop | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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