Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Tutsie’

A Thanksgiving with Tutsie, Foxy, Mighty Whitey and Captain Timmy Carstephen.

November 25, 2015 4 comments

BOOK 4. A Thanksgiving with “Tutsie, Foxy, Mighty Whitey, and Captain Timmy”

(On Thanksgiving Day 2009, Tuts and Tim and Nicky and I took a little trip together up to Jos Van Dyke to see the Fox. We were talking with him and Tessa about doing a three-man concert there featuring Ruben, Nicky and Myself, that now sadly will never be. In this Thanksgiving post, I‘ve tried to capture some of what was so wonderful about that time together.)

From “Book 4. A Little Trip To Jos Van Dyke”…

Today is Thanksgiving and we will pass it it in a small sail boat called “Stargazer” with Tuts, Captain Timmy Carstephen, Nicky “Mighty Whitey” Russel and The “First lady of ALL The Virgins” The Good Lady Delia, ( of St. Thomas, Harlem, Haight Ashbury, and Tortola) We will be on our way to spend the day with our old friend “Sir Foxy”, (recently Knighted by The Queen Of England, honest) in Jos Van Dyke, in the British Virgin Islands.

We have been planning a trip to see our friend Philiciano Callwood aka “The Fox” aka Foxy. He has a beach front bar in Jos Van Dyke, that has become quite popular over the years. We are going up to see him about scheduling a concert. Tuts and Timmy and Nicky and I have each and all known him for many years. Tuts and I have known him the longest, in fact since we were all boys living in Bournefield in the 1950’s.. Philiciano (or Phillie as he was known then} was brought down from Jos Van Dyke to St. Thomas by his mother, who worked as a house keeper for Mrs. Creque and the three naughty Creque daughters.

They all lived in the huge pink Creque Mansion on the “Hidaway Road”. A Mansion large enough (people said) to contain both Heaven and Hell in equal measure, and according to he girls.. it certainly did.

That any of them survived the Creque Mansion is the kindest kind of miracle, and Foxy’s subsequent success may be proof positive that the long sufferin’ can earn and redeem good karma points. Knowing (and loving) the Creque girls as we do, Tuts and I can “vouchify and attest” that he earned ‘em, every one.

These many years later, we (and they) are all very happy for his good fortune. That good fortune includes falling in with the Lady Tessa, late of wildest Australia, who turned out to be his Ms,  his match and his mate.

 As I mentioned, our little group of travelers includes a lady who is also a legend in her own time, “Miss Delia” of St. Thomas, Harlem, Haight Ashbury and Tortola. Our little crew are all miraculous survivors.

We have been “adults” since childhood, which means our childhood lives were shot thorough with adult concerns and behaviors like “where are my cigarettes and where is my rum” and our adult lives shot through with the  behaviors and of concerns of childhood, like ”where are my cigarettes and where is my rum” (while Tuts and I got clean and sober long ago or we would be long gone, recovery doesn’t change the past or the depth and longevity of the connection between and among kindred spirits)

 We are intending to sail up to “The Foxes Tamarind” on Timmy’s 28 foot sail boat “The Star Gazer” Timmy (I should call him “Captain Timmy,” he’s had his Captain’s papers since he was 18) has been sailing these waters since he was a child. First on his family’s beautiful 48 foot, black hulled Ketch “The Shellback” and then on the mighty “Maverick” certainly one of the most beautiful awe and dream inspiring sailing ships to ever grace the harbor at Charlotte Amalia.

One of my very earliest songs was about the Maverick.

“Maverick Sailing On the tide

Maverick where are you bound tonight

With new born child below, blow ye winds oh blow

Keep them safe from rock and wave and blow ye winds oh blow

 Maverick, take me for a ride

Maverick, I need a place to hide

From things I should not know, Blow ye winds oh blow

Keep us safe from rock and wave, and take us where we want to go”

 We are all children of “Trader Dan’s” a St. Thomas, waterfront bar that drew and welcomed one and all, (including school children in our two-tone uniforms and empty book straps).

There was no minimum drinking age in the Islands in those days (I had been buying rum on credit at the local shops for my mother and stepfathers, since I was six) and those of us with a predilection, or as the recovery materials put it “a predisposition to alcoholism” were blindly (no pun, I mean it) demonstrating what early onset familial (genetic) alcoholism looks and sounds (and feels) like. We were having the time of our lives.

 As I’ve said, that any one of us survived (many, maybe most, didn’t) is really quite unexpected, but here we are sailing out of the lagoon, and east to Jos Van Dyke. We have all made this trip in many a vessel over the years.

 One trip found Tim and Tuts and I in an ocean racing Donzi with my little twins Lelia and Archie, and their beautiful Mother Annie. We stopped at Sandy Cay” on the way up that day, and had to swim ashore with the little ones. Archie rode on Tut’s back like the Ginge bread man, and Twinkle rode on mine (yes, yes, they were wearing their little life vests) still it was so exciting for them that they have never forgotten, (their Mother has likely never forgotten either), What a beautiful and exciting windblown day that was, and what a beautiful and calming day this is, as we sail on Timmy’s little “Star Gazer”.

The sea breeze is extraordinary; it’s coming down through (Sir Francis) Drake’s Passage and across Pillsbury sound bringing the coolest freshest air imaginable. Its way too easy to forget how good it feels head to toe, body and soul, to sail these waters and to sip this sweet sweet breeze…

Tuts is talking like he’s having a flashback to the swim in which he became the first native Virgin Islander in known history to swim from St. Thomas to St John.

“Look, look” he says, there’s the two poles on St. Thomas that I saw from the tip top of the giant wave, and there is the undersea cables that I told you about! And look, look how the current is trying to sweep everything southwest; out of the sound and into the sea, “De nex stop out dey is New Orleans m’boy, Wha? Not me again meson, not me again!” “But Tuts,” somebody says, “dem boy sae you ‘fraid!,  an das why yu ain’ gon do it again, dem boy sae yu ‘fraid man, yu ‘fraid! 

“Oy fraid? Oy fraid? Yu damn right ah ‘fraid”,  he says indignantly, “Who ain’ fraid a out dey, schipid in dey ass! Meson, yu don know dey got Shak out here big like de Bismark? Me bouy, de shak dem so big yu cou drive a safari truck on dem, in fact if yu wan tu know de whole trut, das de onliest way I mek it to Sain John.

 Off to the left are the beautiful gold and green islands of Thatch Key, then Congo and Luango. We see the remains of the old great house of the plantation on Luango, where the white overseer was dispatched by freedom seeking slaves in the first moments of the St. John uprising of 1733.

Beyond the keys, to the North and East is Jos’ Van Dyke. An Island  named after a Dutch Pirate Captain but settled by the Quakers and part of the British Virgins. When the English renounced slavery in 1833,  the Quakers on Jos’ gave the land to the  people that they had held in bondage there.

The Danes abolished slavery in 1849 consequently slaves in St. John were always trying to find their way to Jos Van Dyke and Tortola and freedom.  In fact there is a huge iron sugar cane boiling kettle on the sand in Jos’ that a St. John slave was able put his wife and children into, and  sail (or row) them safely all the way  to Jos Van Dyke and freedom. When I first came up to see the fox in the sixties,  the iron kettle was still on the beach.

We slide up to a new concrete wharf and head for the old wooden customs office only,  now it’s a new concrete customs office, where we discover that the gentle portly gentleman who had manned the post since salt met water, had been called away to work the customs house at the Pearly Gates.

As Delia and the current customs gent negotiated, I spotted our friend Ruben Chinnery sitting at a table under the trees in front of a little beach side café, We have all known Ruben for at least forty five years, and Tuts and I for closer to fifty, back then,  Tuts and Ruben and I had a little “Band” that knocked the living hell out of “Perfidia” I was the singing Sax man, Tuts played the Trumpet and Ruben strangled the guitar til’ it squeaked for mercy. Good lord we loved to play that song. it was also the only one we could play. Perfidia and nothing but Perfidia.

We have jammed together at Foxy’s many times since then, and we are here today to see about setting up a gig in which Ruben, Nicky, (Mighty Whitey) and I would be playing together all day long (maybe three sets each and one or two super long jams)

After speaking with Tessa and The Fox, it’s on. We will decide on the date at a future time. That done, we socialize… hug and smooch and then…we head back down Pillsbury Sound.

Between little St. James and the entrance to the Lagoon, Timmy (the Captain of the little ship) cuts the engine and announces that we aren’t going any further until he hears a few specific tunes. The mighty fine fellow hands me my guitar and says “The first one is “Mademoiselle”. 

 The boat is rocking like crazy and I am sitting on the roof of the cabin, so I jam a foot against a stanchion and the other against the life lines and, once properly “jammed”, I sing my friggin’ heart out. It isn’t everyday that tough, and weathered, beaten but not bowed, hombres honor me in this way. I am really touched that my lifelong tough guy compadres feel this way about my music, and I will fall overboard and drown, guitar and all before I will disappoint them.

Here’s a recent “LIVE” recording of Mademoiselle..

https://scottfagan.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/08-mademoiselle.mp3

 Now, says the Captain, Now let’s have Captain Creole!

(I am posting our recent “LIVE” recording of Captain Creole with  Nicky’s dedication in it)

We all knew the song.  I had first recorded it for BANG in 1966 and then again  for RCA in 1975, and Nicky is in fact on  the chorus of the recording (from “Dreams Should Never Die” lilfish records, 2006) posted here. We each and all  sang one rousing chorus after another, until we reached the dock.

 What a time we had. Not riotous or raucous or criminally rambunctious (as was our wont in the past), but one filled with love and laughter and honest strong emotion, in the most beautiful settings in the world, Drakes Passage, Pillsbury Sound and the warm and grateful embrace of a small circle of friends. A once in a life, shared culmination of  lifetimes, a Thanksgiving to remember. And I do. And now I wish the same love filled..HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU!!!

 All Words and Music Scott Fagan, Copyright, Scott Fagan Music ASCAP

“The Man Who Swam To St. John” (Emancipation Day!)

July 1, 2014 3 comments

The Man Who Swam To St. John (Emancipation Day)

By Scott Fagan

In 1985 Shaky Acres (the recovery program that Tuts and I had started in 1981) was going along fairly well, but was in need of a fund-raiser or two. Tuts heard (along with everyone else) of a proposed St. John swim (everybody heard of it because it was considered impossible by most folks, and suicidally dangerous by local folks who knew that there were sharks, starvin’ hungry sharks, out there the size of the battleship “Bismarck”). The UDT (The Frogmen, The Navy Seals, The toughest hombres on or under the sea) while training for many years in St. Thomas, had given up on swimming to St. John because it was simply too crazy and dangerous a deed.

The well-intentioned local lady legislator who had proposed “the swim” was unaware of the deep and dark difficulties inherent in the “big fun fundraiser”

When Tutsie was a young boy, riding back across Sir Francis Drake’s Passage coming home with his Mother from a harvest festival in Cane Garden bay in Tortola, he looked out from the deck of “The Joan Of Arc” or “The Bomba Charger” at Pillsbury Sound (The five-mile stretch of wild water that separates St. Thomas and St. John) he said to her “I cou’ swim ‘crass dat yu kno” His usually gentle and loving mother, scared to death by what she was hearing, tried to discourage this crazy idea once and for all by replying “Man hush up yu schupid mout, why yu like tu talk such schupid craziness?” Tuts didn’t see any reason to discuss it any further, but, he says, the conviction that he could do it, was locked in his mind for ever after.

It was July the third, 1985, Emancipation Day in The Virgin Islands. (Emancipation Day is the day in 1849, on which it became official that the slaves in the Danish West Indies had won their freedom and were now and forever more free) Freedom was a long time coming for the children of Africa in the DWI, and very hard-won, as was Tut’s own personal freedom from drugs and alcohol.

There were forty eight entrants all together, most of them young white kids from the hot-shot St. Croix “Dolphins Swim Team”, they came prepared and ready to succeed, with sleek buoyant body suits, well fitted goggles and the best fins that money could buy

A number of the St. Thomas swimmers, were runners down from the states, budding tri-athletes, an elderly white gent determined to show his wife he still “had it” and half a hand full of locals with a mismatched assortment of masks and fins..

Tuts on the other hand was wearing one pair of big and baggy boxer trunks, y nada mas…

As the other swimmers did warm ups and calisthenics on the sand at Vessup bay, Red Hook, a tough old Tortola sailor, pulled Tuts aside and said” Buaayyy yu, yu crazy buaay? Yuh following de damn schupid white people dem? Yuh don kno de real name fo red hook is shak waff? Buaayy!! Shak ow de biggah den uh submarine! Yu is a black man gon follow dem schupidy white people? Buaayy wha rang wid yuh, yuh crazy o something?”

Tuts concedes that the strongly delivered warning did cause him much concern, but that he had already told everybody over and again that he was going to do it, told them in the strongest terms, in the face of the harshest ridicule. It was common knowledge that no (sane) black person from the Islands could ever, should ever and would ever attempt to make that swim. Therefore, as his sanity was in question, it was also a crucial moment for recovery in the Islands.

At this moment he was demonstrating clearly (to local folks) that local people who went to fellowship meetings “wid de crazy white people dem” were demonstrably nuts (just like they thought) and for him to chicken out before he even hit the water would have sealed it once and for all. Tuts has since confessed that on that particular morning he had decided that he would rather be eaten alive, than quit.

Once the old Tortola man realized that he was not talking to a sensible gentleman of color, he began to encourage him with information about what to expect in terms of currents and where to find what he called “soft spots” in the sea. He stated flatly that “yuh can’t swim directly East ta St. John, yuh have tu swim for “Loango” (Loango Key, a small Island West North West of St. John) and as yuh hold Loango as your goal, the current will be sweepin’ yuh south, look sharp! Buaay, dat is de onliest way to get dare”.

As the swim began, the fast and the fancy took off due East for Cruz bay and before you knew it half of them had been swept away and were heading backwards around Cabrita Point towards Big and Little St. James, then out over the Anegada Trench, (The deepest trench in the Caribbean, on the bottom of which the scariest bug eyed things on earth, with jumping, wiggling electro “bait worms” dangling in front of foot long razor teeth, swim around four miles down, snapping steel trap jaws, and saying fish prayers, to get their dribbly lips around something, anything, soaked and slathered in coconut oil, or greasy mango scented sun tan lotion) and then south and west for St Croix, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, Haiti, The Caymans, The Isle of Pines Cuba, and New Orleans. (of course by the time they got to New Orleans there would be nothing left of them but a Speedo tag and whatever plastics they’d swallowed along the way) needless to say, an armada of rescue boats started pulling people in over the gunnels, like langustas on parade, on a fish pot Saturday night.

Tuts was heading for Loango .

Shortly after the fast and the fancy fiasco, the old white gent’s wife, standing in his rescue boat started screaming hysterically “A Shark! A Shark! Oh my God, I see a Shark!” Pull my husband out, pull my husband out, pull him out right now!! Oh my GOD! Pull my husband out right now!

Tuts says the poor old gent was utterly dejected as they pulled him up, his bathing suit drooping below his pale old, pink old, shiny old hiney.

Next went the dapper sharply outfitted “high color” attorney from the states, who had looked most disdainfully upon our man’s baggy boxers and boney bare feet but was now being dragged, thoroughly defeated, flat on his back from the sea to flat on his back on the bottom of the heaving boat.

The boats were heaving now because the seas were heaving now, they were coming into “The Big Blue”. A section of the sound a mile or more wide, in which, or perhaps I ought to say, through which, big serioso, fast moving, megalo mountains of Big Blue Heavy Water Waves (Waves of the sort that make you say “Good Lord” or “Mama Mia” or “Holy Freakin’ Toledo” when you first see them even though you (if you have good sense) are looking at them from your perch on the deck of a big passenger ferry, ten or fifteen feet above the water line.

If you are in the water “down in the hollow” splashing along on your belly and craning your neck up trying to see the top of the wave, you will probably say a lot more than good lord, and if you are Tutsie and your rescue boat is manned by one “Fisherman John” a continental dipso juicehead, that you recently helped to drag off the junk heap of life, but now haven’t seen for over half an hour, most of it will not be printable in a general audience mem.wha? such as this one. But you can believe me when I say, you have probably never heard anything like it.

Eventually, Tuts discovered that if he swam like crazy faster and faster as he got closer and closer to the top and he could then flip over to his back at just the last second the wave would crest and the curl would break over his shoulders. He could “hang there” for seconds, (perhaps one or two of the longest this side of eternity,) and contemplate his mounting misery and helplessness before having to roll over and slide headfirst down down down, ah..down down down, ah down down down, down. (Knowing that some thing is surely waiting in the “trough” to open its porky yaw and scrape the heck out of your back, belly and sides as it swallows you whole)

As I may have mentioned casually a short while ago, this section of the sound was just a splash over a mile or more wide, can you guess how many times your whole life can flash before your eyes before you get completely bored with it?

What you don’t get bored with is the fact that you cannot see either Island or for that matter any thing at all when you are down in the valley, nothing but deep dark blue. So the desperate hope that you might be able to see something, anything, hinting at where you are, (is it Puerto Rico? Is it Berlin?) at the top of the next wave is a powerful draw, and can keep you going for many a repetition.

One time he did see some thing recognizable back on St.Thomas, it was the two super poles that mark the spot where the undersea cable goes down beneath the sea. way down to the bottom, that’s the bottom way way down in the pitch black darkness beneath his own bottom. Better to see nothing he thought, than things as scary as that.

Pretty soon his primary concern had shifted from monstroso seas, to waves slapping him in the face, slap slap slap slap and he realized that he was in a different kind of swim now, the big blue was behind him, and he was battling offshore currents, lucky he had gone for Loango, because now, in spite of his forward motion he was being swept sideways, southward towards “Stephens Key”, a small flat island outside of the Bay of Cruz Bay or Cruz Bay Bay, comprende?

Tuts knew that if he allowed himself to be swept southward beyond Stephens Key, he would be out in the Anegada Trench, and then as likely as not his rescuers would be the Venezuelan Navy. He determined that he had to get to and make it through the spiffy currents around Stephens Key

If the current was running in his favor it could be a breeze, he was exhausted, but just on the inside of Stephens Key was the outer entrance to Cruz Bay. He was almost, almost there.

Alas, the current was not in his favor (unless he wanted to turn around and “go with the flow” back to the “Cabrita express” and the afore-mentioned many points beyond) and this part of the swim took everything but the very best of him. The very best of him was all that kept him kicking; the current was so strong that the surface water was rippling backwards in protest. That’s when the “water under water” is moving too fast for the water “on the water” to keep up, so the surface ripples backwards in tiny little cascades of confusion, all of which seemed to be going right up his nose, and down his throat.

They say that the children of Africa can’t swim. My friend Tutsie has proved time and again, that that is a racist lie, or put another way, demonstrably untrue. Although it is true that Tutsie’s Mother, Miss Meu, born in Dominica, was one half Carib. And although the present effort of the Carib/Arawak Federation is to dispel the myth that they say King Charles of Spain used to promulgate and excuse the genocide of the indigenous Peoples of the Caribbean, specifically, that the Caribs were so wild and savage that they ate people, there is no question that the Caribs were and are among the toughest of the toughest human beings that have ever lived. So our man, three quarters African, One quarter Carib (with a smitter smatter of French and, British, both in the African part of the pie) is lying all but dead in the water, having just burst through the impassable current hole at Stephen’s Rock.

Tuts aka “El Toro” aka “Peperino” aka Skarpy aka “The Rabbi” (that’s another story) aka a hundred other desperado descriptors, is ready to give it up. If only he had the strength to raise his arm to signal surrender or the voice to beg to be dragged out of the sea, he would have done so. But just then the cheerful voice of Fisherman John came sing-songing across the water, “Make it look pretty Tuts! Make it look pretty! We’re almost there man!, Make it look pretty!!!.

Some day I’ll build a statue at Cabrita Point to Victor Antonius “Tutsie” “El Toro” Edwards, one portraying a skinny little mahogany or Brass hued dude in baggy boxers, tilting forward on one leg, the other angled up and out behind, with hands clasped (as in prayer) just above his head, Poised to dive into history.

Tuts became that day the first native Virgin Islander to EVER in all time, swim from St. Thomas to St. John.

It wasn’t pretty as he crawled and dragged himself ashore (water streaming from every orifice), and it wasn’t pretty as he collapsed on the sand, unable to stand for a full three minutes. But in his defense, he was forty freakin’ years old and working with a body that had been ravaged by drugs and alcohol.

The kids on the Dolphin swim team have much to be proud of, they did in their wetsuits, fins and organized swim formations, what the rough and tough UDT had given up on, they made the swim.

I know that where ever these kids are in the world, and where ever they will go, they will always remember that “once upon a time, when we were kids in the islands, my friends and me did the impossible together” they will also remember with awe and admiration “that skinny little fellow in the baggy boxer trunks” that did it alone and bare footed, and then, passed on the champagne and praise, because “that’s not why he was there”.

Tutsie made the swim because it was Emancipation Day, and he wanted to demonstrate and celebrate freedom, he wanted to demonstrate freedom from fear of the sea and the ignorant idea that “Black people can’t swim” He wanted to demonstrate that “recovery is macho” and that black people now need to be emancipated from the chemical slavery that is alcoholism and addiction, and because even though she was long gone, he wanted his mother to know that he could do, what he said he could do, and now it was time to go home… And oh yeah, he did it for Shaky Acres.

Of course we were celebrating Tutsie long before we started Shaky Acres and he swam to St. John. I first recorded “Tutsie” for BANG Records in 1965, (we wore it out on the Juke box at Duffys) and then again for RCA in 1975 as La Biega Carosuel/Tutsie. If you listen closely to this more recent recording of La Biega Carousel/Tutsie (made in St. Thomas in 2005) you’ll hear our friends Jeff Medina, Morgan Rael, Lennie Monsanto, Richard Spencley, Cliff Finch, and Robbie Roberts, strummin’ and bangin’ out the groove and the beautiful ”Of GOD”, Mighty Whitey and April Moran AKA “The Trader Dan’s Forever Memorial Choir” on the choruses. God Bless Emancipation Day and God Bless Us Each And Every One.

Scott Fagan
La Biega Carousel/Tutsie

Copyright 2012, Scott Fagan Music ASCAP.

“SCOTT FAGAN And The MAAC Island Band” In CONCERT One Night Only HERSHEY AREA PLAYHOUSE, Hershey PA. August 3rd 2013, 7:00 PM

July 31, 2013 Leave a comment

 “SCOTT FAGAN And The MAAC Island Band” IN CONCERT One Night Only..THE HERSHEY AREA PLAYHOUSE, 830 Cherry Dr., Hershey, PA.  August 3rd , 7:00pm -CALL Box Office for Ticket Information: 717.533.8525

Scott Fagan and The MAAC Island Band

 Scott Fagan (Singer/Songwriter) has been an international recording artist since he left high school in St. Thomas Virgin Islands to sign with Columbia Records in 1964. Some reviews..Cashbox Magazine: Spinal Tap melodies…His range is phenomenal. Billboard: “A Poet”.  William Krasilovsky, Author, THIS BUSINESS OF MUSIC, l & ll: “Scott Fagan is a genius. I’ll certify that.” The MAAC ISLAND BAND is: Rafael “El Jefe” Martinez, (El Congero) From Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, he has been a “Congero” for over 25  years. Drew Washington, The BASS Man of Choice for the MAAC ISLAND BAND. Has played at the highest levels, for over 30 Years. Tim Griesemer, (El Maestro) Well known for his extraordinary gifts as a drummer. He is a master of percussion. Barbara Vajda, A Steelton guitar Goddess with a long history as a rocker. After a hiatus to raise little ones, the Goddess is back with Scott Fagan and The MAAC Island Band. Benny Danner, (El Estudeante) Percussion plus….Gary Smith, (El Nuevo) Back Ground Vocals and Percussion. Visit our website www.scottfaganandthemaacislandband.com  Listen to our latest singleSure has been Good Loving You Baby”  @ http://www.youtube.com   check out our latest album @ www.10greatsongsongsinsearchofanaudience.com   CONTACT INFO: Tim Griesemer, 717.439.1919 or Scott Fagan, 717.592.0853

 

 

“The Man Who Swam To St. John” (Emancipation Day)

July 2, 2013 2 comments

The Man Who Swam To St. John (Emancipation Day)                                            

                                                                                                                   By Scott Fagan

In 1985 Shaky Acres (the recovery program that Tuts and I had started in 1981) was going along fairly well, but was in need of a fund-raiser or two. Tuts heard (along with everyone else) of a proposed St. John swim (everybody heard of it because it was considered impossible by most folks, and suicidaly dangerous by local folks who knew that there were sharks, starvin’ hungry sharks, out there the size of the battleship “Bismarck”). The UDT (The Frogmen, The Navy Seals, The toughest hombres on or under the sea) while training for many years in St. Thomas, had given up on swimming to St. John because it was simply too crazy and dangerous a deed.

The well-intentioned local lady legislator who had proposed “the swim” was unaware of the deep and dark difficulties inherent in the “big fun fundraiser”

When Tutsie was a young boy, riding back across Sir Francis Drake’s Passage coming home with his Mother from a harvest festival in Cane Garden bay in Tortola,  he looked out from the deck of “The Joan Of Arc” or “The Bomba Charger” at Pillsbury Sound (The five-mile stretch of wild water that separates St. Thomas and St. John) he said to her “I cou’ swim ‘crass dat yu kno” His usually gentle and loving mother, scared to death by what she was hearing, tried to discourage this crazy idea once and for all by replying “Man hush up yu schupid mout, why yu like tu talk such schupid craziness?” Tuts didn’t see any reason to discuss it any further, but, he says, the conviction that he could do it, was locked in his mind for ever after.

It was July the third, 1985, Emancipation Day in The Virgin Islands. (Emancipation Day is the day in 1849, on which it became official that the slaves in the Danish West Indies had won their freedom and were now and forever more free) Freedom was a long time coming for the children of Africa in the DWI, and very hard-won, as was Tut’s own personal freedom from drugs and alcohol.

 There were forty eight entrants all together, most of them young white kids from the hot-shot St. Croix “Dolphins Swim Team”, they came prepared and ready to succeed, with sleek buoyant body suits, well fitted goggles and the best fins that money could buy

A number of the St. Thomas swimmers, were runners down from the states, budding tri-athletes, an elderly white gent determined to show his wife he still “had it” and half a hand full of locals with a mismatched assortment of masks and fins..

Tuts on the other hand was wearing one pair of big and baggy boxer trunks, y nada mas…

 As the other swimmers did warm ups and calisthenics on the sand at Vessup bay, Red Hook, a tough old Tortola sailor, pulled Tuts aside and said” Buaayyy yu, yu crazy buaay? Yuh following de damn schupid white people dem? Yuh don kno de real name fo red hook is shak waff? Buaayy!! Shak ow de biggah den uh submarine! Yu is a black man gon follow dem schupidy white people? Buaayy wha rang wid yuh, yuh crazy o something?”

 Tuts concedes that the strongly delivered warning did cause him much concern, but that he had already told everybody over and again that he was going to do it, told them in the strongest terms, in the face of the harshest ridicule. It was common knowledge that no (sane) black person from the Islands could ever, should ever and would ever attempt to make that swim. Therefore, as his sanity was in question, it was also a crucial moment for recovery in the Islands.

At this moment he was demonstrating clearly (to local folks) that local people who went to fellowship meetings “wid de crazy white people dem” were demonstrably nuts (just like they thought) and for him to chicken out before he even hit the water would have sealed it once and for all. Tuts has since confessed that on that particular morning he had decided that he would rather be eaten alive, than quit.

 Once the old Tortola man realized that he was not talking to a sensible gentleman of color, he began to encourage him with information about what to expect in terms of currents and where to find what he called “soft spots” in the sea. He stated flatly that “yuh can’t swim directly East ta St. John, yuh have tu swim for “Loango”  (Loango Key, a small Island East North East of St. John) and as yuh hold Loango as your goal, the current will be sweepin’ yuh south, look sharp! Buaay, dat is de onliest way to get dare”.

 As the swim began, the fast and the fancy took off due East for Cruz bay and before you knew it half of them had been swept away and were heading backwards around Cabrita Point towards Big and Little St. James, then out over the  Anegada Trench, (The deepest trench in the Caribbean, on the bottom of which the scariest bug eyed things on earth, with jumping, wiggling  electro “bait worms” dangling in front of  foot long razor teeth, swim around four miles down, snapping  steel trap jaws, and saying fish prayers, to get their dribbly lips around something, anything, soaked and slathered in coconut oil, or greasy mango scented sun tan lotion) and then south and west for St Croix, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, Haiti, The Caymans, The Isle of Pines Cuba, and New Orleans. (of course by the time they got to New Orleans there would be nothing left of them but a Speedo tag and whatever plastics they’d swallowed along the way) needless to say, an armada of rescue boats started pulling people in over the gunnels, like langustas on parade, on a fish pot Saturday night.

 Tuts was heading for Loango .

 Shortly after the fast and the fancy fiasco, the old white gent’s wife, standing in his rescue boat started screaming hysterically “A Shark! A Shark! Oh my God, I see a Shark!” Pull my husband out, pull my husband out, pull him out right now!! Oh my GOD! Pull my husband out right now!

Tuts says the poor old gent was utterly dejected as they pulled him up, his bathing suit drooping below his pale old, pink old, shiny old  hiney.

 Next went the dapper sharply outfitted “high color” attorney from the states, who had looked most disdainfully upon our man’s baggy boxers and boney bare feet but was now being dragged, thoroughly defeated, flat on his back from the sea to flat on his back on the bottom of the heaving boat.

  The boats were heaving now because the seas were heaving now, they were coming into “The Big Blue”. A section of the sound a mile or more wide, in which, or perhaps I ought to say, through which, big serioso, fast moving, megalo mountains of Big Blue Heavy Water Waves (Waves of the sort that make you say “Good Lord” or “Mama Mia” or “Holy Freakin’ Toledo” when you first see them even though you (if you have good sense) are looking at them from your perch on the deck of a big passenger ferry, ten or fifteen feet above the water line.

 If you are in the water “down in the hollow” splashing along on your belly and craning your neck up trying to see the top of the wave, you will probably say a lot more than good lord, and if you are Tutsie and your rescue boat is manned by one “Fisherman John” a continental dipso juicehead,  that you recently helped to drag off the junk heap of life, but now haven’t seen for over  half an hour, most of it will not be printable in a general audience mem.wha? such as this one. But you can believe me when I say, you have probably never heard anything like it.

 Eventually, Tuts discovered that if he swam like crazy faster and faster as he got closer and closer to the top and he could then flip over to his back at just the last second the wave would crest and the curl would break over his shoulders. He could “hang there” for seconds, (perhaps one or two of the longest this side of eternity,) and contemplate his mounting misery and helplessness before having to roll over and slide headfirst down down down, ah..down down down, ah down down down, down. (Knowing that some thing is surely waiting in the “trough” to open its porky yaw and scrape the heck out of  your back, belly and sides as it swallows you whole)

 As I may have mentioned casually a short while ago, this section of the sound was just a splash over a mile or more wide, can you guess how many times your whole life can flash before your eyes before you get completely bored with it?

What you don’t get bored with is the fact that you cannot see either Island or for that matter any thing at all when you are down in the valley, nothing but deep dark blue. So the desperate hope that you might be able to see something, anything, hinting at where you are, (is it Puerto Rico? Is it Berlin?) at the top of the next wave is a powerful draw, and can keep you going for many a repetition.

 One time he did see some thing recognizable back on St.Thomas, it was the two super poles that mark the spot where the undersea cable goes down beneath the sea. way down to the bottom, that’s the bottom way way down in the pitch black darkness beneath his own bottom. Better to see nothing he thought, than things as scary as that.

Pretty soon his primary concern had shifted from monstroso seas, to waves slapping him in the face, slap slap slap slap and he realized that he was in a different kind of swim now, the big blue was behind him, and he was battling offshore currents, lucky he had gone for Loango, because now, in spite of his forward motion he was being swept sideways, southward towards “Stephens Key”, a small flat island outside of  the Bay of Cruz Bay or Cruz Bay Bay, comprende?

 Tuts knew that if he allowed himself to be swept southward beyond Stephens Key, he would be out in the Anegada Trench, and then as likely as not his rescuers would be the Venezuelan Navy. He determined that he had to get to and make it through the spiffy currents around Stephens Key

If the current was running in his favor it could be a breeze, he was exhausted, but just on the inside of Stephens Key was the outer entrance to Cruz Bay. He was almost, almost there.

Alas, the current was not in his favor (unless he wanted to turn around and “go with the flow” back to the “Cabrita express” and the afore-mentioned many points beyond) and this part of the swim took everything but the very best of him. The very best of him was all that kept him kicking; the current was so strong that the surface water was rippling backwards in protest. That’s when the “water under water” is moving too fast for the water “on the water” to keep up, so the surface ripples backwards in tiny little cascades of confusion, all of which seemed to be going right up his nose, and down his throat.

 They say that the children of Africa can’t swim. My friend Tutsie has proved time and again, that that is a racist lie, or put another way, demonstrably untrue. Although it is true that Tutsie’s Mother, Miss Meu, born in Dominica, was one half Carib. And although the present effort of the Carib/Arawak Federation is to dispel the myth that they say King Charles of Spain used to promulgate and excuse the genocide of the indigenous Peoples of the Caribbean, specifically, that the Caribs were so wild and savage that they ate people, there is no question that the Caribs were and are among the toughest of the toughest human beings that have ever lived. So our man, three quarters African, One quarter Carib (with a smitter smatter of  French and, British, both in the African part of the pie) is lying all but dead in the water, having just burst through the impassable current hole at Stephen’s Rock.

 Tuts aka “El Toro” aka “Peperino” aka  Skarpy aka “The Rabbi” (that’s another story) aka a hundred other desperado descriptors, is ready to give it up. If only he had the strength to raise his arm to signal surrender or the voice to beg to be dragged out of the sea, he would have done so. But just then the cheerful voice of Fisherman John came sing-songing across the water, “Make it look pretty Tuts! Make it look pretty! We’re almost there man!, Make it look pretty!!!.

 Some day I’ll build a statue at Cabrita Point to Victor Antonius “Tutsie”  “El Toro” Edwards, one portraying a skinny little mahogany or Brass hued dude in baggy boxers, tilting forward on one leg, the other angled up and out behind, with hands clasped (as in prayer) just above his head, Poised to dive into history.

Tuts became that day the first native Virgin Islander to EVER in all time, swim from St. Thomas to St. John.

 It wasn’t pretty as he crawled and dragged himself ashore (water streaming from every orifice), and it wasn’t pretty as he collapsed on the sand, unable to stand for a full three minutes. But in his defense, he was forty freakin’ years old and working with a body that had been ravaged by drugs and alcohol.

 The kids on the Dolphin swim team have much to be proud of, they did in their wetsuits, fins and organized swim formations, what the rough and tough UDT had given up on, they made the swim.

I know that where ever these kids are in the world, and where ever they will go, they will always remember that “once upon a time, when we were kids in the islands, my friends and me did the impossible together” they will also remember with awe and admiration “that skinny little fellow in the baggy boxer trunks” that did it alone and bare footed, and then, passed on the champagne and praise, because “that’s not why he was there”.

Tutsie made the swim because it was Emancipation Day, and he wanted to demonstrate and celebrate freedom, he wanted to demonstrate freedom from fear of the sea and the ignorant idea that “Black people can’t swim” He wanted to demonstrate that “recovery is macho” and that black people now  need to be emancipated from the chemical slavery that is alcoholism and addiction, and because even though she was long gone, he wanted his mother to know that he could do, what he said he could do, and now it was time to go home… And oh yeah, he did it for Shaky Acres.

Of course we were celebrating Tutsie long before we started Shaky Acres and he swam to St. John. I first recorded “Tutsie” for BANG Records in 1965, (we wore it out on the Juke box at Duffys) and then again for RCA in 1975 as La Biega Carosuel/Tutsie. If you listen closely to this more recent recording  (You will find Tutsie’s song “la Biega Carousel” here. La Beiga Carousel/Tutsie  ( made in St. Thomas in 2005) you’ll hear our friends Jeff Medina, Morgan Rael, Lennie Monsanto, Richard Spencley, Cliff Finch, and Robbie Roberts, strummin’ and bangin’ out the groove and the beautiful ”Of GOD” and Mighty Whitey and April Moran on the choruses.

Scott Fagan

 

                                    Copyright 2012, Scott Fagan Music ASCAP.

 

“SCOTT FAGAN And The MAAC Island Band” In CONCERT One Night Only HERSHEY AREA PLAYHOUSE, Hershey PA. August 3rd 2013, 7:00 PM

March 16, 2013 Leave a comment

 “SCOTT FAGAN And The MAAC Island Band” IN CONCERT One Night Only..THE HERSHEY AREA PLAYHOUSE, 830 Cherry Dr., Hershey, PA.  August 3rd , 7:00pm -CALL Box Office for Ticket Information: 717.533.8525

Scott Fagan and The MAAC Island Band

 Scott Fagan (Singer/Songwriter) has been an international recording artist since he left high school in St. Thomas Virgin Islands to sign with Columbia Records in 1964. Some reviews..Cashbox Magazine: Spinal Tap melodies…His range is phenomenal. Billboard: “A Poet”.  William Krasilovsky, Author, THIS BUSINESS OF MUSIC, l & ll: “Scott Fagan is a genius. I’ll certify that.” The MAAC ISLAND BAND is: Rafael “El Jefe” Martinez, (El Congero) From Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, he has been a “Congero” for over 25  years. Drew Washington, The BASS Man of Choice for the MAAC ISLAND BAND. Has played at the highest levels, for over 30 Years. Tim Griesemer, (El Maestro) Well known for his extraordinary gifts as a drummer. He is a master of percussion. Barbara Vajda, A Steelton guitar Goddess with a long history as a rocker. After a hiatus to raise little ones, the Goddess is back with Scott Fagan and The MAAC Island Band. Benny Danner, (El Estudeante) Percussion plus….Gary Smith, (El Nuevo) Back Ground Vocals and Percussion. Visit our website www.scottfaganandthemaacislandband.com  Listen to our latest singleSure has been Good Loving You Baby”  @ http://www.youtube.com   check out our latest album @ www.10greatsongsongsinsearchofanaudience.com   CONTACT INFO: Tim Griesemer, 717.439.1919 or Scott Fagan, 717.592.0853

 

 

c

November 23, 2012 6 comments

 BOOK 4. A Thanksgiving with “Tutsie, Foxy, Mighty Whitey, and Captain Timmy”

(On Thanksgiving Day 2009, Tuts and Tim and Nicky and I took a little trip together up to Jos Van Dyke to see the Fox. We were talking with him and Tessa about doing a three-man concert there featuring Ruben, Nicky and Myself, that now sadly will never be. In this Thanksgiving post, I‘ve tried to capture some of what was so wonderful about that time together.)

From “Book 4. A Little Trip To Jos Van Dyke”…

Today is Thanksgiving and we will pass it it in a small sail boat called “Stargazer” with Tuts, Captain Timmy Carstephen, Nicky “Mighty Whitey” Russel and The “First lady of ALL The Virgins” The Good Lady Delia, ( of St. Thomas, Harlem, Haight Ashbury, and Tortola) We will be on our way to spend the day with our old friend “Sir Foxy”, (recently Knighted by The Queen Of England, honest) in Jos Van Dyke, in the British Virgin Islands.

We have been planning a trip to see our friend Philiciano Callwood aka “The Fox” aka Foxy. He has a beach front bar in Jos Van Dyke, that has become quite popular over the years. We are going up to see him about scheduling a concert. Tuts and Timmy and Nicky and I have each and all known him for many years. Tuts and I have known him the longest, in fact since we were all boys living in Bournefield in the 1950’s.. Philiciano (or Phillie as he was known then} was brought down from Jos Van Dyke to St. Thomas by his mother, who worked as a house keeper for Mrs. Creque and the three naughty Creque daughters.

They all lived in the huge pink Creque Mansion on the “Hidaway Road”. A Mansion large enough (people said) to contain both Heaven and Hell in equal measure, and according to he girls.. it certainly did.

That any of them survived the Creque Mansion is the kindest kind of miracle, and Foxy’s subsequent success may be proof positive that the long sufferin’ can earn and redeem good karma points. Knowing (and loving) the Creque girls as we do, Tuts and I can “vouchify and attest” that he earned ‘em, every one.

These many years later, we (and they) are all very happy for his good fortune. That good fortune includes falling in with the Lady Tessa, late of wildest Australia, who turned out to be his Ms,  his match and his mate.

 As I mentioned, our little group of travelers includes a lady who is also a legend in her own time, “Miss Delia” of St. Thomas, Harlem, Haight Ashbury and Tortola. Our little crew are all miraculous survivors.

We have been “adults” since childhood, which means our childhood lives were shot thorough with adult concerns and behaviors like “where are my cigarettes and where is my rum” and our adult lives shot through with the  behaviors and of concerns of childhood, like ”where are my cigarettes and where is my rum” (while Tuts and I got clean and sober long ago or we would be long gone, recovery doesn’t change the past or the depth and longevity of the connection between and among kindred spirits)

 We are intending to sail up to “The Foxes Tamarind” on Timmy’s 28 foot sail boat “The Star Gazer” Timmy (I should call him “Captain Timmy,” he’s had his Captain’s papers since he was 18) has been sailing these waters since he was a child. First on his family’s beautiful 48 foot, black hulled Ketch “The Shellback” and then on the mighty “Maverick” certainly one of the most beautiful awe and dream inspiring sailing ships to ever grace the harbor at Charlotte Amalia.

One of my very earliest songs was about the Maverick.

“Maverick Sailing On the tide

Maverick where are you bound tonight

With new born child below, blow ye winds oh blow

Keep them safe from rock and wave and blow ye winds oh blow

 Maverick, take me for a ride

Maverick, I need a place to hide

From things I should not know, Blow ye winds oh blow

Keep us safe from rock and wave, and take us where we want to go”

 We are all children of “Trader Dan’s” a St. Thomas, waterfront bar that drew and welcomed one and all, (including school children in our two-tone uniforms and empty book straps).

There was no minimum drinking age in the Islands in those days (I had been buying rum on credit at the local shops for my mother and stepfathers, since I was six) and those of us with a predilection, or as the recovery materials put it “a predisposition to alcoholism” were blindly (no pun, I mean it) demonstrating what early onset familial (genetic) alcoholism looks and sounds (and feels) like. We were having the time of our lives.

 As I’ve said, that any one of us survived (many, maybe most, didn’t) is really quite unexpected, but here we are sailing out of the lagoon, and east to Jos Van Dyke. We have all made this trip in many a vessel over the years.

 One trip found Tim and Tuts and I in an ocean racing Donzi with my little twins Lelia and Archie, and their beautiful Mother Annie. We stopped at Sandy Cay” on the way up that day, and had to swim ashore with the little ones. Archie rode on Tut’s back like the Ginge bread man, and Twinkle rode on mine (yes, yes, they were wearing their little life vests) still it was so exciting for them that they have never forgotten, (their Mother has likely never forgotten either), What a beautiful and exciting windblown day that was, and what a beautiful and calming day this is, as we sail on Timmy’s little “Star Gazer”.

The sea breeze is extraordinary; it’s coming down through (Sir Francis) Drake’s Passage and across Pillsbury sound bringing the coolest freshest air imaginable. Its way too easy to forget how good it feels head to toe, body and soul, to sail these waters and to sip this sweet sweet breeze…

Tuts is talking like he’s having a flashback to the swim in which he became the first native Virgin Islander in known history to swim from St. Thomas to St John.

“Look, look” he says, there’s the two poles on St. Thomas that I saw from the tip top of the giant wave, and there is the undersea cables that I told you about! And look, look how the current is trying to sweep everything southwest; out of the sound and into the sea, “De nex stop out dey is New Orleans m’boy, Wha? Not me again meson, not me again!” “But Tuts,” somebody says, “dem boy sae you ‘fraid!,  an das why yu ain’ gon do it again, dem boy sae yu ‘fraid man, yu ‘fraid! 

“Oy fraid? Oy fraid? Yu damn right ah ‘fraid”,  he says indignantly, “Who ain’ fraid a out dey, schipid in dey ass! Meson, yu don know dey got Shak out here big like de Bismark? Me bouy, de shak dem so big yu cou drive a safari truck on dem, in fact if yu wan tu know de whole trut, das de onliest way I mek it to Sain John.

 Off to the left are the beautiful gold and green islands of Thatch Key, then Congo and Luango. We see the remains of the old great house of the plantation on Luango, where the white overseer was dispatched by freedom seeking slaves in the first moments of the St. John uprising of 1733.

Beyond the keys, to the North and East is Jos’ Van Dyke. An Island  named after a Dutch Pirate Captain but settled by the Quakers and part of the British Virgins. When the English renounced slavery in 1833,  the Quakers on Jos’ gave the land to the  people that they had held in bondage there.

The Danes abolished slavery in 1849 consequently slaves in St. John were always trying to find their way to Jos Van Dyke and Tortola and freedom.  In fact there is a huge iron sugar cane boiling kettle on the sand in Jos’ that a St. John slave was able put his wife and children into, and  sail (or row) them safely all the way  to Jos Van Dyke and freedom. When I first came up to see the fox in the sixties,  the iron kettle was still on the beach.

We slide up to a new concrete wharf and head for the old wooden customs office only,  now it’s a new concrete customs office, where we discover that the gentle portly gentleman who had manned the post since salt met water, had been called away to work the customs house at the Pearly Gates.

As Delia and the current customs gent negotiated, I spotted our friend Ruben Chinnery sitting at a table under the trees in front of a little beach side café, We have all known Ruben for at least forty five years, and Tuts and I for closer to fifty, back then,  Tuts and Ruben and I had a little “Band” that knocked the living hell out of “Perfidia” I was the singing Sax man, Tuts played the Trumpet and Ruben strangled the guitar til’ it squeaked for mercy. Good lord we loved to play that song. it was also the only one we could play. Perfidia and nothing but Perfidia.

We have jammed together at Foxy’s many times since then, and we are here today to see about setting up a gig in which Ruben, Nicky, (Mighty Whitey) and I would be playing together all day long (maybe three sets each and one or two super long jams)

After speaking with Tessa and The Fox, it’s on. We will decide on the date at a future time. That done, we socialize… hug and smooch and then…we head back down Pillsbury Sound.

Between little St. James and the entrance to the Lagoon, Timmy (the Captain of the little ship) cuts the engine and announces that we aren’t going any further until he hears a few specific tunes. The mighty fine fellow hands me my guitar and says “The first one is “Mademoiselle”. 

 The boat is rocking like crazy and I am sitting on the roof of the cabin, so I jam a foot against a stanchion and the other against the life lines and, once properly “jammed”, I sing my friggin’ heart out. It isn’t everyday that tough, and weathered, beaten but not bowed, hombres honor me in this way. I am really touched that my lifelong tough guy compadres feel this way about my music, and I will fall overboard and drown, guitar and all before I will disappoint them.

Here’s a recent “LIVE” recording of Mademoiselle..

https://scottfagan.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/08-mademoiselle.mp3

Morning comes down very heavy on me

Nothing at all like a new day should be

This morning saves its glory, for someone in another story

Somewhere a song, where my lover has gone

There’s no glad surprise for these sad eyes to see

No trace of the grace that her face had for me

These grey skies have no rainbow, cause rainbows are where ever she goes

Somewhere a song where my lover has gone

Somewhere the sun is shining, good old time silver lining

Somewhere a song, where my lover has gone

Morning comes down very heavy on me

Nothing at all like a new day should be

This morning saves its glory, for someone in another story

Somewhere a song, where my lover has gone

Where my lover has gone, where my lover has gone…

 Now, says the Captain, Now let’s have Captain Creole!

(I am posting our recent “LIVE” recording of Captain Creole with  Nicky’s dedication in it)

Man I would walk an drink rum de whole night, before me go ride on Labeiga Carousel

Man I would walk an drink rum de whole night, before me go ride on Labeiga Carousel

Come go home come go home Cecebelle, tonight we’ain gon ride on La Beiga Carousel

Come go home come go home Cecebelle, tonight we’ain gon ride on La Beiga Carousel

And a skinny little fellow looks a little bit like me,

Lives on an Island in the Caribbean sea

And he drinks straight cane rum from an old calabash

And with those Island girls, lord he really is a smash

And he lives off the tourists with the greatest of ease,

Why I’ve even seen him selling bags of cool Island breeze

He lives high on a mountain in an old sugar mill

He wants to be a Pirate, I know someday he will.

An’ I’ll walk and drink rum whole night,

before me go ride on Labeiga Carousel

Man I’ll walk and drink rum whole night,

before me go ride on Labeiga Carousel

And he spends all his days cooling out in Trader Dan’s,

There’s no time for working in my friend Tutsie’s plans

He wears a pretty flower tucked up in an old straw hat

But if you should try to fight him, he’d show you where it’s at.

And he lives off the tourists with the greatest of ease,

Why I’ve even seen him selling bags of cool Island breeze

He lives high on a mountain in an old sugar mill

He wants to be a Pirate, I know someday he will.

An’ I’ll walk and drink rum whole night, before me go ride on Labeiga Carousel

Man I’ll walk and drink rum whole night, before me go ride on Labeiga Carousel

And I wish I were like Tutsie and could do as I please,

then I’d be barefoot at the Foxes’ Tamarindo

And I’d drink straight cane rum from an old calabash

And with those Island girls, lord, I’d really be a smash

And I’d live off the tourists with the greatest of ease,

And have fun selling bags of cool Island breeze

I’d live high on a mountain in an old sugar mill

And someday I’d be a Pirate, you know someday I will.

Man I would walk and drink rum de whole night,

before me go ride on La Beiga Carousel

Man I would walk and drink rum de whole night,

before me go ride on La Beiga Carousel

Come go home come go home Cecebelle,

tonight we’ain gon ride on La Beiga Carousel

Come go home come go home Cecebelle,

tonight we’ain gon ride on La Beiga Carousel

We all knew the song.  I had first recorded it for BANG in 1966 and then again  for RCA in 1975, and Nicky is in fact on  the chorus of the recording (from “Dreams Should Never Die” lilfish records, 2006) posted here. We each and all  sang one rousing chorus after another, until we reached the dock.

 What a time we had. Not riotous or raucous or criminally rambunctious (as was our wont in the past), but one filled with love and laughter and honest strong emotion, in the most beautiful settings in the world, Drakes Passage, Pillsbury Sound and the warm and grateful embrace of a small circle of friends. A once in a life, shared culmination of  lifetimes, a Thanksgiving to remember. And I do. And now I wish the same love filled..HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU!!!

 All Words and Music Scott Fagan, Copyright, Scott Fagan Music ASCAP

The Man Who Swam To St. John (Emancipation Day)

July 3, 2012 3 comments

The Man Who Swam To St. John (Emancipation Day)

 In 1985 Shaky Acres (the recovery program that Tuts and I had started in 1981) was going along fairly well, but was in need of a fund-raiser or two, Tuts heard (along with everyone else) of a proposed St. John swim (every body heard of it because it was considered impossible by most folks, and suicidaly dangerous by local folks who knew that there were hungry sharks out there the size of the battleship “Bismarck”). The UDT (The Frogmen, The Navy Seals, The toughest hombres on or under the sea) while training for many years in St. Thomas, had given up on swimming to St. John because it was simply too crazy and dangerous a deed.

The well-intentioned local lady legislator who had proposed “the swim” was unaware of the deep and dark difficulties inherent in the “big fun fundraiser”

When Tutsie was a young boy, riding back across Sir Francis Drake’s Passage coming home with his Mother from a harvest festival in Cane Garden bay in Tortola,  he looked out from the deck of “The Joan Of Arc” or “The Bomba Charger” at Pillsbury Sound (The five-mile stretch of wild water that separates St. Thomas and St. John) he said to her “I cou’ swim ‘crass dat yu kno” His usually gentle and loving mother, scared to death by what she was hearing, tried to discourage this crazy idea once and for all by replying “Man hush up yu schupid mout, why yu like tu talk such schupid craziness?” Tuts didn’t see any reason to discuss it any further, but, he says, the conviction that he could do it, was locked in his mind for ever after. 

It was July the third, 1985, Emancipation Day in The Virgin Islands. (Emancipation Day is the day in 1849, on which it became official that the slaves in the Danish West Indies had won their freedom and were now and forever more free) Freedom was a long time coming for the children of Africa in the DWI, and very hard-won, as was Tut’s own personal freedom from drugs and alcohol.

 There were forty eight entrants all together, most of them young white kids from the hot-shot St. Croix “Dolphins Swim Team”, they came prepared and ready to succeed, with sleek buoyant body suits, well fitted goggles and the best fins that money could buy

A number of the St. Thomas swimmers were runners down from the states, budding tri-athletes, an elderly white gent determined to show his wife he still “had it” and half a hand full of locals with a mismatched assortment of masks and fins..

Tuts on the other hand was wearing one pair of big and baggy boxer trunks, y nada mas…

 As the other swimmers did warm ups and calisthenics on the sand at Vessup bay, Red Hook, a tough old Tortola sailor, pulled Tuts aside and said” Buaayyy yu, yu crazy buaay? Yuh f ollowing de damn schupid white people dem? Yu don kno de real name fo red hook is shak waff? Buaayy!! Shak ow de biggah den uh submarine! Yu is a black man gon follow dem schupid white people? Buaayy wha rang wid yu, yu crazy o something?”

 Tuts concedes that the strongly delivered warning did cause him much concern, but that he had already told everybody over and again that he was going to do it, told them in the strongest terms, in the face of the harshest ridicule. It was common knowledge that no (sane) black person from the Islands could ever, should ever and would ever attempt to make that swim. Therefore, as his sanity was in question, it was also a crucial moment for recovery in the Islands.

At this moment he was demonstrating clearly (to local folks) that local people who went to fellowship meetings “wid de crazy white people dem” were demonstrably nuts (just like they thought) and for him to chicken out before he even hit the water would have sealed it once and for all. Tuts has since confessed that on that particular morning he had decided that he would rather be eaten alive, than quit.

 Once the old Tortola man realized that he was not talking to a sensible gentleman of color, he began to encourage him with information about what to expect in terms of currents and where to find what he called “soft spots” in the sea. He stated flatly that “yu can’t swim directly East ta St. John, yu will have tu swim for “Loango”  (Loango Key, a small Island due North of St. John) and as yu hold Loango as your goal, the current will be sweepin’ yu south, look sharp! Buaay, dat is de onliest way to get dare”.

 As the swim began, the fast and the fancy took off due East for Cruz bay and before you knew it half of them had been swept away and were heading backwards around Cabrita Point towards Big and Little St. James, then out over the  Anegada Trench, (on the bottom of which the scariest bug eyed things on earth, with jumping, wiggling  electro “bait worms” dangling in front of  foot long razor teeth, swim around four miles down, snapping  steel trap jaws, and saying fish prayers, to get their dribbly lips around something, anything, slathered in coconut oil, or greasy mango scented sun tan lotion) and then south and west for St Croix, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, Haiti, The Caymans, The Isle of Pines Cuba, and New Orleans. (of course by the time they got to New Orleans there would be nothing left of them but a Speedo tag and whatever plastics they’d swallowed along the way) needless to say, an armada of rescue boats started pulling people in over the gunnels, like langustas on parade, on a fish pot Saturday night.

 Tuts was heading for Loango .

 Shortly after the fast and the fancy fiasco, the old white gent’s wife, standing in his rescue boat started screaming hysterically “A Shark! A Shark! Oh my God, I see a Shark!” Pull my husband out, pull my husband out, pull him out right now!! Oh my GOD! Pull my husband out right now!

Tuts says the poor old gent was utterly dejected as they pulled him up, his bathing suit drooping below his pale old, pink old, shiny old  hiney.

 Next went the dapper sharply outfitted “high color” attorney from the states, who had looked most disdainfully upon our man’s baggy boxers and boney bare feet but was now being dragged, thoroughly defeated, flat on his back from the sea to flat on his back on the bottom of the heaving boat.

 The boats were heaving now because the seas were heaving now, they were coming into “The Big Blue”. A section of the sound a mile or more wide, in which, or perhaps I ought to say, through which, big serioso, fast moving, megalo mountains of Big Blue Heavy Water Waves (Waves of the sort that make you say “Good Lord” or “Mama Mia” or “Holy Freakin’ Toledo” when you first see them even though you (if you have good sense) are looking at them from your perch on the deck of a big passenger ferry, ten or fifteen feet above the water line.

 If you are in the water “down in the hollow” splashing along on your belly and craning your neck up trying to see the top of the wave, you will probably say a lot more than good lord, and if you are Tutsie and your rescue boat is manned by one “Fisherman John” a continental dipso juicehead,  that you helped to drag off the junk heap of life, but now haven’t seen for over  half an hour, most of it will not be printable in a general audience mem.wha? such as this one. But you can believe me when I say, you have probably never heard anything like it.

 Eventually, Tuts discovered that if he swam like crazy faster and faster as he got closer and closer to the top and he could then flip over to his back at just the last second the wave would crest and the curl would break over his shoulders. He could “hang there” for seconds, (perhaps one or two of the longest this side of eternity,) and contemplate his mounting misery and helplessness before having to roll over and slide headfirst down down down, ah..down down down, ah down down down, down. (Knowing that some thing is surely waiting in the “trough” to open its porky yaw and scrape you all along your back, belly and sides as it swallows you whole)

 As I may have mentioned casually a short while ago, this section of the sound was just a splash over a mile or more wide, can you guess how many times your whole life can flash before your eyes before you get completely bored with it?

What you don’t get bored with is the fact that you cannot see either Island or for that matter any thing at all when you are down in the valley, nothing but deep dark blue. So the desperate hope that you might be able to see something, anything, hinting at where you are, (is it Puerto Rico? Is it Berlin?) at the top of the next wave is a powerful draw, and can keep you going for many a repetition.

 One time he did see some thing recognizable back on St.Thomas, it was the two super poles that mark the spot where the undersea cable goes down beneath the sea. way down to the bottom, that’s the bottom way way down in the pitch black darkness beneath his own bottom. Better to see nothing he thought, than things as scary as that.

Pretty soon his primary concern had shifted from monstroso seas, to waves slapping him in the face, slap slap slap slap and he realized that he was in a different kind of swim now, the big blue was behind him, and he was battling offshore currents, lucky he had gone for Loango, because now, in spite of his forward motion he was being swept sideways, southward towards “Stephens Key”, a small flat island outside of  the Bay of Cruz Bay or Cruz Bay Bay, comprende?

Tut knew that if he allowed himself to be swept southward beyond Stephens Key, he would be out in the Anegada Trench, and then as likely as not his rescuers would be the Venezuelan Navy. He determined that he had to get to and make it through the spiffy currents around Stephens Key

If the current was running in his favor it could be a breeze, he was exhausted, but just on the inside of Stephens Key was the outer entrance to Cruz Bay. He was almost, almost there.

Alas, the current was not in his favor (unless he wanted to turn around and “go with the flow” back to the “Cabrita express” and the afore mentioned many points beyond) and this part of the swim took everything but the very best of him. The very best of him was all that kept him kicking; the current was so strong that the surface water was rippling backwards in protest. That’s when the “water under water” is moving too fast for the water “on the water” to keep up, so the surface ripples backwards in tiny little cascades of confusion, all of which seemed to be going right up his nose, and down his throat.

 They say that the children of Africa can’t swim. My friend Tutsie has proved time and again, that that is a racist lie, or put another way, demonstrably untrue. Although it is true that Tutsie’s Mother, Miss Meu, born in Dominica, was one half Carib. And although the present effort of the Carib/Arawak Federation is to dispel the myth (they say) that  King Charles of Spain used to promulgate and excuse the genocide of the indigenous Peoples of the Caribbean, specifically, that the Caribs were so wild and savage that they ate people, there is no question that the Caribs were and are among the toughest of the toughest human beings that have ever lived. So our man, three quarters African, One quarter Carib (with a smitter smatter of  French and, British, both in the African part of the pie) is lying all but dead in the water, having just burst through the impassable current hole at Stephen’s Rock.

 Tuts aka “El Toro” aka “Peperino” aka  Skarpy aka “The Rabbi” (that’s another story) aka a hundred other desperado descriptors, is ready to give it up. If only he had the strength to raise his arm to signal surrender or the voice to beg to be dragged out of the sea, he would have done so. But just then the cheerful voice of Fisherman John came sing-songing across the water, “Make it look pretty Tuts! Make it look pretty! We’re almost there man!, Make it look pretty!!!.

 Some day I’ll build a statue at Cabrita Point to Victor Antonius “Tutsie”  “El Toro” Edwards, one portraying a skinny little mahogany or Brass hued dude in baggy boxers, tilting forward on one leg, the other angled up and out behind, with hands clasped (as in prayer) just above his head, Poised to dive into history.

Tuts became that day the first native Virgin Islander to EVER in all time, swim from St. Thomas to St. John.

 It wasn’t pretty as he crawled and dragged himself ashore (water streaming from every orifice), and it wasn’t pretty as he collapsed on the sand, unable to stand for a full three minutes. But in his defense, he was forty freakin’ years old and working with a body that had been ravaged by drugs and alcohol.

 The kids on the Dolphin swim team have much to be proud of, they did in their wetsuits, fins and organized swim formations, what the rough and tough UDT had given up on, they made the swim.

I know that where ever these kids are in the world, and where ever they will go, they will always remember that “once upon a time, when we were kids in the islands, my friends and me did the impossible together” they will also remember with awe and admiration “that skinny little fellow in the baggy boxer trunks” that did it alone and bare footed, and then, passed on the champagne and praise, because “that’s not why he was there”.

Tutsie made the swim because it was Emancipation Day, and he wanted to demonstrate and celebrate freedom, he wanted to demonstrate freedom from fear of the sea and the ignorant idea that “Black people can’t swim” He wanted to demonstrate that “recovery is macho” and that black people now  need to be emancipated from the chemical slavery that is alcoholism and addiction, and because even though she was long gone, he wanted his mother to know that he could do, what he said he could do, and now it was time to go home… And oh yeah, he did it for Shaky Acres.

Of course we were celebrating Tutsie long before we started Shaky Acres and he swam to St. John. I first recorded “Tutsie” for BANG Records in 1965, (we wore it out on the Juke box at Duffys) and then again for RCA in 1975 as La Biega Carosuel/Tutsie. If you listen closely to this more recent recording (made in St. Thomas in 2005) you’ll hear our friends Jeff Medina, Morgan Rael, Lennie Monsanto, Richard Spencley, Cliff Finch, and Robbie Roberts, strummin’ and bangin’ out the groove and the beautiful “Of GOD” and Mighty Whitey and April Moran on the choruses.

Here’s Tutsie’s song, now a long time hit in The Virgin Islands

Book 4. The CD is Shipping. And Book 4. “Granfaddah Buckra An De Ol’ Geeal”

November 1, 2010 Leave a comment

 Book 4. CD is Shipping and Book 4. “Granfaddah Buckra An De Ol’ Geeal”

The cover is done, the dedications are made, the printer is partially paid, and copies are on their way to lil’fish in St. Thomas. Our outlet there is “The Virgin Islands Cooperative store” on the corner of the waterfront directly across from “tent city” aka the Venders Mall. For the moment, email orders are,,, orders@lilfishrecords.com

We continue work on Scott Fagan and The MAAC Island Band “Live” album “Shake A Bum” we are anxious to get that finished so we can set up some concert appearances back home. We are happy to do benefits and fund raisers here there and anywhere as long as they are legit. Talk to us. I am thrilled that The Buckra tickles so many people, I love that kind of schupidness I always have and always will.  I guess that is why

the CD is dedicatrd to Mango Jones, Brownie (and Walter) Ms. Arona Peterson and her wonderful “Undah De Market”  Daily Niws column and all Virgin Island artists yet to come. Perhaps I ought to have said all Virgin Islands Artists  devoted to and specializing in “schupidness” but one needs to be supportive across the board, and, more seriously, we must encourage and support Virgin Islands Artists in every way that we can. It’s just so.

They have just released a new film “Strange Powers” about my son (also a writer, singer and recording artist) Stephin Merritt and his band “The Magnetic Fields”  I think that two of my recordings from my CD “Dreams Should Never Die” (The Virgin Islands Songs Vol. 2.) “Where My Lover Has Gone” and “La Biega Carosuel/Tutsie are in the film. Incedently, I have been credited as writer of La Biega Carosuel but La Biega is an old Virgin Islands Folk song, that predates us all, What I did write is “Tutsie” and created  the medley and arrangement of the two together. When a writer arranges a PD (public domain) folksong the performing rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI,  SESAC) credit him or her as writer)

I learned La Biega Carosuel directly from and at the knee of, the notorious “Ruppee” aka “The Vampire” aka “De Obeah Man” aka The Emporor Of The North” aka “Captian Creole” aka “Calwin Martin Moolenar´ himself,  of Estate Nelteburg and all points beyond. In any case, it is a very busy time, and that is good.

Here is another Buckra piece, I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I did and do writing and performing it. 

Book 4. “Granfaddah Buckra An De Ol’ Geeal”

A time when I wa small ah went to see me ol’ granfaddah de ol’ Buckra de Paehae de fus fus fus. Ah sae “Granfaddah! Ah come tu see yu!” He sae “Ok den, look me hare, but yu gon got tu bettah stay ou de way, a Ol’ Geeal coming to see me fo something an ah don wan yu get mashup when de action start!” Ah sae “Ah Ol’ Geeal? Ah Ol’ Geeal? Who it tis, granfaddah, who it tis? He sae “Ah me bouy, don worry bout dat, yu gon see, don worry bout dat.”

 I sae “but Granfaddah, wha kina action yu gon do wid a ol’ Geeal, yu gon teach ha how tu fall asleep in de chair? Yu gon teach ha how tu take out an put in ha teet dem? How to play domino?  Granfaddah, Yu tink de ol’ Geeal gon wan tu hear bou when yu poisen yu self an almos whole a dounde road,  when yu cook up dat Barracota in de olden days? Oh how yu used tu tief Mango?  An Granfaddah wha yu gon gee she tu eat? De Ol’ Geeal ain gon wan no  sardine and French bread to wash doun wid kool aid, Wha wrang wid yu, Granfaddah, you don know you too ol to have a ol’ Geeal?”

 “Ahh meboy” he sae “ahh meboy” das wae yu wrang, you mubbe tink yu Granfaddah ban ol’? Yu dunno yu Granfaddah is a sharp boy? Yu dunno yu talking tu de man de used to call “Buckre de Pale-Male, de champagne ah Gingerale?” Ahh mebouy, in dose days Yu Gran Papeeto had woman like mosquito, woman like whelks, like genip, woman wha couden done me boy. Yu tink ah spen me whole life scratchin me baney? No Sah, Yu tink all I cou do is siddown onna salfishbox outside de kitchen do? No Sah, Not me me bouy, De ol Buckra still know a ting or two, yu gon see, don worry bou dat!”

 De minute Granfaddah see de Ol’ Geeall by de do, he suck in he belly an he  stann up straight straight, den he sweep off he hat an he bow doun low like Erroll Flynn, he sae “Come right in my darling, come right in my dear,”

 

Bouy, ah couldn believe me oy dem, de Ol’ Geeal wa de famous Carnival Queen from Nineteen Fifty odd and we da see ha pitchure in de newspapah almos every week for doin something good, Dis Ol’ Geeal is like de fus lady of de lan. Wha sh doin hare wid me Granfaddah?

 

 Before ah could ask ha dat question, she watch me straight in me face and she sae “Good afternoon young man, I’m hear to take de measure of your Grandfaddah’s curtin rods” and wid dat de two a dem went straight in side de bedroom.

 

De nex ting yu know, ah hearin’ “tee hee hee” and “tae hae hae” den something fall doun on de bed an de spring start to squeak and squeal , an Man, ah embarrass to tell yu wha come nex, ah hear de ol Geeal  sae “OY!, OY!” Den she sae “Oh me dahlin’  Paehae yu know das how ah like it, yu know das how ah like it,” den she start tu bawl out “Oh Godee, Oh Godee!” (Ah sae to me self “what does dat have tu do wid curtin rods?”)

She SINGIN’ now, “Yes Sah, Buckra, OOWEE!” She SINGIN”now! “Yes Sah! Buckra, OOWEE! Yu got me goin, yu got me goin OY OY,” ah hear dem bouncing up an bouncing up! “Oh Godee Oh Godee!” She bawl out “Don stop now don stop now!” Den a “KA_POW!” ah hear de bed broke doun! An den all ah hear is notin atall, noting atall  den de Ol’ Geeal say .. “Hello? HELLO?”

 

De nex tin I know de Ol’ Geeal bus out tru de do bawlin’ out “Oh God! Oh God! Sonny boy come quick, yu Granfaddah Dead, Yu Granfaddah dead!, Ah done kill yu po Granfaddah, Oh God Sonny boy, ah sae yu po ol Granfaddah dead”

 

Ah went in tu see fo meself, Man de ol’ boy wa white like a ghos, he oy dem wa roll back in he head, he toung hangin out de side a he mout,. De woman bawl out “Oh God I’s a murderah, I’s a murderah! Ah done kill de sweet ol Buckra!”

Den she sae “Ah got to get outta hare befor me chrren dem fine out, ah gato go, I ain wan me chrren dem know I ain wan nobody kno”…an wid dat she pick up ha wig an she run ou de back and clime doun in de gut an clim up de uddah side a de gut, den she broke thru de chicken coop an she wa gan..

 

Ah sae “OH Godee!, OH Godee!  De ol Geeial done gan an le me here alone wid me po dead Granfaddah”… Ah sae “Oh Godee, how ah gone tell me Mammie, who it tis kill me Granfaddah? How ah gone tell me Mamee wha dey wa doin in de bedroom? Wha ah gon tell de Police?

Ah dunno what u tell de whorl?”

 

Jus den ah hear what soun like me dear ol Granfaddah voice sae “boy wha wrang wid yu, yu bettah stop yu bawlin befo ah hit yu some clout”..when ah tun around, it…it… look like ah see me Granfaddah dae sittin down good as gol an winkin he oy

 

Ah sae “but Granfaddah yu done dead like a ol keeat, de ol Geieal done kill yu, yu ain know yu done dead awreaddy Granfaddah? Yu don tink yu bettah lay doun?”

 

He sae “Ahh me bouy, don be schupiddy, yu keean see das me good way tu get rid a dem guirl? Das me lil trick tu mek dem go home when ah done had me way wid dem.” He sae “Ahh me Bouy…don worry bout a ting, an jus wait til yu see de two Ol’ Geeal wha commin’ tomorrow”!!!

Book 1. En Nueva York 57-58 Continued…And Book 4. In Anticipation Of Nicky’s Memorial, July 18th, Magen’s Bay.

July 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Book 1. En Nueva York 57-58 Continued…

It was the time of “Little Bitty Pretty One, “Wake Up Lil’ Susie”, “You Send Me”, “Honey Comb”, “That’ll Be The Day”, “Rockin’ Robin”, Don Larsen’s perfect game, Sputnik, and The Asiatic Flu. All of which made a big and lasting impression on me.

Years later I would spend two weeks in a tour bus with the Great Bobby Day (“Little Bitty Pretty One” and “Rockin’ Robin”) crisscrossing the US from Burlington Iowa, to Daytona Beach Fla, on a tour called the “Thirtieth Anniversary Of Rock N Roll”. Bobby Day was style and grace, talent and kindness personified. He was every bit as smooth, graceful and exciting as his tunes.

 The Everly Brothers big hit “Wake Up Little Susie” was one of, if not the first song in which I was consciously aware of “the writer” inserting a “twist” and intentionally shaping the story line. I had a sort of moment of objective “ah ha” clarity (and believe me it only lasted a moment) before I fell back into full on non-thinking subjective acceptance of the idea that “all the singers were for real, and all their songs were “true for true.”

Years later when my manager Doc Pomus, began teaching me how things really worked i.e. How a song was written, how a session was produced, how a record was made, what a Music Publisher did, how Elvis got co-writing credits on Otis Blackwell’s songs, etc I was quite disappointed and very much upset and disillusioned.

 I much preferred the illusion that the process was somehow magically organic, as if the song “emerged” from the singer while the joy and groove of the moment dictated the arrangement and the music played.

I was really disappointed with the truth. I felt as if something wonderful and life sustaining had been taken away. Of course I can now look back and (in knowledgeable company,) snerk aloud at what a silly and foolish boy I was, but the truth is I am still more he that any completely grown up me.

 The facts are… When I performed (and still when I perform now) the emotion inherent in the moment DID dictate the arrangement (the timing, the rhythm, the dynamics and sometimes even the key) and as far as possible, the song DID emerge Which is why I seem unable to, hardly ever or maybe never play a tune exactly the same way twice.

In my first gig in the states after “getting off the boat” I was singing at a great folk club/coffee house called “The House Of Pegasus” in Fort Lauderdale.

The manager turned to the owner and said”listen he even does his own fade outs”. I remember wondering “why would he mention that?” and then “aren’t we supposed to do that?” that’s how we all did it in the Islands. We didn’t or I didn’t know that fade outs were artificial artifacts of studio recording rather than an expressive and soulful vocally managed dimuendo. Ahh… my dear friends, you could have filled a google parallel universes with what I didn’t know then, and possibly even more with what I don’t know now.

 In any case, and lucky for me, it was a great season for song, Sputnik was the beginning of a painfully long, continuing and essential lesson in humility for “The Otherin” (and me too) and the freakin’ Asiatic Flu did everything but recycle me.

Often the “weakest” or most vulnerable part of the body is the first to go and in my case the weakest link resides in my poor frizzgaggled noggin.

When the fever (any fever) hits or comes upon me, my tenuous grip (on what foolish folk think is the one reality and I recognize as at most a temporary and consensual compromise) slips and I am gone. Replaced by a double babbling babushka balloon head, or “El Exehente Generalissimo Delirioso” aka the rock that wept, or the stone that squeaked and cried. Yezzer, I am vulnerable to fever.

 In those days Gale and I had no beds, we slept instead on folding aluminum lounge chairs, the kind with woven plastic straps across an aluminum frame. When the Asiatic landed in my noggin, I was allowed or encouraged (or a combo of both) to move  my recliner out of a shared bedroom and into a far corner of the living room, a sort of poor man’s quarantine, I s’ppose.

I spent two weeks out there in the ultra nunca never none land of delerioso serioso, babbling soliloquies all day waiting for Mud to come home from work.

 It’s interesting to note that you can pile all the blankets in the world on top of the poor soul trying to sleep on such a device and they don’t and won’t do a bit of good. Until and unless you realize that the cold air is coming up from under, through and between the plastic straps. It’s a pitiful, follyishous thing. I confess that it took me an embarrassingly long and uncomfortable time to figger’ it out.

God Bless Mother, the music in the background and Red Candy Apples (the only thing I would eat) for getting me through.

Interestingly, the Spanish flu epidemic (a related strain of two generations earlier) is what we think killed our people in Scotland, leaving our father Frankie’s Mother Sally, “an orphan girl alone in the world” and encouraging her migration to New York, her career as a tragic bar room singer, the arms of the naughty, cowardly married Irish rascal that knocked her up ah..Ah mean got her with child and then denied the little lad for fear of “The wrath of wife”. Our little orphan girl Grand Mother Sally Travis, Died in turn in the TB wards on Welfare Island at 26, leaving little Frankie all but orphaned himself. Crikey, Yikes! it feels like I’m having a flu-mo delerioso flashboink!

 Yes, It was the winter of our discontent, my poor finger was bent forward and taped to the palm of my hand (if that whompin’ girl had seen me, she would have whupped me silly), Gale, in a flurry of belonging longing or longing to belong, joined a cigarette smoking,  garrison belted, black leather jacketed gang, she was now known by two separate noms de guerre “Mike” and “The Cat” and in a flushed rush of tough teenage solidarity forever, she shaved her eyebrows absolutely and completely, clean off.

Mud was ready to get herself and her sprung off sprung back to the Antilles, The Archipelago, The West Indies, The Islands of The West, The Caribees, The Spanish Main, The Blessed Virgins…Continues…

 Book 4. In Anticipation of Nicky’s Memorial, July 18th, Magen’s Bay.

 I nave been invited to sing at Nicky’s (The Mighty Whitey) memorial scheduled for July the 18th at Magens Bay, in St. Thomas. I am arranging to be there and prepared to sing my heart out. I am so happy that Tuts and Tim and Nicky and I recently took a little trip together up to Jos Van Dyke to see the Fox. We were talking with him and Tessa about doing a three man concert there featuring Ruben, Nicky and Myself. That sadly will never be.

Take a look at “A Little Trip To Jos Van Dyke” and “Continued..A Little Trip To Jos Van Dyke”  (March 2010) In them, I‘ve tried to capture some of what was wonderful about the time together.

Book 4. Sad Beyond Words.

July 3, 2010 2 comments

Book 4. Sad Beyond v Words.

The phone rang a short while ago (7:30 AM July 3rd) and it was Tuts calling from St. Thomas to tell me that our friend Nicky (The Mighty Whitey) Russel was gone. Of course we (and he) and everyone else knew that his going was coming, or as we might say in the islands “He wa comin’ tu go”. Nevertheless, that  he is now no more among us, that he has left this plane and phase shifted out of this dimension to who knows where, leaves many of us missing him and what might have been and sad beyond words. I am sad beyond words. I offer my most heartfelt condolences to his beautiful sisters, his beautiful sons, and his beautiful wife Janet.

 LeBiega/Tuts, was Mighty Whitey’s un-official Theme song for over thirty years. Here is a recording of he and I doing LaBiega Carousel/Tutsie, in St. Thomas, not too long ago,

along with a recording of what he recently told me was his favorite of my songs, Captain Creole.

 Listen and you will hear beautiful Nicky singing in all his glory on both of these recordings.

God and Good Blessed you Nicky, We Love you and we will miss you forever,