Home > 1, Music > Book 4. and Book 1.The Concert, and We From UPSTREET!

Book 4. and Book 1.The Concert, and We From UPSTREET!

Book 4 and Book 1. The Concert, and We From UPSTREET!

I’m writing from St.Thomas, having arrived yesterday, Sunday, January the 24th. (One of my very favorite days of the year, by virtue of the fact that it is the Birthingday of my beautiful twins Lelia and Archie)

I am here to do a concert performance of The Virgin Islands Songs, for “The Virgin Islands Cultural Heritage Institute” and the “J. Antonio Jarvis Museum and Learning Center”.

Tuts and I have just returned from meeting with the Director, Myron Jackson and his extremely talented assistant Yvette Finch and taking a look at the performance area. 

The stage will be set up under a tent on the grounds and I will be looking south, directly at the hillside location of the “Bandmaster Alton Adams” family home. Alton Adams is the most highly regarded musician to have come from the Virgin Islands, he was the bandmaster of a local Virgin Islands Brass Band that was so good, that the Navy enlisted the whole Oompa kit and kaboddle, and sent them all around the world representing the USA. They were gentlemen of color each and every one, whose sense of possibility and self had not been saddled with the innumerable and onerous burdens of segregation. They represented themselves, the Islands and the Country well, and made beautiful music for many years.

Bandmaster Adams is considered second only to John Phillips Sousa in quantity and quality of Marches composed, and authored our own “Virgin Islands March” the Official Anthem of the Virgin Islands, which is a wonderful song. His Grand Daughter is the afore mentioned extremely talented Yvette Finch who on top of everything else, is a brilliant singer, and his Grandson is Cliff Finch the extraordinary Bass player on most of my album “Dreams Should Never Die” (The Virgin Islands Songs Vol. 2) which songs make up one third of the score of “The Virgin Islands Songs”. If ever I had occasion for inspiration it is certainly this coming Sunday. As I will be (from the stage) looking directly up at Bandmaster Adams familial home, with his granddaughter looking directly and me and his grandson’s wonderfully melodic bass leading us away from staggering off one musical precipice after another. Yes indeed, this ought to be stimulating and fun.

Since the Second Coming has not yet impressed any journalists (or for that matter anyone other than those still impressed by the first coming…well not true, some folks are saying some very nice things about my singing and treating me like I’m the greatest thing since freshwater, but they’re way back up in the states), I will probably have to review the concert for you myself.

Actually while I would have real difficulty reviewing the performance from the audience prospective while at the same time swacking the guitar and screechin’ on stage while saying nice things about how well and goodly handsome myself are, it probably couldn’t be much worse than what you may have read about me already. I suspect that some of you are aware that the lasting echoing journalistic statement of the entire forty five years of the first coming, is the oft (really oft, irritatingly oft) dismissal of me as “Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Field’s father, who did an album for ATCO in the 60’s, the obscure folk singer Scott Fagan ) 

If however (for reasons known only to me, until I finally spill the beans in perhaps book Twelve and a half) there are no post concert comments coming from yours truly, you may feel absolutely free to make up all kinds of stuff yourself…because even though I am with out question a real high ball, Ah, I mean a real high brow, ultra double artsy dude, there is no business like show business, and my dear dear friends, in spite of the best intentions of mice (“mike men”) and musicians, you just never never know.

P.S. Am I anxious? Yes I’m anxious…but I will do my best, to do my best, and then I will do my best. 

 We From UPSTREET

Yesterday after our meeting at the Jarvis museum, I pointed out to Morita (Morita is Tut’s ex-wife, the Mother of his fourth child, daughter Jamaine. She is also the Grand Mother of Tut’s Grandson “Nikell” who is the cheery little round headed fellow riding along in the truck with us. Morita is also a former class mate of mine to whom I carried sweet messages of young love from Tuts, at Charlotte Amalie High School) The “wall house” (concrete block) at the head of “pave street” (the century old name for Main Street) in which I used to live and which qualifies me to be accepted as a member of the “We from UPSTREET” organization. Whew!

 “We From UPSTREET” is a neighborhood organization very similar to the “We From DOWNSTREET”neighborhood organization in fact they are almost exactly alike except they are on opposite sides of Charlotte Amalie, UP on the East and, DOWN on the West. Each is convinced that their “We from” is best and better than all the rest (and there are many, ie. We From DOUNDEROAD, De SAVANEROS, We from ROUNDEFIELD, Dem from SILVAHDALLAH and so forth). Which is of course quite true in every case. Yep,

 When I pointed out the house and told her that I had lived there, and that that’s what made me a member of “We from UPSTREET”, she said “Man you live all over the place, you mus’ be a part of everyting” I said “Yes, that’s right, I did, I am” while Tuts chimed in “Yes, that’s why everybody know Scottie.” 

It was true and it was a very interesting reality, an interesting alternative to actually having a home and belonging somewhere. Was belonging (to a degree) everywhere. I am really grateful for that, as it allows me to feel at home just about everywhere I go, at home and all over the away.

 The “smoke truck” (a mosquito eradication truck, spraying what was commonly known to be DDT, out of a high pressure nozzle mounted at nose level for leaping, laughing, gyrating children) came to visit UPSTREET once or twice a week just after nightfall. When that high pitched hissing, the crazy flashing lights, and those billowing clouds of smoke arrived, it meant hysterical fun for all the children in the neighborhood. We would disappear into the thick white smoke, leaping and laughing dancing and carrying on to beat the band, for what seemed like hours on end.

More than once I realized a certain odd power as I emerged staggering, oiled to the bone, from the cloud and bystanders (who had no reason to suspect or way of knowing, that the pale apparition was one of two white children  (Gale and I) who had moved into their part of town), would cry out in shock upon seeing me “Oh GOD! Look a Jumbi! It was great fun.

 I learned or (began to learn) a great many things in our time living  “UPSTREET”. Among them, that even “good” children could be “taken away by the government” never to be seen or heard from again.

 When we first came to the house at the head of “Pave Street” I was befriended by two brothers, Tony and Joe, who appointed themselves as my protectors. They lived with their father in a very interesting old wooden structure on “The Beljan Road”. An actual “Sail loft” left over from the days of the massive canvas square riggers and the great Clipper Ships. Tony and Joe were bright, alert, friendly and kind boys (maybe nine and eleven years old) that for the most part, (when not taking care of me, seven going on eight) took care of themselves.

Their father was a large silent shambling man, who (in retrospect) was not able to properly care for them. One day they said goodbye by announcing that they were going to be sent to the dreaded Mandahl.

Gale and I had been in the Islands long enough to have heard one and another teacher, parent, or grumpy citizen threaten a child with “Ah gon sen yu ass Mandhal if yu don behave” We knew that being sent to Mandahl was akin to being delivered to de “Ol’ Man stinkin’ toe” who stuffed disrespectful and naughty children in his crocus (burlap) bag and took them away, most likely to cook and eat them for supper. Tony and Joe hadn’t done a thing to deserve such a fate…but the day came and they were gone. 

In reality, the dreaded Mandahl was the only resource that the system had for children without the benefit of parental or familial care givers. While I never saw them again, from time to time I would hear that they were fine and doing ok. I hope that their’s is a tale that ended well.

Years later, while still a minor myself, I watched helplessly as social services put my younger brothers Larry and Lonnie into foster care. But that, (and how I managed to avoid being snagged by the system myself), is another story… which soon come…

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