Friday, March 17, 2017

The River

                    The River
  The river didn't care. It was totally impartial to the doings of men. For thousands of years, the Indians fished from it, gathered oysters from the lower tidal parts of it and traveled on it. The river was their highway and food supplier. The tall reeds were harvested in fall to make mats for their houses. The river flowed into a bay which the Indians called Chesapeake; mother of waters. The bay washed into the wide Atlantic, out of which the English came and slowly took over and put an end to all things Indian. The only things left after many years were the names of some other rivers. The Chickahominy, the Mattaponi and the Pamunkey were just a few of those names. Remnants of those peoples also survived in remote corners of that place. The river itself was renamed James, after the English king and the place was named Virginia after their former queen. No one remembered the Indian name for the river. Even they now called it the James. But the river didn't care what it was called. It continued to flow to the sea just as it always had
  The lower reaches of the river were tidal, flowing in and out twice a day according to the pull of the moon. As one progressed upstream, different species of fish were encountered. Each one was adapted to the particular part of the river it occupied. The English settlers slowly adapted as well. After many years, they were no longer English but Americans. And after a few more years they were so specialized as to call themselves Southerners. This set them apart from other Americans in the north and west and would ultimately lead to a great conflict, which is what this story is really all about. The most seriously affected of this group called themselves Virginians and offered no other explanation than that,
   This river, this James river, was born high up in the Western mountains. It would wind it's way down through the valleys to the plains. It would pass the towns of the Virginians. Past Richmond, Williamsburg and Jamestown until finally it came to The Bay. There, another smaller river joined it. It was named Elizabeth after the daughter of the king. And at this place where two rivers and a bay came together, a town was born, a town called Norfolk.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Regulars is coming

  The Regulars is coming: a War of the Words
  I dreamed I was in Colonial times in the war. I knew it was colonial times because I had a tri-cornered hat on and other funny clothes. I was walking and talking with a friend when, all of the sudden, we heard the sound of gunfire off in the distance. My friend fell to the ground and pulled me down as well.
  He said," lay down, lay down, someone's shooting a musket at us.''
  "Don't you mean lie down?,'' I replied.
  We crawled to the relative safety of a large rock and tried to figure out what was going on.
  "Lay down, lie down, what's the difference? You're just splitting hares.''
  "There's a big difference. You lie down but you made me lay down when you forcefully pulled on my arm.''
  "It's all just a matter of semantics. What's important now is that we are safe," he said.
  "I would be lying if I said semantics were not important. Don't tell me you're anti-semantic. I simply won't tolerate that. Furthermore, you said hares when clearly you meant hairs.''
  "How can you tell which word I used by the sound of it. I didn't spell it out.''
  ''I could tell by the way you said it, you clearly said hares. And I don't think we can say for certain if that was a musket. It could have been a fowling piece. But I can find out," I said.
  With that, I took off my hat and extended it out beyond the safety of the rock using a longish stick. A loud gunshot resounded and my hat flew backwards with many holes in it.
  "Definitely a fowling peace. Maybe it's just an angry farmer and we are not at war at all. Maybe we are at piece.''
  "That was a foul misuse of peace and piece? You're just as bad as me. And how do you know it's not a shotgun? If you step out from behind this rock, you might end up in peaces.''
  ''If this is 1778, and I stress the if, then it was definitely a fowling piece. It may sound like a shotgun and smell like a shotgun but in this times, it would have to be a fowling piece. But fowls can't distinguish between piece and peace except at the end of their lives, when they may end up in frying pieces,'' I said.
  ''Did you just mix you're singular and plural in the same clause? This is really getting out of hand. And did you mean flying when you said frying?''
  "Truly it is getting out of hand, but you just used a wrong contraction for the possessive form of you. What about that now? And I meant exactly what I said. Now all this talk of frying fouls has gotten me hungry. I hope Tee-time is soon.''
  "Did not Benjamin Franklin once say that a fowl in the hand is worth too in the fryer? But mine was a common mistake. You must excuse me sometimes.''
  "No I musn't. You have no excuse whatever. And I believe it was Socrates,'' I said.
  "You just mis-spelled mustn't. It has too teas in it you know.''
  "I didn't think you'd notice. The first one is silent, you know.''
  "This is all getting to be ridiculous. Perhaps we should just surrender to the man with the gun and let him sort it out. By the by, I still think it might have been a musket,'' said my friend.
  "Clearly you are insane. How could it be a musket? You saw the multiple holes, same as I. And how do you know it's a man. It could be a woman trying to kill us,'' said I.
  ''Some musket balls are designed to fragment on impact. Maybe it was one of those.''
  "Impact with what? My hat? It was made of felt.''
  "It still is made of felt. It's just over there. Only now it's full of wholes.''
  At that point, I felt it was time to resolve all this and get on to Tea. I proceeded to take out my white hankerchief and tie it to the longish stick. I stuck it out over the top of the rock and waved it vigorously. My friend and me then heard a loud man's voice from the same direction as the gunfire.
  "Come out with your hands up. I won't shoot you, I promise.''
 We both stood up and came out from the rock, hands raised.
  "We surrender. What do you want, good Sir?,'' I asked.
  Now the man yelled at us.
  ''I just want the both of you to SHUT THE HELL UP.''

Friday, February 3, 2017

 Frank Zappa saves the day
On December 4 1971, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention played a concert at the Montreux casino in Zurich, Switzerland. A Czech refugee named Zdenek Spicka shot a flair gun at the ceiling and it caught on fire. Frank got on the microphone and told the audience to calmly go out the exits. He stayed on the mic for about a minute, repeating his words. He did not yell or scream. He succeeded in maintaining order in that very dangerous situation. The band, support staff and some of the audience were now trapped in the front part of the concert hall. In a Swiss television interview the next day, Frank states that somebody broke the large glass windows overlooking the pool deck. The windows were broken and everyone was able to jump out and escape. Claude Nobs, the organizer of the event, says that Frank himself broke the glass with a heavy bodied Gibson guitar. All the group's equipment was lost in the fire. But what about that guitar. Frank states that the only equipment to survive was a cowbell.
  One week later, the group was playing the Rainbow in London with rented equipment. Another crazed fan, named Trevor Howell, rushed the stage and pushed Frank into the orchestra pit. He fell twelve feet and was severely injured. Howell was detained by the roadies until the police arrived. He was tried, convicted of assault and sentenced to a year in prison. It took about a year for Frank to recover. His larynx had been crushed and his voice permanently lowered a third of an octave. His broken leg healed shorter than the other one and Frank made reference to it in the songs "Zombie Woof'' and "Dancing Fool.''
  Frank was kind of a humble guy in regards to his own accomplishments. Certainly he was outspoken and sometimes rude but he rarely tooted his own horn, so to speak. I think that's why he took no credit for breaking the window and saving all those people.
  Deep Purple were just down the street, waiting to record their latest album and wrote a song about the events of that day.  Some of the members of Deep Purple were actually at the show. The song was "Smoke on the Water.'' So millions of people are now familiar with the song but not with the tragedy that inspired it.
   I think Frank was a hero that day and I will always remember it even if no one else does. One other loose end in this story is about the tape. A complete tape of the concert still exists and can be heard  on Youtube. I will post a link in the comments. It runs all the way to the end and contains Frank's voice telling the folks to "calmly go towards the exit, ladies and gentlemen.'' So how is that we still have this recording. I think Frank had the presence of mind to rescue the tape as well as all those people. Frank was, is and always will be a hero in my book.