Posts Tagged ‘New York’

August 15, 2014 Leave a comment

Here’s one for Bite Size and the “All She Wants To Do Is Dance” Group.

From the Live Album “SHAKE A BUM” by Scott Fagan And The MAAC Island Band lilfish records, St. Thomas Virgin Islands

Book 4. Brand New Grandson…Jacob Max Charles Fagan! “Dreams Should Never Die” and “El Gringito”

April 13, 2011 4 comments

Book 4. Brand New Grandson…Jacob Max Charles Fagan!

My boy “The Bix” (Scott Francis Fagan) Son of Patricia Trepuk Evelyn Nelthrop Fagan and Great Grandson of Max Trepuk (of M.E. Trupk and I. Levine fame) has just had a little one. Here’s a photo of the fine young gent.

Jacob Max Charles Fagan

The Newest Chip off the Old Block

 He is not one bit better looking than his father or Grandfather (me)  at his age and so unfortunately, is not terribly likely to be able to get by based on looks alone. This means the lad is destined for hard work and long labor and may expect to start his first job  well before nursery school.

 Such is life for the likes of we…

Too bad he doesn’t look like his Grand Mother Patricia, why then the boy would be “King of The World”.

However, if he brings even a quarter of the happiness, delight and joy to his father, that his father has brought to me, then there is great cause for high kicking and hot footed celebration all across the land, and I welcome him with all my heart and soul.

 God bless you little Jacob Max Charles Fagan, you are most certainly a chip off the old block. Welcome, Welcome, to the World.

Here is “El Gringito” from “The V.I. Songs Vol. ll”  ’cause the dear lad is “Un Cuarto Puertoricanio”

 and  “Dreams Should Never Die” from the same CD to mark the occasion.

Feliz Navidad! Looking Forward!

BOOK 4. One year into the Memwa?

August 24, 2010 3 comments

BOOK 4. One year into the  Memwa?

I started writing the Memwa? Ten days before my sixty-fourth Birthday (Aug 16th and Aug 26) now it’s Aug 24th, two days before my sixty-fifth. I began in St. Thomas where I was recording  (or attempting to record), my new Musical “The Virgin Islands Songs”.   I’m now in the states performing my concert version of “The Virgin Islands Songs” and working with a collection of musicians from the MAAC collective as “Scott Fagan and The MAAC Island Band”.

 I started out by committing to 1000 words a day for ninety days and was able to maintain that schedule through the commitment. Since then, (or more accurately, most recently) it’s become catch as catch can. In part because of the requirements of gigging, earning my little fazools, and my commitment to the collective… I have had great fun and lots of laughs writing the Memwa? Still though, it is far from finished, and it is clear that I will need to create and sustain a  more productive Memwa? schedule.

My eyesight has gone from great to glasses to fuzzy grey all over the place; I have to do something about that also. I have much , much more work (writing and singing and other things) to do, but I am feeling oddly spooky about turning sixty-five. I am generally completely unconcerned about the chronological tick-tock but at the moment, I am becoming afraid that I won’t be able to get it done.

Part of it, a large part of it is of course, is finding my success (or my audience as we like to put it these days) and having my work recognized as having had some value and creative quality.

This particular  life area is a mishmash of emotions which I usually deal with my unusually well-developed skill at  denial, however, even I am becoming concerned that, not only will I be going too quietly into that dark night, but I will be gone without raising enough ruckus or, God help us “blowing my own horn loud enough”, to leave any thing of tangible  value for my beautiful and long, long-suffering little ones.

If I only knew  which massive boulder to roll up Everest, or which 12 foot grizzly I had to wrassel mano a mano, or what heretofore impossible cosmo-mathological equation I needed to smite and solve… but I’ve been made dumb by that question since I’m six years old. And now I’m feeling that my time is running out. And let me tell you something, call me confused or a liar, or in pre-limino flagrento dementia, but I am certain that time goes faster and faster the older you get.

 I could easily pretend that that’s all I know about getting older, but the fact is, this Peter Pan has accidentally accumulated a small treasure box of shocking and completely unexpected information (and experiential knowing) about this grey ah…I mean great and mysterious stage of life.

Possibly first and foremost in importance, is the fact that chicks don’t look at you the same. And if you’re a chick, Cats (no not kitty cats, Hip Cats) don’t look at you the same either.

(Kitty cats however, do have a whole new appreciation of older chicks and  ex Hep, now no pep, Cats. I‘ve been told that felines consider old dears in their dotage to be a special gift just for them from “Super Cat” creator of the catmos.

 Why one wonders? Have you ever heard of young people braving the elements at all hours of the day or night to set out cat food in the darkest alleys and vacant lots of this or that Urban hell? Or living in pads (house or apt) over run by kitty critters?

 Well…now that I mention it, I have. My wild Annie the Artist Girl and I once lived in a basement apartment on west 84th street, with something like eight dogs and thirty two cats, all at once. Each and every one named something or other bean. Like You Bean and New Bean and Two Bean and Who Bean and Who-You Bean and You-Hoo Bean, all the way up past thirty two Bean to forty. 

However, while we were quite young in those days, we were also smote by chemistry that looked and felt like dotage, so possibly we cornfuseled (one of Annie’s favorite words in those days) ourselves and each other and cornfuseled the critters by extension.

Another thing about getting older, is you don’t look at the chicks the same either; there seems to be a much greater awareness that they are human beans, with feelings and hearts, disappointments and dreams and deserving of consideration and human kindness. One of the realities of lusty young men is that well…while we may have heard tell that chicks had feelings…other “mating” imperatives forced their way to the fore, not blacking, but “redding” out more subtle and sensitive considerations.

Ah my Lord, it was all I… ah… I mean a lusty young man could do to keep his eyeballs from exploding out of his pounding head, and his arms from s’muffling and crushing her, and his lips from slobber-jabbering love lies and perfidiac promises ( every utterance as deeply felt as  Gospel truth, in the heat of the moment).

It was all a lusty lad could ever do and all the time too. But now? God has dashed, decreed and made it so, that the heat madness be splashed by the ice water realization that “My God, she could be my Grand Daughter” or “My God, she is my Grand Daughter!” Ah yes…

 From time to time (when I sit with old birds on a park bench like lizards in the sun), one or another will suggest that the “golden elder belles” see young men somewhat differently as well (Unless the old chick is stuck in panting mode).   I’m told that they see ‘im remarkably similarly to the young lusty “lunk noggin” that I described earlier.

I’m not surprised to hear it; I always suspected that the Grand Mamere’s had my number.

 There are a number of age-o-alities that it seems no one bothered to mention, (or if they did, it was in geriatric jargon perhaps in a treatment setting, about old, or rather, aging 60’s psychedelic casualties and how to break the news that they were what they were, to them.)

I will write what I can about all of that at another time, perhaps even exhaustively until it (and we) are exhausted. But, for the moment, the real shocker is that chicks look at you differently. (They most certainly are not seeing and responding to your beautiful, color phasing iridescent inside)

How interesting to wonder if and when there ever was a time or even a moment, in life when one’s outside was an accurate representation of who and how one really was inside.

All of that being whatever it may be, here’s what the wind whispers to me.

 “Sing for your life” and leave the rest to the Great Artist who first imagined us all.

And…Boy, stay ready for the ever-so-much more important   second set, which will be called for when you are tired to the center of your soul, and least expecting it…

Book 1. En Nueva York, 1957…

June 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Book 1. En Nueva York, 1957.

As noted once and said twice, we would learn a great deal in Far Rockaway, New York, USA in the winter, spring, summer and fall, of 1957.

Right from the beginning, the music meant almost everything and was somehow more real than the reality that it was sound tracking, Gale and I went back to school to discover that we might as well have been studying moon rocks on Mars for all our previous book, (and lack of book,) larnin’ had to do with the New York City Public School curriculum.

The flash back was to sitting in La Escuela de San Juan Bautista where no one spoke a lick a da lingo (English) and I didn’t speak a lick a la lingua (Spanish) only this time we were able to comprende the sniddy snoody and snide comments made about our pathetic fraternal idiocy.

The only saving grace for me came in the person of a Puerto Rican kid whose command of English began and ended with a fruit salad of four letter words like you’ve never heard. It was fantastic. This angel faced boy knew nothing but cuss words and creative combinations of cuss words presented so fluently and floridly inappropriately that I’m certain that we today, would have an entire field of scatological study devoted  to and franticly seeking the cure for FFFWS (Flagrantly Floridly Filthy Word Syndrome) it was amazing.

Anyway, I was able to demonstrate a smidge-lit of intelligence by virtue of the fact that I was the only person in the entire school able to translate his linguistic intentions (though there is the small possibility that I may have inadvertently taken too broad a horizon or perhaps one too many small liberties with my interpretations and translations, but only to demonstrate my own facility with multi-syllabic  language, in the hope that they (the school) would realize the kind of intellects that they were too quickly dismissing as “the gang of three ..Idiots”.

He really was a sweet sincere kid who had more than likely been victimized by a psycho Tio (uncle) with his own hysterical but cruel agenda for getting even with  all the school Marms and Principals in the New York City Public School system, and boy if his intention was to cuss ‘im out, he got ‘im good…

I can’t help but wonder how my life might have been different if a kid like me had been assigned to interpret for a kid like me at San Juan Bautista…Good Lord Awmighty.

Needless to say, my attention to my own school work was frustrating and minimal, in truth because we had missed so much of what led up to the sixth grade, but mostly because I was much more interested in The Spanish Main, the clash of sword against sword, the clash of cultures in the race for God Gold and Glory and most especially, the names and exact locations of the great treasure Galleons that had gone to the bottom bursting with doubloons and now swayed in the sea tide with red eyed skeletons guarding the golden pieces of eight, than in Millard Flurbush, or Floyd Huckabucket  (who or what ever they were)

But that was school daze, and when not immersed in defending a translingual scatological diatribe, or my dream life along the Spanish Main, my antenna was “full tuned” out the window towards every passing car radio and the essential life lessons being broadcast freely into the air. Life lessons as only Chuck Berry and Rock n’ Roll could structure and present them…” Be Bop A Lula She’s Mah Ah Bay Bay” “Up in the Morning and off to school” These are the days of “Be Bop A Lula” “Hail Hail Rock n’ Roll” “Party Doll”, “Little Darlin” and “All Shook Up” music that moved us through winter to spring and into the summer of 57. (10 years later as a young staff writer in New York City, I would spend my days at Screen Gems writing “SOON”, cubicle to cubicle with the Great Otis Blackwell, writer of “All Shook up” “Don’t Be Cruel” “Great Balls A Fire” “Fever” and many other seminal, inspirational works of Rock And Roll, but that is another story. One which we will surely get to in it’s time)

Summer, dazzling full on blazing hot, tar melting Summer on the Boardwalk is (in my opinion) one of the elemental full sensory joys of life on Earth. Truly something that everyone  ought to experience at least once in their lives.

Many people, especially the old folks and the teenage girls in Far Rockaway, seemed to live for it. The old folks would endure all the bitter winter winds, wearisome woes, disappointments and God awful depression of that seemingly endless time in between. Trudging along, their little spark of the divine flickering through dampness and the blasted semi-damnation of the dark time; waiting for the when the world would be born again.

The when, when a kind of honeyed hell comes to the city and Beelzebub’s own wicked heat hots up the place and the human race once again flings off the cloth (and all modesty) and prances out bellies bouncing, barely clothed, slathered in Sea and Ski, straw hat on the top knot, down to the glorious sea side.

Another group raring to go was the mysterious sideshow of pseudo carnies that opened and ran the flipped out, tripped out stands along the strand, that made and manned the crazy sand blasted or freshly painted pre-psychedelic, psychedelic art and amplified lunacy of the Boardwalk

Oh the smells, my God the smells, the French Fries, Candied popcorn and Hot Dogs (Kosher thank you) Cotton candy, Candied Apples, foot wide lolly pops, Soft Custard in Chocolate and Vanilla, the double Rainbow array of Popsicles and the sodas, Cel-Ray, Sarsaparilla, Orange Crush, Cream Soda, Cherry, Root beer, and the Coca-Pepsi and Chocolate syrup egg creams and the Lemon, Pineapple and Strawberry scent of twirling Salt Water Taffy,

I am sure that the Angeles in Heaven (but perhaps only the goodest of the good ones, like Vicki Sue and my dear partner Kookoolis) are from time to time allowed to part the firmament and stick their noggins down to whiff deeply the aromatics of the Boardwalk…and the Beach (the seaweed, salt air, sea and ski and the fishtunken stink-a-moids stuck in the flotsam and jetsam) because in the Summertime, the super heated swirled up smell of it all together, is well, all together, out of this world.

You understand of course that I (and we) were well adapted to the mystical turquoise tranquility of mountain sheltered coves along the Caribees and the sweet reflective solitude to be found ‘neath the shading (coconut) tree. I’m guessing that you know or have at least heard tell that the Beaches in the Rockaways are any and everything but that. In fact they are the opposite of that in every way.

They are a Symphonic, electronic, “Ca-ca-ca-ca-phony” of clashing color, scent, sound and crazy characters, double amped to the max. I could not believe my eyes and ears (and taste buds) nor the heat of the frying pan hot sand under my feet, the Icy cold water, sea birds screeching, wheeling and robbing, up down around and around, Kiddies screaming and yelling (as often as not because the sea gulls were making off with their samrichs,) people wall to wall everywhere ,standing sitting laying leaping running back and forth slipping, tripping, back flipping  ball flying, babies crying, the guys screamin’ Ice Cream, “Hey uh huh getchur Ice Cold Ice Cream Heeya!” It was five towers of Babel fallen on their sides and popping open to spill man’s madness willy nilly upon the land..ah..sand 

Every conceivable human activity was being plotted, planed or in process there, I understood it to be my first real exposure to Democracy, and the downtrodden, weary rabble yearning to really be free.. And weaving under around, through and ultimately over and above it all, was the music. The glorious music a never ending arrhythmic crescendo of clashing keys, the competing themes of ultimate liberation of the human spirit.

That was the summer of ”Good Golly Miss Molly” “Searchin’””Bye Bye Love” and well yes “Love Letters In The Sand” and “Tammy” (I WAS a 12 year old romantic, much the same as now) but most of all, it was the Summer of 16 year old Paul Anka’s beautiful record “Diana”. “Diana” was the dream theme of every cross-eyed lovesick skinny bagabones boy who had ever set his eyes and heart on a slightly more physically mature, and sophisticated teenaged dream queen… (you may recall how wide a gap a year or two means in early teen time), “Diana” playing full blast over and above it all took us out of the crazy mind-boggling and delirious Boardwalk  Beach,  Summer of 57, (so exciting to me),  and into the Fall….   

Un “supra-stuporus” impression that has lasted, pasted and blasted the test of time, (and still takes my breath away) was what I can only call “My Vision of Arleta”

One pre-adolescent September afternoon when I was twelve, there on a side street close to the Boardwalk just inside the slightly elevated doorway, standing coolly in the tidal wave of jingling boinging bell banging, screeching sirens rackety raucous, sizzled grease burnt electronics and sawdusty scent and sound cloud that is a pinball arcade, was a girl.

And Oh my dear Lord what a girl. A sixteen year old Garrison Belted gum snapping, cigarette dangling helmet haired black leather jacketed death in blue denim Queen, A 1957 New York City, Rock n’ Roll indigo dolly of the most extraordinary God help us, “first plus” order.

Heavy lidded, red lipped, rouge on ivory, pouty, sultry, tough teen atomically charged, motorcycle booted “A-Bomb Baby” white teethed, smooth skinned, insolent virgin seductress, big bang born goddess of love, ah.. Ah… I mean burning lust. Teen Venus Diana Magdalene Italian Valkeri, proud, ah… very proud, of bosom, switch blade flashing, ebony eyed, Arleta.

 I stopped, heart pounding in my tracks right in front of her and looked dumb struck directly straight and completely into her face, into her eyes, searching, searching deeply into her soul, for her own registry of this moment. The impact of this momentous eye popping, jaw dropping of “fate in your face” moment.

I stood as her attention slowly shifted in my direction, and then to me, I imagined that the light flash kiss of a lifetime was a moment away that I would soon fling myself upon her bosom and mercy, for now and for the rest of my trembling life.

I steeled my self for her imminent ecstatic recognition, my collapse and complete surrender to her and her Arlettic ways, her eyes swept across my latitude, my geography, my place in time, my whole in the whole of the universe and registered… no thing, no one, nothing. As if my heaving chest and love flushed, thunder struck face was empty space. She registered nada, nada nada. 

My friend just off my elbow, who had witnessed the whole thing said matter of factly “Her names Arleta, she’s sixteen” and then “she didn’t even see ya”

What I learned that day was that this particular friend had a way of loudly and UN necessarily belaboring the painfully obvious.

The Vision of Arleta was beyond learning it was just an “is was” or “was is” of the most extraordinary, exciting and lasting, power and inspiration.

The next New York girl that made a strong and lasting impression on me was one that I had also never seen before but got my attention by swacking me smack dab in the eye before raining a torrent of fisticuffs down upon (or rather across) upon me in a mano a mano toe to toe nose to nose, knee to knee belly to belly “watch me beat up this boy battle” that seemingly was born for no other reason than that. Apparently, she saw it to her advantage to demonstrate her ability to “beat up a boy” and scrawny me looked like a most likely candidate… This was a battle that I certainly could not win, however I did manage to avoid humiliating myself for the next sixty years by standing my ground and taking it (rather than running away in tears) until an adult stepped in and sent us each back to our own corner buildings.

Of course my right hand comentater man found it necessary to say loudly and repeat repeatedly “Boy, did you see that? That girl sure can fight” and “Man, a girl was beatin’ you up in front of all those people!”




Book 1. Isla Grande #7, El Ultimo Trolley And Book 4. Juxtapositions…

Book 1. Isla Grande #7,  El Ultimo Trolley

In the Dark Age just before Gale found our salvation in Rock and Roll, one day out of the blue our Pop or, the man we knew as “Frankie” showed up ah… came to visit. He peeked in on Howard, in bed with a bottle of Don Q, spoke “be-bop jargon” to Mother (Gale and I had some sort of linguistic flashback, we hadn’t heard “be bop” since we were babes in arms, all in all, considering the wild and varied verbilations that we sprang from and were steeped in, it’s  wonderly that we speak any Angleish ‘tall. “Fee is uk and foo is ock mon! No?”

Frankie wasted no time in showing us how much fun that we’d been missing, Laughing, joking, singing, punch ball, stoop ball, stick ball. Hey ya want some ice cream? Sure, why not! He spent two days with us and when he left, we were so frigging turned inside out, bummed and depressed that it was beyond words. What the frig are adults thinking?

It wasn’t that Howard was a bad guy it’s just that he was chronically disabled by the rum, he was a drunk guy that stayed in bed drinking and throwing up, Mud scrambled all over the place juggling Howard, Little Larry (who was home from the hospital and sleeping in a drawer) Gale and me and whatever freelance typing jobs she could find in Puerto Rico for secretaries who don’t speak the language, and God help us,  her own wants, needs and dreams.

I accept the possibility that I may have been somewhat pre-occupied with self  at ten, nevertheless, I loved my Mudder and even I knew that this life was not what she had in mind when she and her beautiful twin sister Lea, skipped blithely away from the life they knew, to the Frangipangi scented trade winds, blue seas and blue skies of the Bonny Bongo Isles. Mud was a Jazz baby (in fact Baby was her nickname) and music was a central part of her heart and soul. Her most prized possession by far was a steamer trunk filled with her “Jazz baby” collection of 30’s, 40’s and early 50’s 78’s. This is Billie Holiday, Early Sarah Vaughan, Ella, Julie Christy, Dakota Staton, Billy Eckstein, Mr. Five by Five, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian, Lester Young, Gerry Mulligan, Gale’s own God Father Dizzy Gillespie, and many many others.

To any hip music lover, the trunk was worth ten times its weight in gold. A local department store agreed and allowed her to use her collection as collateral for a loan, a loan which she eventually could not repay and one day in the dark ages they came and took Mother’s mother lode of music and happiness away.

I will never be able to explain to you what that means if you don’t already know, and if you know, you know.

I was not able to understand how Howard would allow that to happen. Why he didn’t stick up a Muelberia, or a Lechonirea,  or ultra leverage heaven and hell somehow, someway, anyway, to get it back. That is until years later, in St. Thomas, all grown up and talking with him about music, he proudly announced to me that his favorite musical artist/singer of all time, was Edie Gorme.

Anyway, shortly after Frankie’s visit and the loss of Mother’s most centrally important possession, we lost the pad on Ashford Avenue and moved to a part of Santurce called Ocean Park.

Ocean Park was a “working class” neighborhood very light on anglish and very heavy on macho. And, to tell you the truth, (even though it was always maximo stressful to maintain) macho worked for me. Although I was significantly undersized and underweight, I could run and leap and field and throw and bat and all around play ball with the best. We were going to “Santa Terisita” (I had just started the sixth grade) and los Guapos (the tough guys) in the neighborhood  were amazed and proud that “Ocean Park” had a “little Gringito”  who seemed fearless and could and would catch “all the fuego” that they or anybody else could throw. Ocean Park had a little Guapito Gringito to call it’s own.

As a little white boy in the West Indies, my basic defense mechanism was an absolute commitment to death over dishonor, to dying rather than to be thought of and treated as less than. The boys from Ocean Park and I had good times playing ball in the school yard at Santa Teresita (where even though I was the smallest, I was one of very few who could hit the ball over the wall) and at a poetically named place that resides in my imagination still, like some perfect Spanish three word  haiku “El Ultimo Trolley”.

This field of dreams was a sandlot large enough for a traditional baseball diamond, along the right field line was an actual old trolley car (the last trolley car in PR, or El Ultimo Trolley). Why a thing like that would stimulate such romantic feelings in me even as a boy, is a fine mystery. (My imaginings relating to it run more to Panama hats and Pan Am Clippers,  than to baseball caps and the Yankee Clipper), in spite of the fact that it was the first place that I had ever actually played on a baseball diamond. I, up to that time had great and highly developed skills for alley ball or coconut trees in the middle ball or a sock with a rock in the middle ball, but…diamonds? Fortunately my skills as a stone throwing ragamuffin were transferable, and the baseball diamond was grooveland for me.

I had a great arm, (trained and fine tuned in St. Thomas “teefin” mangos by knocking them out of the tops of trees)  so I was a Center fielder and a pitcher. (Frankie was a great pitcher too and tried out for the “New Yawk G’ints”, his dream of dreams was to be the boy in his poem “Now Pitching For New York!” (a poem unfortunately lost to the depredations and natural disassemblage of life and the things of life in beer can ridden rusty trailers on the skeeter riddled edge of the western Everglades). Were it not for Jazz, ball might have been Frankie’s thing, And were it not for “just around the corner Rock and Roll”, ball might have been my thing also.

Around that time Gale and I were put out of school for the family’s inability to pay the tuition. Mud tried kitchen table school  but with the afore-mentioned set of responsibilities that she had, good old book larnin’  went the way of the wind.

Meanwhile, Shortly after Father’s visit, he sent us a smiling photograph of himself standing next to an almost new car with a beautiful Blonde woman and a brand new little baby in his arms. Gale and I felt pretty much completely abandoned.

 A couple of things occurred to cheer things up, one was me smacking the neighborhood bully in the face so hard that he burst into tears, and the other was Howard finally landing the Civil Engineering job that had been the carrot that had brought us all to La Isla Grande two and a half years earlier, in the first place. Continued…..

 Book 4. Juxtapositions…

 Last night a young man brought a pristine copy of “SOUTH ATLANTIC BLUES” to the Saturday night gig at the Collective (The Middletown Area Arts Collective or MAAC), for me to sign. Digital Dave took an interesting photograph of the young gent and me holding the record between us and shaking hands.

What a frigging “Plur-iverse” of thought and emotion the occasion stimulates and unleashes in me.

The young man was interested in talking about what happened with “SOON” (My January 1971 Broadway produced Rock Opera and the backlash that it created in the music business towards my writing partner Joe  and I) You can be sure that in time I will exhaust all there is to say about SOON, but in the meantime, “SOUTH ATLANTIC BLUES” in itself was a good illustration of how wide the chasm between “show” (meaning the art of show and the show of art) and “Business” was and is.

 In 1967, Jerry Shoenbaum was the head of Verve-Forecast, the hottest “Folk-Rock” label in the world, My manager at the time, Herb Gart (who I had signed with in hopes of rubbing noses with his client Buffy Saint Marie,) shopped SOUTH ATLANTIC BLUES to Jerry, he loved it and was about to sign me and the album to Verve-Forecast, when ATCO (who wanted to get in on the Folk-Rock market), offered Jerry the presidency of ATCO and Bo-coup fazools if he would leave Verve and come there. Jerry said Ok, but I’m bringing Scott Fagan and “SOUTH ATLANTIC BLUES” along to be my first release on ATCO, so… while Jerry negotiated his deal, it was decided that I should go ahead and sign with ATCO, which I did. However, ATCO never came to terms with Jerry, Jerry Schoenbaum never signed with ATCO. And there I was. It happens that I loved ATCO because Ben E. King and The Drifters, who had been my favorites for years were there, but ATCO, basically Ahmed Ertigun, was not well inclined towards me, or my album (To Ahmed I was “the kid who sings with a lisp”), and on the other hand, I considered him a jiveass racist thief) and naturally, the new incoming head of ATCO Jerry Greenberg, (one of Ahmed’s protégés) was not at all inclined to elevate and promote Jerry Schoenbaum’s pet project. In short, “SOUTH ATLANTIC BLUES” got buried at ATCO.

Folks can argue the reletive merits and quality of the lisping, the songs and the recording back and forth all they want (and they do) but Jasper Johns discovered “SOUTH ATLANTIC BLUES” in a cutout bin, listened and fell in love with it. Jasper did a lithograph of the A Side of the album and immortalized it as “SCOTT FAGAN RECORD” a lithograph that wound up in the permanent collection of the National Gallery, MOMA, The Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art, The Israeli Museum in Tel Aviv, and many others, among them perhaps most ironically, the personal collection of Ahmed Ertigun himself.

 In my view, “SOUTH ATLANTIC BLUES” is a good and interesting, first album or “record” by and of a sincere and fairly unusual artist at a particular time and place. The follow-up album was to have been the Rock Opera “SOON” (which we will finally be able to release this year, better a little late than never)

I am in it for the music, the impact that it may have for the good, and the hope for positive change in the lives of my little ones and the worlds that they live in. That’s how it was, that’s how it is and that’s how it will be…   

BOOK 1. The House at #1 Hole…

March 12, 2010 Leave a comment

BOOK 1. The House at #1 Hole…

 I went to a small public information event being produced by COAST, the local affiliate of the “National Council On Alcoholism and Drug Addiction”. The event was being held on the old “Judge Herman E. Moore” golf course. I am very familiar with this particular golf course and just about every foot of fairway in it, as I started working here, caddying, when I was eight years old.

 At the time we were living in the old pre WW ll, Pan American passenger terminal. (Mud ALWAYS found interesting, atmospheric and unusual places for us to live) This one was a quaint wooden building with an open air waiting room, where gents in Panama suits once waited to swing aboard shiny new silver clippers heading to Rio and Buenos Aries and Ladies wrapped in foxes and Chanel #5 stepped off and into the torrid tropics for torrid romantic liaisons.

The waiting room was our (Gale and my) bedroom, the benches that the mythicals once sat upon in clouds of perfume, romance, espionage and dust devils, were part of the bedroom furnishings for Gale and I. It was bright and breezy, and even though it felt like we were living outside in a movie, we liked it just fine.

200 feet to the west was a Second World War military hanger, painted a  fading brown and green camophlage, and filled with genuine honest to God machine gun chattering, dive bombing, loopdelooping “outta the sun” dog fighting glass  canopied fighter planes, left over from “anti sub” patrol squadrons, parked here like some secret mission or lost patrol.

I see myself standing before and beneath them in the dusty old hanger, the rays of the sun slanting in through wire glass windows high above, lighting the scene. I’m straddling my broomstick pony, looking up at them, completely swept away in double dreamland, part cowboy, part pilot, part pirate (add singer, donwha? and Dada, and that’s the story of my life)

The hanger and these war planes were part of the US Navy presence that reshaped the Island and most particularly, this part of the Island, during the first and second World Wars. The reshaping (in general) included paving all of the main roads, providing plumbing and running water to all the public schools, upgrading the Hospital and public health infrastructure along with huge water catchments on hillsides all over the Island, and (what looked like) thousand foot radio towers judiciously placed (in duos and trios) here and there, (one of which, I would climb as a teenager, along with two certifiable lunatics. (no not Tuts, he had too much good sense for that)

On this part of the Island, the Navy built a genuine submarine base with six major piers or docks, gun emplacements, administrative buildings, a power plant, ten huge Barracks for enlisted men, two military hospitals, numerous administrative and support facilities, (including a little “look out house” on the very top of Hay Piece Hill- (where we also lived, but that’s another story) ammo dumps and emergency food caches, dug into the hill sides, (rations which we the “downtheroadboys” would discover and consume ravenously around 1959. (mostly long green cans of spam, and Lucky Strikes by the carton) along with a solid concrete bomb proof PX, cavalry stables, a recreational center called “The Arena” complete with ceilings over a hundred feet high and a stage where the Calypso King competitions were held during the fifties, a seaplane ramp, an entire airport (runway and hanger) known during the war as “Bournefield” (named for a Maj. Bourne who completed the first solo flight from Washington D.C. to Nicaragua, who knows when. or why)

In addition, they built Officers Quarters, consisting of large individual two story homes on the beautiful breezy hill now occupied by The University of The Virgin Islands, and forty smaller one and two family homes for enlisted men their wives and children down on the flats (known after the war as “low cost housing” or Bournefield”, as in “Scott considers himself a Bournefield Boy”) And last but not least, a wonderful Beach Club facility (changing rooms with a large snack and libation bar) and a stationary “raft” complete with diving boards, at Lindbergh Bay. (Named for Charles Lindbergh who landed right about where my little house was around 1927, after a nonstop hop from Venezuela, on his way back to the states after scoping out prospective routes for Pan American throughout Central and South America)  Lindbergh Bay and its facilities were a wonderful beach destination for local folks for many years after the military had moved on.

Beginning with the purchase and transfer (1917) of the Virgin Islands from Denmark to the United States, the Islands were under US Navy administration, and an entire insulated, semi-socially segregated world existed in this “dounderoad” part of the Island. A world that left many wonderful physical things. Buildings and beach clubs, airports and such, but no record or history of the people, their lives, the stories of the individuals and families that worked and lived here.

I often wondered about those folks, how it was for them, I see them in a sort of semi sepia photo, framed by hand colored palm trees and a bright blue sea, with  Frangipani, Flamboyant or Hibiscus, stuck behind the ear or in the hair of  young Navy wives and waves from Kansas or Nebraska and handsome and strong young military men.  A Caribbeanized, West Indianized, South Pacific with far more intense racial storylines. Storylines that reflect the crazy explosions that occur when hicks and slicksters of every race, class and culture under the sun are mortar and pestled together, with a liberal dollop of raw rum, a double dash of cayenne, a dose of voodoo (or Obeah) the intoxicating effects of tropics and trade winds and full moon nights… how I wished that Mitchner (or someone) had written their stories…I’ve always known exactly what those songs and that score or soundtrack would sound like. We shall see.

 The little house was here through all of that and was sitting here when they built what would become the Judge Herman E. Moore golf course, the little house found it’s self occupying a little corner of the fairway, severity five feet to the north of the #1 green (which was, like all the othergreens, heavily oiled sand) and fifty feet to the west of the # 2 Tee. Consequently every golfer that wanted to play more than one hole was obligated to all but come in for coffee or rum and Coca-Cola. It was interesting.

Mud had married Howard Lindqvist, a young man from what had (just one generation ago), been the most powerful and well respected local family in St. John, (a family, that after arriving in St. Thomas would, within two generations, drink and squander it all away) Howard was a well educated Howard University graduate with a degree in civil engineering, but an increasingly drunken and foolish wastrel, married to a white woman, who (inexplicably in the eyes of those that knew Howard) was foolish enough to marry him.

Many of the folks that played golf were pretentious and judgmental types (including Howard’s own father Mahlon) and would have preferred not to become so intimately involved in “The little House of Dynamics” every time they got to the first hole, but…that was life in de Islands mon…

Pretty soon the ones that would let me caddy for them began insisting that I actually meet them at the club house rather than waiting ‘til they swung by on the way to the second tee, to pick up the golf bag, and I was officially introduced to the blasted inarguable inconvenience of work.

I was eight, and it was great. Inconvenient, but great. Not the  the walking for what seemed like ten to twenty (or however long nine or eighteen holes used to be) blasted miles in the burning hot sun, dragging a bag that weighed every bit as much and was every bit as tall as “The little caddy that could” wasn’t the great part, that’s the part that made you starvin’ hungry and gave you the money to fill your pockets, mouth and belly with Tootsie Rolls. That was the part that was great. Tootsie Roll heaven in the afternoon.

 Also, there was the further confirmation of a kind of belonging from the older caddies, the “big” boys, all older “rough and tough” young gents of color, that “Skah-ty, de likkle white boy from Nisky School, de likkle white boy, from doun de road, is one a we” That acceptance, and Tootsie Roll heaven in the afternoon, that was the part that was great. That and being surrounded by the artifacts of war, the vanished lives,  the romance, the joys and tragedies, me and my broomstick pony, cantered  up, around, under, over, and through, a whole conjured up swirling universe of sight, sound, smell and emotion. That was the part that was great…the whole frigging thing.

 Later that year (Easter, 1954) Mud and Howard and Gale and I (along with a few suitcases) piled onto a one engine piper, and, fled to Puerto Rico, to escape “bills”,

 PS It would be many years (well a few) before we would see the little house again, we got back (after time in Puerto Rico and New York) to St. Thomas in 1958 and spent another six months in  “The House at #1 Hole” in 1959, but those are all other stories.

 PPS Yes, I do know Kelsey Grammar. In those days, his father Alan (in addition to being a great musician and a friend of my mother and her twin sister), ran a lunch counter in the airport hanger, which was just a hop skip and a jump across the runway (which was how we got to the airport and Lindbergh beach, just hop skip and jump across the runway) from the little house referenced above. Alan and his wife appeared one day with a little arm waving, foot kicking, red faced thing with a remarkable noggin, and proudly introduced it as “our little Kelsey”. I remember being afraid for the pitiful looking little thing and silently wishing it”good luck” yep!