Thinking about Memorial Day
6/5/21- Sun, Clouds, Rain all moving through today. Cooled off a bit. BBQ last night and light until nearly 10 pm. Bike ride home in the early evening breeze. Fantastic. Freedom.
As I was strolling through Lone Fir Cemetery on Memorial Day, of course I noticed the American flags dotting many of the graves. I figured I might honor the sacrifice my countrymen had made in service to our nation by taking a closer look at some of the headstones along the beautiful pathways for which I’d found new appreciation during quarantine. Get some details, imagine the lives, the circumstances, the challenges. Fortunate enough not to have lost anyone too close to me in armed conflict, I did have a great aunt whom we called “Sister” who had lost her first husband, Jesse, to artillery fire in World War 2. No one ever really discussed him or her loss (considered poor manners in the South), but I recall even as a teen just beginning to feel the pull of desire, of love, that the thought of losing one to whom I might be attached so strongly was unbearable. It must have had singular effect upon her life. I felt for her.
As I walked through the graveyard, more inviting than intimidating with its spread of heritage Cedars, Oaks, and Firs, I noticed in particular the grave of one William H. Tuttle, born 1837, deceased 1885, 1st Lt. Col. Infantry, California Division. The lettering still intact on the headstone situated over 135 years ago, initially I wondered what Portland must have looked like then…perhaps much like the cemetery in which these remnants of old growth that used to blanket the entire city remain. When did William finally arrive in Portland? What was his journey across the Western landscape like at that time in North America? Vast, wild, unsympathetic. Almost 50 years was a significant lifespan then. Times were much tougher all around, especially after the cataclysmic American Civil War. I contemplated a battered war survivor on the Lewis and Clark trail struggling to build a new life upon the destruction of his old.
But then I recalled the California Division listing, and I began to wonder if he weren’t part of the post war, rough-riding rangers of the Western frontier throughout Reconstruction. What lands had the California division secured for Westward expansion, for the Southern Pacific Railroad? What Natives had they exterminated for settler comfort, freedom? What liberties taken upon the heads of others in service to this notion of American freedom? My mind jumped to Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and to consideration of whether this William Tuttle was a man of either the Kid’s or the Judge’s disposition, or somewhere in between. Was he a man disingenuously led and without much in the way of post-war alternatives joining ranks with a new division for a brighter future, for any future? Was Tuttle beneficiary to an early iteration of the GI Bill? Was he an evil son of a bitch who was all too happy to be afforded the opportunity to wield the decisive sword of God over lesser beings? Or… was he a man molded by rough circumstance and motivated by hunger to clear the land of whatever might stand in the way of his Gold Rush dreams for some type of better life? All possible.
I thought of the beautiful day again, my freedom to enjoy it, and my intention to pay respects, accentuating my commitment ironically by imagining life trajectories some might criticize harshly. I pondered the oft repeated notion hurled defensively at any less-than-laudatory comment upon the military’s contribution to freedom, that there would be no freedom without military sacrifice. I very much appreciate the dedication many men and women have shown to protecting American freedom as represented to them by our nation’s military. Yet, time has surely revealed the military’s many abuses of that implied promise of protecting freedom, both towards civilians worldwide and within its own ranks. I must then realistically consider that these freedoms bespoken, and for which I am very thankful, are conditioned upon grievous harm inflicted across many populations. I would not deny that armed conflict as a last resort can be necessary, and those who stand the front lines are to be praised for selflessness, sacrifice and bravery. But often these matters are not so clearly presented, and the dogma behind them disingenuously applied by those who sacrifice little and stand to gain much from the suffering of others.
And then there was Sister, like so many across our nation today I believe, emphatically pro-American right and might, her a proud DAR & UDC member, never missed a day of work at Fort Rucker for over 25 years. I think that this consistency might have been her greatest happiness, her unacknowledged definition of freedom. She never thought much of me; told me as much before she passed. The excess and entitlement of the 1980’s which I represented to her through the ease of my life in comparison with hers must have seemed ridiculous and unfair to her. Then again, she never really got to know me, nor I her. The generational divide over race, among other things, hindered open, honest conversation. Still I still wonder if she might have made a greater attempt to know me, to have been kinder generally, if she hadn’t lost her first love in service to the freedom that she never seemed to emulate. Thoughts of Memorial Day.
5/29/21- Sunny Saturday, Cool in the morning, Jorge Behn in the background.
A recent experience allowed me to consider more closely relationship with strangers in the greater world. The day began like any other at the Mulberry…. I was awoken before 6 am by my upstairs neighbor stomping her way up and down the stairwell in preparation for travel to what I hope was a better morning, for her at least. After channeling my disgust with a morning trip to the bathroom and a few F-bombs out the window in her general direction, I returned to bed to passively stretch since there would be no more sleep with the jolt I had just received. Already considering how this might affect my energy level and temperament for my first real paid directed session gig, I practiced breathing out my frustration through a morning meditation by the end of which all the fucks I gave about the neighbor or her heedless behavior were gone.
Recovering from a rude awakening through conscious effort, I prepared my gear, ride share, and attitude to situate myself in a better place for success. Since my car was still in the shop after almost a week due to a painstakingly slow electronics troubleshooting process, I had been prepared to find alternative transportation. Having reserved the ride early, I was pleased with myself for the comprehensiveness of my preparation. As I finished a double check of my apartment upon cell notice that my driver was arriving, I found that I was ready and without having been rushed. I felt pretty good about this start.
I walked outside to a message that my driver had arrived and would be leaving in 3 minutes, but I saw no driver on the corner I had specified for pick up. I texted that I was on the corner I had specified, to no response. Less than a minute later a black Prius screamed around the block to return with a swerve to my point of departure. Noticing the erratic driving, I anticipated something interesting.
Speeding away from the corner, cutting across 2 lanes of traffic in a matter of feet, Ross began to explain that he had been waiting for me in the alley way. He reiterated vociferously that he had arrived at the correct location as listed by the site GPS, Mulberry Alley and 12th Avenue, though I had specified the corner of Mulberry Avenue and 12th Avenue. In a friendly manner, I waved off his unsolicited advice, familiar with the rideshare’s often erroneous reliance upon GPS, claiming “No harm, no foul.”
But he refused to let the matter rest and proceeded to coach me on the proper way to list my location for pickup to an area in which I have resided for over 20 years. My internal monologue told me not to bite, not to take his silly bait, to maintain the calm I had purposely sought this morning to enhance my preparation for performance. I looked at my Google map to double check the location to which he had just pointed (and from which I had seen him peel out, yes in a Prius), and the street was in fact Clay, as I knew. Since he would not cease with his diatribe, I informed him that he had actually been on Clay Street.
Of course this set him off…he had to maintain the right of his point of view. I told him that it did not really matter to me, and might we ride in silence…to which he raised his voice the he was SIMPLY TRYING TO HELP ME. I laughed inside as I considered the ridiculousness of the situation in which I found myself. When he began again, I mused aloud that an alleyway might not be the likely first choice for pickup when there was a recognized avenue by the same name. To this Ross screamed at me to get out of his car. Surprised, but kind of relieved to bring the situation to resolution, I informed him that he was a fucking asshole, gathered my gear, and proceeded along my route on foot as I texted my new working partner of my experience and requested a pickup.
Humping it up Division to work out extreme frustration, really, the will to violent response, and to address the breach of service with Lyft, I then began to fret over the path my day had just just taken, what it might mean to the recording session to which I had been looking forward with great enthusiasm. Despite the forecast of rain, the sun had peaked out in comfort. I breathed deeply, attempted to process the encounter as I walked on, speculating as to my role in the interaction.
What could I have done to avoid such an encounter? I had started out so well with this intention. I did not want to bring any kind of contentious attitude to a new working partner. I did not wish my burgeoning resentment to derail a real opportunity and the possibility of future collaborative connection. Yes, I could have kept my mouth shut, and I tried. However, Ross’s persistence summoned my own. Anyone who knows me knows me.
However, once Steffen and I linked up, the day changed tenor dramatically. Easy going and kind, he allowed me to relate and process the experience for a few minutes before we arrived at the Sandbox recording space. I found that by the time we arrived, I had shifted gears, readily embracing his workflow ideas for the directed session and the wealth of knowledge I was already beginning to assimilate.
The session went amazingly smoothly: I was satisfied with my performance, I made new friends, they treated me to celebratory cocktails for the session! I was much relieved. After the long session, when Radio cab, decimated by the ascent of ride sharing, could not save me from Lyft, Steffen and Hannah joked with me on the porch while we awaited a driver who never showed. Shortly before 11 pm, and with slight trepidation I called Lyft again, rather than risk the imposition of spending the night with my new friends. As the driver arrived, they admonished me with smiles to be on my best behavior, Hannah now sharing that they had not known what to expect when I had told them I had been evicted from my ride on the way to their home that morning. Recalling my well ingrained southern conversational fallbacks of Sports and BBQ, I talked Blazer playoff stats with Rod all the way home and thanked him for a far different experience, to which he responded with surprise that I had ever riled anyone up so much.
I laughed, well knowing from personal experience that I could easily rile someone up enough to have them ask me to get out of their car, though I appreciated the corroboration here. But today, I was not the instigator; Ross, your bad attitude ain’t on me. I appreciated the grace to notice the difference between the experiences as my living situation has allowed much consideration of conflict mediation recently. Thank you Universe for a good day even if informed by a shaky start.
Hell, let’s call him Alias…
5/28/21- Overcast Friday, but balmy. Gratitude for good work done. Dylan thoughts.
Alias….anything you please. Reminded by the celebration of his 80th birthday to delve back into my Dylan collection, I am again amazed by the lyrical genius and pathos of this extraordinary storyteller, musician, human being. Though I likely intend to return for a closer look at other of his works, I was struck in particular this morning by the soundtrack he created for perhaps my favorite Western film of all time, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. Having just reviewed the film a month ago after years of interval between viewings, and even though Amazon sold me a later Director’s cut missing perhaps the best scene of the movie, I was again gutted by the narrative of friendship, betrayal and the choices we make when pressure comes to bear. I enjoy this punishing clarity.
I consider the music that Dylan created for Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid some of his gentlest, most subtle commentary upon human vulnerability and relationship. It is evocative of wide open land, expansive skies, flaming sunsets. When I hear it in the film, I want to LIVE IN THE SOUND that it creates. Images arise of partners in the best kind of crime: outlaws enjoying their incorrigibly wild freedom from the oppressively regimented, commodified future coming with the westward advance of the Santa FE Railroad. When I hear this music, it reminds me of the quiet confidence, gentle ferocity, the sensitive audacity of Billy as played by another idol of mine, Kris Kristofferson.
Dylan’s touch to this Peckinpah classic simply sends it over the top; it complements the storytelling so well that it is indeed part of the story. The surprising softness of it capably holds the space for the emotional conflict presented by two long time friends placed in opposition to one another by the shifting pathways of their responses to a quickly changing and unforgiving world. Despite the deep connection they’ve shared from many adventures survived, and likely enjoyed, they must make choices, like all of us everyday, to respond to, to survive the greater momentum of larger society. Songs like Cantina provide an even greater depth of feeling for the viewer, the tension of regret and resolve bonding the characters even as they dispense with one another. The title track, Billy, allows the audience to feel the nuanced affection these apparently very bad men feel for one another from their introduction in the town square. When Billy is taken the first time, the resigned abnegation of self he displays walking, arms splayed to his captors, is accentuated undeniably by Dylan’s background ditty.
I could go on, but you probably don’t care about westerns anyway. Not sure Dylan did so much even, considering the wealth of what might be considered more serious work through the career of one of the most talented lyricists I am likely to experience in my lifetime. Doesn’t matter. The magic that his sound lends to this film is akin to the beauty of the deep, soulful stare of Harry Dean Stanton, another longtime favorite of mine, like the long anticipated embrace of an old friend tinged with a haunting sense of foreboding for its ephemerality. This hits me in the belly, heart and head all at the same time. Even as I write about it, the feeling that the images his music conures, tightens my chest, wrings the water from my tear ducts, and a then moment later like a trickster, it calms with similar incontestability, the consoling warmth of the memory of better times. But I reside with a Cancer domiciled Moon, it’s easy for me…:) Thank you, Bob Dylan, for your brilliant sensibility and for the talent with which you express it. Happy 80th Birthday. Thank you for music that has enriched my life beyond measure.
Must Have Heard Me
Funny, after my complaint about poor content, one V.O. Website must have been listening! I found and recorded some humorous copy right in my wheelhouse just this morning…And again, the website pulled the audition hours earlier than listed. I find this a frequent and very frustrating occurrence. While I pay a premium for SEO and auditions, I am punished by a nameless, relentless algorithm! I’m inevitably the last to receive the invitation and often find myself shoring up great copy to find that the V.O. website has decided to close the audition far earlier than listed. Must be some hurry to get that copy out that can’t wait for a few more submissions! My experience with entertainment work timetables indicates otherwise. Hurry up and Wait, Eh?! Anyway, having witnessed a lamentably noticeable shift in attention/distraction/proliferation of misinformation clearly through my 20+ year restaurant and bar service, and especially in light of the recent political landscape, I had fun with this announcer style ad. Enjoy!