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Book 4. Zoom! and Book 1. Isla Grande.6

Book 4. Zoom!!

Zoom..We finished the first run of the new CD just in time for me to  get to the airport and back to St. Thomas for the French Man’s Reef Concert, The concert is a fundraiser for COAST, the local affiliate of The National Council On Alcoholism and Drug Dependency. The event honors The Reverend Ray Joseph and local businessman and COAST Board member Ronnie Lockhart.

Zoom Zip Zoom

The need for recovery services is very acute in The Virgin Islands and is dramatically illustrated by the following bit of information (reported to me by Nancy Waite O’Brian former director of COAST and Clinical Director at The Betty Ford Center) from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency: “The incidence of alcohol related deaths in Texas is twice tha of the other contiguous states, The incidence of alcohol related deaths in Alaska is twice that of Texas, and The incidence of alcohol related deaths in The U.S. Virgin Islands is twice that of Alaska.”

Zap…

In other words, The Virgin Islands have the highest incidence of alcohol related deaths under the American Flag, and possibly the least number of recovery support services under the American Flag as well. I am doing this fundraiser in an attempt to help COAST do something about that.

Zoom, When I get back to the states, we will do a CD release/Launch Party and focus on “The Virgin Islands Songs, The Musical, in Concert, and the single from the album, the new recording of “Surrender To The Sun” and..  Zoom, I am in St. Thomas. Tomorrow morning I start doing radio interviews to promote the Concert event.

Unfortunately, someone set the ticket price @ $75.00 per, which I’m afraid is way too high for most working people. In fact, I’m tempted to say “hey wait, if you are coming to see me, come and see me somewhere else at a price that you can afford”, but, as I am clearly the living embodiment of the “anti moolah” and obviously, not the best authority on manifesting the glittery green goulash,  perhaps I ought to defer my own lah de dah and concentrate instead on the fact that we are  doing a much-needed fundraiser for a good and necessary cause.. Zip

I will do my best, and hope that my people will understand. (Hey waitaminnit, “my people” are the very people most likely to benefit from the very services that we are raising funds for the agency to be able to provide to…hmmm, Oh yeeeahhh…) Ok.

 Double Zoom… today is the 22nd of April,and it is Sula’s 108th birthday, She will have her Birthday party on Saturday, we will gather at her little very old “wood house”, on the hill above Neltejburg Bay and sing and laugh and celebrate the love of a young girl, who at one hundred and eight, has maintained her enthusiastic innocence in spite of having seen it all. What an extraordinary gift she is.

Zoom Zoom and Zoom I did three radio shows at three different radio stations for three completely different demographical groups today and another yesterday, each one an interesting host and personalities and conversations and settings

Zoom, yesterday at 8 AM was with a very interesting and energized activist member of our community Ms. Lesly Commisiong, host of her own show on talk radio 1000. We had a great time and may have enlisted her as a potential board member for COAST. She is a great resource for this community and we shall see if time will allow het to join the board.

Now this morning at 9:00 AM the first  show was with “Sisi” a real fast talking happy talk rockin’ chick on “HITS 100”, Sisi is a young local rocker of color woman, whose parade of addresses and places lived in the states, reminds me of no one more than my self, we had a great time together, and it was beautiful to watch her interact with the young local college student interning with her.  Zam! Next was radio station “WGOD” (really) at the very tippy top of Crown Mountain. Not much to say other than it was the closest thing to Heaven since “Calwin’s Caribilly Bar” and we had great fun (really) with those good folks also. Third was “Zim Zam Zoom” WSTA and “Brownie” always fun, always wonderful. Brownie (and WSTA) have been a primary support for my music and me for over forty-five years. Their kindness is always very much appreciated, and Brownie is one very funny man. 

 Zoom to Saturday! What a good time we had at Sula’s 108th Brithday party today. Old Island recipe birthday cakes galore, warm wonderful family friendships, the Nisky Congregation out in force, and the power of love in evidence and evident everywhere. And…”Food ke-an done, me bouy wha!”

 Zib, Zubb! Tomorrow is the big Concert and I will sing my heart out,. I have prep work to do in the morning so I am going to go to bed… Good night,  it’s been a great day! God bless you each and every one!

 incidently, I was talking with Tut’s wife Mary last evening while a stateside TV show was “noisifying” in the background. In the story, some awfully self-righteous prosecuting attorney with the most insultingly superior attitude, (supposedly representing “The people” ah…that would be us) was prosecuting a case by harassing and haranguing a Rock and Roll Band’s sound man on the stand, in a most diminishing, disrespectful and demeaning way.

It was crazy! The tv writers seem to think that the viewers will swing right along with them, and co-sign anything. Don’t they know that everybody knows, that any good sound man is worth double his weight in law degrees and ten times his weight in condescending, arrogant and square lawyers? What kind of crazy reverseled up value system are they promoting? How could the producers and networks broadcast such a cockeyed premise? How could the advertisers support it? Gol dang, Sometimes I wonder if the people in TV land think the rest of us out here in the free world, are still back in the 1950’s, or just plain stupid er whut.

 On the other hand, it’s a fact that no one would believe the real adventures of “Life In The Bongo Isles” either..I guess you just have to suspend belief…

We did the concert, I’m happy to report that I was in fine voice and our sound preparations were sufficient (the sound man is Marcellus Edwards, Tut’s son who is also the owner operator of ZIP car rentals in St. Thomas) Marcellus is a fine lad, a dread-locked jewish gent of the “Lion Of Judeah” lost tribe school of Hebrish history, and so my friends we see again the grand combinations of flavors in the God Soup of life doen in the Bongo Isles 

Marcellus’s Great Grand Mother (on his father’s side) was a full blooded Carib from the reserve in Dominica, but his Great- Great Grand Father (still on his Fater’s side) was a black, black smith from Ethiopia (that’s the lost tribe part, but lost tribe as filtered through and  from The New York City penal system’s cauldron of salvatory spirituality. most specifically, the Rikers Island rabbinical school of this that and the next thing, as proselytized and evangelized to and through  our very own “Terry The Pirate” AKA “Crossbones” AKA “The Rabbi” The long and short of it all is.. Marcellus is a grand and good fellow, and in large part because of his loving kindness,and skill, the Concert went well

Zoom, Carnival village for one night and then Zoom, back to the states. I’m so Zoomed out I’m downright dizzified.

Book 1. Isla Grande.6

That thing about Rock And Roll that I wrote about earlier, that thing made all the difference. The music moved me. Not just emotionally or in terms of excitement, but it moved me up from a sense of almost complete vulnerability (aka childhood), to a kind of independence.

That was the effect that it had on both of us, both Gale and I. Man, do I love my sister Gale. She was the leader, she led us carefully (or as carefully as an 11 1/2 half-year old girl could) ou of dependent childhood into an wonderneverland of “boppers” the land of “electric Rock And Roll  Pan”  a land which I inhabit to this day.

God bless that Gale, after our time on our own, (once Mud and Howard had come back into the scene), she  decided that we (she and I) would start going to church on Sundays. We did that for a few Sundays..we woild get up early and put on our best clothes, and head out to one or another Catholic Church in Santurce, it was a bit odd I suppose for the regulars to thy and grok what the heck two little dressed up but raggedy white kids were doing coming to their Church all by them selves, but whatever their concerns, they were kind. However, what ever “scent in the air” Gale was following or looking for, it wasn’t there at Church.

Eventually the scent led us to English-speaking Radio Station WHOA and it’s Saturday afternoon “on the air” Elvis Presley Fan Club and “Rock And Roll” dance party. Only the Lord (and Gale) knows how she managed to find the bus fare and then the station, but she did and there we went, on the bus, on our own, away from the snooty rich kids, across Santurce to Rio Piedras and beyond. Our excitement building every parada of the way. Gale had found and followed the scent that led to the great fountain of life, the Fountain Of Youth, only instead of making us younger, it brought us to the immensely joyful spirit of youth eternal, of youth in rebellion, the bottomless pool of timeless energy that empowers and informs and reinforces the impregnable and impervious optimism that transforms a child into timeless youth. We were instantly  older and instantly hipper, and ever so much forever more free. The vehicle was Rock And Roll and the casteless, classless  collective consciousness that it invited and created everywhere it went. And boy I’ll tell ya, my sister Gale and I were ready. Continued…

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Book 3. Sula, The Mountain Dove

December 22, 2009 2 comments

Book 3. Sula, The Mountain Dove

I had an unusually enjoyable visit with Sula  this morning, I put three of my last six dollars in the tank so that I could go up to see her. It was a beautiful morning and the views round this that and the next corner were crystal clear. The” surf was up” outside Hull Bay, Tortola, Jos Van Dyke and islands of the Thatch Key archipelago were a majestic blue in the distance, and the”Plums were up” in Sulas “Hog Plum” tree too. The shutters are flung open in her little wooden house and the voices of the choir at the Cathedral of Saints. Peter and Paul come pouring out of her little radio, each utterance aspiring to sanctity and  sounding like they are hitting awfully close to the mark, to me.

I have come to love the shaky but sincere leads and rough harmonies of one singer after the next and one  Choir after the other. Sula’s  sister the long departed “Tantan Bertha’s” son, Ashford is in the other room, with his radio also tuned to WSTA and he is playing his alto saxophone along with the music. He plays in the old “Quelbay” style, a high wavering vibrato, a full beautiful tone. He is one of the very best but does not play in public, he is very shy and is waiting until he becomes a better player. He is really very good already, and I very much delight in listening to him play.

Ashford and I connect through the music and we have interesting music related conversations just about every Sunday. Conversations about music books that he orders through the mail, scales and intervals, theory and improvisations. He honors me by presenting thoughtful questions about these things as though I were (because I am a recording artist) a  knowledgeable maestro. God bless him, I’ve actually been able to answer a few of his questions and even add a little info on top of that, but it’s  a fluke,  small bits of knowledge I’ve picked up by osmosis. My storehouse/library of academic information in this area is embarrassingly sketchy, my own musical gifts are more like a wild rolling eyed confidence, married to a series of semi spontaneous heartfelt polyphonic outbursts through an instrument that continually surprises (among others) me, with it’s power and purdyness.

What the heck that has to do with knowing anything, is a great mystery. But if Ashford (or anyone else) wishes to be kind to me because of it, I’ll take it and try my best to return the same. 

The music of sincere people in reverential worship fills Sulas world every Sunday and it is a beautiful thing

 Sula’s Hog Plum Tree is weighed down with golden-yellow and  soo very sweet plums. She was hoping that I would be able to pick a bag full for her “other” boy friend Desooka” (really Desouza but Sula has decided to call him Desooka and so it is)

 My first question to Sula is always “Sula have you been behaving your self?” and she answers sweetly in a proper lilting creole, “Yes Scott, I am always well-behaved” My second question is “But Sula, how can a woman who has not one or two or even three or four but maybe five or six or more boyfriends at the same time, claim to be behaving herself?” And she will throw her head back and laugh out loud..

I ask her if she has gotten all dressed up for me this morning, because she looks so sharp.. She denys it, but her dress was especially pretty, a royal blue with little heart wreaths filled with flowers all over. She looked very pretty and I told her so. She had a red kerchief on, but took it off to re-tie, as she did I noticed her hair, a wild confusion of snow-white curls with perfect little plaits and braids. I said “Sula, don’t you ever leave the kerchief off? Your hair looks so pretty and the kerchief must be so hot.

To my surprise she did leave it off..she looked great and comfortable and cool.

 Breaking into a more colloquial calypso accent, she said, “Scott, Ah wan yu tu git me ting dem frum de box dare fo me, ah want a candy, because my mout is soo dry, an ah wan yu put me oy drop dem in me oy”

I teasingly say “Sula yu wan me put yu oy drop dem in yu oy? In yu oy? She laughed at my exaggeration of oy,  then I said “but Sula yu have tu open yu oy so I cou put in de drops” She said “But, What do yu mean? I thought they were wide open already? Yu know yu poor girlfren is as bline as a bat, de poor ol girl kee-an see a ting!

 “Scott yu know what I heard on de radio? Some boys who went to college  say that there is no God, Who de hell dey tink made the heavens and de Eart, de moon and de stars? Dey mus-ee tink red pea soup could cook it self. How de hell dey could tink there is no God?

Sula then spoke a loud the sequence of the angel of the lord visiting a young virgin Mary and God placing his only begotten son in her womb, to grow there like every one else. She recounted the angel of the lord coming to Joseph in his sleep to explain what was happening with Mary, and she noted that in those days for a young man to be engaged to be married and discovering that his young bride to be was having a baby, was a difficult thing, but Joseph over came that and they had the little baby Jesus. And the little boy grew up playing and going to school just like all the rest, but then gave himself so that the rest of us could have life everlasting, could be relieved of our sins..”Oh yes!” she said “I know there is a God and I know my God is a good God.”

 “Didn’t God save me when I was only twelve years old and I had the Typhoid Fever? Scott, Doctor Knud Hansen was right here, he was white yu know, and He told Mama Lovie (Sula’s Mother) that he was going, and coming back that afternoon. Then he told Old Uncle George (one of the original of the three Moolenar brothers), he told him that he didn’t believe that it would be possible for me to live out the day, and George came down and told Mama Lovie what the Doctor had said”. “Sula” I asked, “Were you in the hospital in town whe you had typhoid fever or were you out here?” “Right here” she said “I was right here, and Knud Hansen called me his little girl and took care of me” “Sula” I said, “How did Knud Hansen come out? Did he ride on a horse or a carrage”? “No, Scott, No,” she said “Knud Hansen walked, he walked all the way from town. Knud Hansen came out here ten times to see me, and when he came back that afternoon and saw that I was still alive..he said it was a miracle. He told Mama Lovie that if he could, he would give her a Gold Star for how extra specially good she took care of me. It was God that saved me, my God is a good God. How else could I have lived when I gave birth two different times, to two little dead babies?”

 “Knud Hansen took care of me then too you know, even though I was a big and old and grown up woman, he still called me his little girl, and said that he would never let anything happen to me”. “How big where you then Sula”, I asked “any bigger than you are now?  I don’t think you were ever big Sula, I don’t think you were ever  any bigger than a Mountain Dove. And Sula, tell me, how old were you then?” “I was tutty one, tutty-two, tutty-three,” ” Wow Sula” I said, “all things considered that doesn’t sound very old either. Big and old?” She laughed..”You’re right, anyway, How can they think there is no God when God has always been so good to me?”

 As she spoke..I thought to my self, just listen Scott.. she doesn’t need, nor will she benefit from hearing your cockamamie comments on the old or new testaments, or you recounting current  theories on self-organization. you don’t really know any more than she does, or Knud Hansen did, about what came before or lies beyond the stars..you don’t need to show off how smart you are, at the expense of her comfort and beliefs, you don’t need to upset her and make her sad. She’s a good soul and a wonder in the world. Just dig it and be present..listen to the love in her and in the music all around.

I asked her if she knew my friend PK Hansen, (related to the Christiansens, a family that she has mentioned often) she ruminated a bit searching through a vast net of  direct and tangentialy connected names and relations, and then said..”But Scott, our friend  Jowers said he was going to bring Noreen to see me, but Alric says the house is too old and run down for visitors, that we should paint it first.

I said “Sula, we all love your old wood house, it doesn’t need to be painted before anyone comes to see you, we all expect to see, we want to see, we love to see the old house just the way it is, it’s like a national historic site, and you, Sula, you are a national treasure”

 Her face always lights up when I remind her of these things, her eldest son Alric has just moved back to the island after spending fifty-five years in the states, working mostly as a prison guard. He is a good and decent fellow, but he’s impacted by a stateside mentality that has not yet been recalibrated to the local culture. Further, he would prefer that Sula left her old house and moved into his brand new house, with he and his wife Florence,  on the other side of Crown.

Perhaps enough people expressed their shock and dismay with that idea, voicing their opinion that that would be the end of Sula, to have gotten his attention. However, He is still unfortunately quite verbal in his disapproval of her “old-time” environment as it is. at 107, Sula really is a national treasure. The shame is that more people are not aware of her, and have the opportunity to spend time in her home and company. She is a National Treasure is every way imaginable.