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Book 1. Isla Grande Continued…Book 4. “Tales of The Second Coming” Continues..

April 2, 2010 1 comment

Book 1. Isla Grande Continued…

While we were living at “Parada Vente Cinco, Y El Fangio” I was enrolled in “El Colejio de San Juan Bautista”, a fine and upstanding Escuela, wherein not a word of English was spoken..

None, no, nunca, nada, except of course for the odd combo/ patois dialect passing for English, spoken by yours truly.

The experience at San Juan Bautista was after all is said and done, one of the most instructive and educational of my entire academic career, and I would recommend it for anyone. The experience of becoming and being “El Estupido” simply because of language is like becoming the Hunchback of Notre Dame, or Louie the leper over night A most illuminating and ultimately, empathy producing exercise that I think ought to be a required part of every ones education.

 While at Parade Vente Cinco, I made a friend, Terry (who lived nearby, but away from El Fangito).  Through Terry, I was introduced to “Abuelitas” (a Spanish term for “little Grandmothers”).

My friend Terry’s Mother was “Puerto Ricania” his Father was a state-sider as I recall, but out of the picture at the time…  In any case Terry and his Mother were living with his Abuelita, in a beautiful old “Spanish Moroccan” style, mini Hacienda, A very “Castiliano” pad and atmosphere (in those days the “upper class” considered themselves “Castilians” or “Castilianos” pure or semi pure “Spaniards” as opposed to the “lower classes” which were made up of a mixture of Spanish, African, Indios, and, well you name it. All together known as Puerto Ricanios, Boricuas, Borenquenios, as fine a Sangria of humankind as can be found any where on the Earth.

Americans occupied a position in the Castiliano hierarchy  below the sub heading of “Vulgar” “Vulgarians” were tolerated more or less in direct relation to the individual’s power or financial status. And God pity the vulgarian who was “poor” “ese no vale nada”, their only redeeming quality was the fact that by their existence, they proved the natural superiority of Castilianos.

Castilianos who were of course, by divine preference, selected by Dios as most appropriate to “discover”, civilize and rule the new world.  Ah yes… there had been some mismanagement, setbacks and perhaps even a few mistakes, but as long as “los Castillianos” held true to their superior attitude and ideation, this too would pass, this too would pass. Terry’s Abuelita was one of those.

It was through her intervention in our friendship that I given my first introduction to an interesting new point of view on my natural place and relative worth in the world.

 Terry and I were talking about ways to make some money, (actually I suppose, I was the one concerned with making money because he always seemed to have all he needed, while I had none.)  One block over from Aveneda Fernandez Juncos, was “Aveneda De Diego” a far more ritzy Aveneda, than Fernandez Juncos, On Aveneda De Diego, was where you would find “El Nilo”, a well-known breakfast and  lunch type restaurant with these fabulous giant glazed donuts in the window (that I was dazzled and dizzyfied by but could never afford)  always on sale for only “un bejon” a nickel.

 Further along Aveneda De Diego, there was an empty lot in which a little traveling carnival set up a few rides. Among them, these great looking little cars that you got into and steered around a wooden track. I wanted more than anything in the world to be able to give them the quarter fare needed, and take my turn around the track. It happened that the day that my dear Mudder dear had sufficient discretionary funds to give her dear little bonehead dear a quarter, was the very day that the little cars had packed up and left. I was very sad and disappointed.

 I know that things were worse in the Fangito, that my self-centered materialistic material wants, were wants, not needs and in the grand scheme of things blah, blah, blah. However, the experience of “having not” and “getting not” over and again, brings a sadness to the spirit, and the question of “hey, wot th’ heck, what’s goin’ on?” and” hmm, what the matter with me?”, begins to bubble sweetly beneath the consciousness, silently building to the subtle burp and overt belching of odd and uninvited emotional and cognitive bub-splosions and disturbances from time to time. 

 There was a big air-conditioned movie theater on Calle De Diego that was advertising and showing a really interesting looking grown up movie “Carmen Jones” starring a really interesting grown up actress, Dorothy Dandridge. The posters outside showed a strikingly  beautiful lady of color in the starring role, (which even an eight year old knew was very unusual) I was really intrigued by the posters and knew there was no way that I would be able to pay my way in, so we decided to ask the movie theater man for a job. To our surprise and delight he said something like “sure, I’ll give you un peso each to sweep up and clean out the theater after each show”. With that he took us into the theater, it was enormous, but we got right to work…a sweepin’ and a pickin’ up and a moppin’ and a pickin’ up and a moppin’ and a sweepin’ and a “oh oh” a scrapin’ gum and a god knows what and a sweepin’ and as always, Terry’s Abuelita wanted him home for lunch, which meant that he had to leave before the job was over..Which meant that I had to do it alone, which was no fun, not even a little. 

When I saw Terry later, he said that his Abeulita had told him that he couldn’t do that kind of work, that theaters “were filthy and full of spit” and that she said “while I could do it, she wouldn’t allow him to go back there anymore”. When I heard that I wondered why if he couldn’t, I could? While I didn’t quite understand what that meant, I knew it implied something that didn’t “feel” right. Something was wrong and further, it left me cleaning up the whole filthy place all by my self.  

 Fortunately we moved to Cacique Street before my soul sank completely through the sidewalk and “el estupido” got demoted all the way back to the first grade.

 Cacique Street was interesting for a few reasons, One, because we lived in a house completely devoid of any furniture or furnishings (knives, forks, plates) of any kind, what so ever. And Two, because Gale and I had never been so all out blasted and interminably hungry in all our lives. It seems to me that all that Gale and I did on Cacique Street was wait and wait for an adult to bring us something to eat. It was crazy.

The only thing in the house other than our hunger and our suitcases was a radio…Gale and I played it day and night. Not surprisingly, the piece of music that I remember best from Calle Cacique was a bouncy melodic advertisement (in Spanish) for “Fruta Melocoton…..Libbys!” A jingle for Libby’s brand Peaches and Apricots, I’m telling you, it made a deep Impression…to this day  “Melocoton” is one of my favorites  of lip and lingo.

 In a stroke of good fortune, we were unable to pay the rent, and had to move again.

This time to a furnished apartment at 1700 Ashford Avenue, in “El Condado”. Condado was a relatively upscale section of Santurce, that ran parallel to Condado Beach. 1700 Ashford Avenue, was an eight to ten story wonderful Spanish style old world apartment building overlooking the ocean, The coconut trees swaying in the breeze along the silver strand,  the morning sun rising up golden and good out of the idyllic blue. It was beautiful.

We lived in a little apartment over the garage behind the main building blocked from the sea breeze and the view, still it beat the flaming heck out of tragico El Fangito and the crazy hungry nights and days of Cacique.,, Continued

 Book 4.  “Tales of The Second Coming” Continues..

Last evening, Your sixty four year old singer who will not take no for an answer, continued his voyage of discovery in pursuit of his ever elusive audience, up to and into the Capital of the great state of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg. He was accompanied by un congero Puertoriciano que se jama Rafael, a blond Croatian guitarista Goddess that calls her self “Barbie” and a “visually challenged”, well…a blind stick tappin’, ex NYC recording engineer and whiz-bang computer wizzit, John “E”

The object of their objective was a small (but big inside) bookstore and coffee joint called “The Midtown Scholar’ where he would be auditioning via their “Open Mike”, for a coveted one hour slot in their performance schedule which and when, there-upon therein, he would be allowed to put out a tip jar and possibly pass the basket.

We were met at our Capital City objective by the spark plug and leader of the MAAC (Middletown Area Arts Collective), Shari Brandt www.middletownarts.com (Middletown is “The Gritty little City that Glows” ever since Three Mile Island made it the shiniest place on the map) MAAC’s radical new Theater and Media group may be producing “the sixty four year old writer who won’t take no for an answer’s” new mini opus “Three Mile Island, The Whole Truth and Nothing But The Truth, The Musical” we shall see…

Shari was accompanied by her husband handsome Dave and Bob The Train Engineer. All there to provide a kind and much appreciated collective support experience.

 Meanwhile, your boy knows more than a little about “passing the basket” being a veteran of Greenwich Village in the sixties and Washington Square Park, in particular. (The best spot was under the arch where a singer could count on a nice echo effect)  in fact the very spot in which and where in, he had accidentally discovered that the most astounding, surefire and guaranteed success with a singular “ basket pass” had little to do  with the quality of the performance and everything to do with the visual effect of the comely wench making the round of the crowd, basket in hand. Remembering clearly that his most successful basket pass of all time occurred when his wild redheaded earth mama sweetie Annie’s proud young gravity defying  pink and ivory breast had found it’s way out of her hippified peasant blouse to astound, electrify and thrill the crowd out of $80.00  (eighty dallah) cash money in Pennies, Nickels, Dimes. Quarters, Dollar bills (even a twenty) and sundry bells, buttons joints and medicinals. (yes, yes, I know, I’ve promised a “G” rated Memwa? but Annie is the Mother and Granny Mother of two of my girls and I think the story may be important and potentially  useful for them to reference, when heated discussions arise over their own behaviors and wardrobe choices)

The question tonight here in Harrisburg, will be will these neo-hip folks object if we skip the songs and go directly to having the Croatian Goddess Barbie, flip, or float one out, basket in hand, for a quick killing. We shall see…

 The problem turned out to be, that the person your singer needed to impress to get the gig, didn’t bother coming, and nether did the sound guy. So your boy stepped up to the mike, electric guitar in hand and offered up his performance in honor and remembrance of forty-five years of folkies, Earth Mothers, basket houses, bazooms, high falutin’ coffee house waitresses, rainy nights in the village, dark streets flashing reflections of red amber and green, neon lights and pouty lipped girls.

Your sixty-four year old “comeback kid” screeched a splendid and heartfelt medley of Zimmerman tunes artfully scrunched in between the Donovanian  epic “Catch The Wind” in a trans Atlantic, sense defying audition tribute to what was, what is, and what will be, this moment, that moment, and forever, etc. Quite something to hear as the vocal mike was live live live and the guitfiddle amp dead dead dead.

 Ah well, it certainly wasn’t the first time, nor will it be the last… We arranged a second audition with the decider, and the singer will keep his spirits clean and sober and high high high, because it turns out that for him, life and love and music, is just better that way. Continued…

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Book 4. and Book 2. The Second Coming..Continued. and Cover, South Atlantic Blues

January 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Book 4. and Book 2. The Second Coming… Continued. And  Cover, South Atlantic Blues 

But that‘s all beside the point and neither here nor there…The point is that I am on my way back to “Babylon” ah..I mean the states, to try and “do it right” this time, against exactly the kind of odds that it takes to stimulate a fellow like me, a freakin’ trillion million to one.

I’m 36,000 feet up in the air and believe me we are going like a bat out of hell. Heading straight for the heart and brains and soul of Babylon, Washington DC.  (Hmmm, well perhaps it would be more accurate to say “nerve center” instead, because the heart and brains and soul of America are..in my experience, certainly not concentrated in  Washington DC.  Those with pathology for power are concentrated in the district but it seems pretty clear that the heart, brains and soul are everywhere, anywhere but there)

 Least ye take offence thinking that I have no right to speak frankly about the USA, you’ll be relieved to hear that my direct ancestry (on me dear Mudders side) arrived in Virginia before the revolution, And my Great Great Great Grandfather fought for the Union in the battles of Shiloh, Hatchie, Vicksburg, Jackson, The Red River Campaign, Kennesaw Mountain and The battle of Atlanta as a member of Third Regiment, IOWA Infantry. He (Edwin B. Slatterley) was wounded, left for kaput, “caught himself” got up and survived to fight on to the bitter end. Eventually dying (years later in Grass Valley Ca.) as a result of his Civil War wounds.

Other Great Great Grand Parents crossed the plains (it took six months) to California in a covered wagon (leaving Terre Haute, Indiana) in April 1852 and as a result of moolah made during the Gold Rush, were able to purchase (and have been working) a thousand acre ranch outside of “Rough and Ready” “Wheatland” and “Spencerville”, Nevada County, California, ever since. I would add that I voted for Margret Mead and James Baldwin for President and Vice President respectively, in 1968. And ask that you don’t discount my paternal’s history in a Convent’s Garden in New Orleans and eight children and a candy store in Hells Kitchen and the death of Pater dears Mater dear (Sally the orphan girl from Scotland in the TB wards of Welfare Island in New York City’s East River) all of which (though very much a partial history) establishes the right of their descendent to fight with wit and pen (and light sword as available) against “schupidness” and the sick and twisted forces of aggressive ignorance and repression.

 Forces so well represented in recent years in the actions and intentions of those that would weld bars across the Golden door and bomb the beggars with the audacity to hope for a better life in the welcoming arms of the land of the free…

 In Washington, I will de train from de plane and hop on a puddle jumper which will take me to my destination, Middletown, Pa. Of Three Mile Island fame. There I will  take a, make a, stand along side The MAAC (The Middletown Area Arts Collective)  in pursuit of the Second Coming…We shall see what we shall see.

 A few days ago, I got back to the pad to discover a bootleg copy of “South Atlantic Blues” in digital format (A bootleg CD) was waiting in the mailbox…

Looking at the quality of the Joel Brodsky photograph that is the South Atlantic Blues cover, shrunk down to CD size, it occurred to me that CD Covers miniaturized an art form that was better maximized. We would have been better served making records and album covers the size and weight of a locomotive drive wheel.

 In fact, if this photograph were to reflect the fun that we had making it, it would have to be the size of a barn door.no…a double barn door. Mort (Mort Shuman) picked Roberta and I up in his little MG first thing in the morning and took us to an extremely upscale hair salon.(keep in mind that I was a semi savage) where in (maybe after spritzing me once or twice with the perfumed  “eu de knock out drops” reserved for biting, scratching, screaming and kicking children) we got me (in 1964) a mighty fancy (so fancy and subtle that it’s probable that they didn’t do anything at all) hundred-dollar haircut.

Then we headed down to Joel Brodsky’s studio in the garment district, where we broke out the Guitars and the Rum and Coca-Cola, and proceeded to sing in English, Spanish Calypso, and “Rum tongues”. A medley for the ages. Merrily  bashing guitars stopping only to splash and resplash “Cuba Libres” down the screech pipe.

While directing the Don Q  to where we thought it would do the most good, we had migrated/fallen out onto the roof of the building, within moments the musica brought hundreds of seamstresses and garment workers to their windows all around and above to cheer us on, Mort and I were both fluent en espaniol at the time and sang every verse of Morty and Doc’s song “Sweets For My Sweet”, every “Trio Los Pancho’s” and Ishmael Rivera tune we could, along with much extemporaneous and highly complementary improvisation dedicated to the ladies in the windows above and around. It was the greatest great fun. I don’t know how in the world Joel wound up with such a serioso shot, however as ultra serioso was my natural state of being; I suppose it was by natural default.  

What a great photographer and great good fellow he was. And what a great writer, producer and friend Mort was. Unfortunately our best musical work together drifted up and into the air, here there and everywhere but the recording studio, but good lord, what a great and beautiful spirit he was and what great and beautiful joy he brought to me and to us all with his music.

 Another interesting element of the South Atlantic Blues cover is the black and white design done by a company called the “Graffiteria” their clever concept allows the boy’s name and his hundred-dollar hair “cut” to coexist and complement one another. Further, I personally was thrilled to bits to see the little ATCO logo on a recording of mine because Ben E. King was on ATCO and Ben E. King was my man!

 Album covers were fascinating and often full of content. It’s now fairly well accepted that the music business went to the CD format for purely moneymaking reasons. And they made a fortune with it, however not only did their decisions impact every associated art, distribution wholesale and retail business, they destroyed almost every element of an entire  industry. Anyway, my bootlegger friend Tony has been more kind and more supportive of me and my music in the three years that I have known him, than ATCO/Atlantic has been in the forty two years that they have sat on and then buried (and now lost the master tapes of) my first  album. “South Atlantic Blues”.

I could go on about this stuff and perhaps I will elsewhere in the blook, but for the moment, Tony cleaned up the “pops and clicks” and “South Atlantic Blues” sounds really good. I can’t send you a copy, ATCO/Atlantic won’t sell you a copy, but Tony might know where you can get one…I will post his webaddress in the near future so that you may go and contact him there.

 My friend Tony is a full on ttrriipp! Fully functional in at least four dimensions at a time. He contacted me through the internet wanting to help in which ever way he could because he is moved by my music and thinks it’s a shame that more people have not been exposed to it. Tony had spent a number of years living in St. Croix (Virgin Islands) And was a refreshingly enthusiastic action oriented gent. I traveled to New York in a beautifully snowy March, and we spent two round the clock days and nights attempting to get the live California recordings of “SOON” to a listenable state. We will be able (with just a little more work) to release “SOON” on CD early this year (2010) thanks to Tony and his beautiful work AND the warm hospitality of his sweet sweetie the lady Pola.

 I am back in the states and pursuing the second coming. This night, I am carrying my guitar and slowly walking back to my little pad after performing at the MAAC space,  www.middletownarts.com  I’m walking between and through  red brick walls, dark alleyways and  bitterly cold, gritty streets of an old swept aside industrial age railroad town,

I’m remembering my sainted sister Gale, who after the high drama and excitement of the life we shared as “kids in chaos” chose to make a life for herself in this little town on the banks of the Susquehanna. For years, (although I would visit her here regularly), I just didn’t get why she would do that. Good lord a’ mighty, I didn’t get it.

Now I think I understand, it has to do with the human relationships that are possible in the “wings of life” away from center stage. The low key, rather than the screech of life above high C. Good straight forward uncomplicated people.  Gale was the President of the local “Friends of the Library” for 25 years. When she died we gave most of her book collection to the library for their annual book sale and Gale’s Cook Books and Mysteries alone, raised close to seven thousand dollars for them (at fifty cents and a dollar apiece) can you imagine?

I love my sister Gale and I walk past her Beautiful old three story red brick house (now owned by the bank) coming and going to and from The MAAC (The Collective). Every time I do I am filled with missing her and the times that we had together many of them in this very house, in this very town. In any case, this cold night, these sporadicly placed misty street lights, the weight of time in the air, the guitar on my arm, the lingering excitement and heightened awareness of the just done performance, are like dejavu all over again. I have walked this way in a thousand places. They come tumbling back this still night This time I hope to do it right.