The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Friday, October 14, 2011

For Montana George and Sara

By turning the numbers of the date 1968 around to 1986, my buddy George in Montana reminded me that twenty years after the Byrds album I wrote about in the last post ("Sweetheart of the Rodeo") a country sisters singing duo added an "s" and took that album name as the name of their group.

Though Sweethearts of the Rodeo had a success in '86 with "Since I Found You," their high ranked, successful single of the next year "Midnight Girl in a Sunset Town" launched their career in country music which continues today. The duo consists of sisters Janis and Kristine Oliver. Janis married Vince Gill (then in Pure Prarie League) in 1980. Kristine married Leonard Arnold who was a member of the band Blue Steel. Janis and Gill were divorced in 1997. The duo has stayed together over the years and recently worked on an album "Restless" which was supposed to be released in 2010, but according to their website, it's still not out but coming soon.

So, what were you doing in 1986-87? Me? Yeah you. Well, after 25 years in the classroom (and the waves, tsunamis really, of student papers that came in each semester), I was beginning to feel the first tiny flames of teacher burnout singeing my posterior. I still enjoyed my work, but confess that by then, a little of the luster had worn off my pedagogical pursuits. So, four years later in 1991, I was ready when the opportunity came to move in to administration. It took several more years, but that move was most important in terms of changing my perspective on politics. I think I'll probably try and write about that sometime on the Post.

Here's Sweethearts of the Rodeo with "Midnight Girl in a Sunset Town."

This duet with George Jones and Sweethearts of the Rodeo is probably my favorite of their stuff on youtube. "Travelers Prayer."

Hey, George. It's October and you're in Montana. Got that firewood stacked high enough?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Genghis Khan and His Brother Don

Where were you in 1968? Oh me. In 1968 I was 28. I'm never quite sure how they figure a generation, but by my calculations, that was like two generations ago.

Joyce and little Bo and I were living in Columbia, a small town about 35 miles south of Nashville. I was finally gettin' paid regular after another year in grad school. We (along with the bank) owned a big blue '65 Catalina four door. We had our first stereo (a Magnavox), our first color TV (RCA, I believe), a couple or three good friends (an artist, a writer, and a theater type), and at the time it seemed like we had the world by the tail. Maybe we did.

I still had lots of hair, even though it was already gray. I wore ties to work, big wide ones, double breasted sport coats, and my slacks were flared. Hell, everybody's slacks were flared. Our brains were even flared for awhile.

Sometimes on early Fall evenings we'd sit out under the car port and look at the spectacular sunsets courtesy of the strange smoke from the Monsanto Chemical company plant located on the outskirts of town. The sunsets looked absolutely, totally psychedelic, and we were not using drugs of any kind.

On weekends we and our friends drank Schlitz or Schoenlings' Little Kings Cream ale, ate ham sandwiches, discussed the Apollo program and the Vietnam War, pontificated about literature and art, and listened to the Weavers, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Credence on vinyl. As far as I can remember, we didn't listen to any of the Byrds' stuff.

I listened to the car radio as I drove to work every morning, but I don't remember hearing the following song anytime that fall. "You "Ain't Goin' Nowhere" was written (and recorded but not released commercially at that time) by Bob Dylan a year earlier. The Byrds put it on their album "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" and released it as the lead single in August of 1968.

I don't particularly care for the Byrd renditions available on youtube and would have preferred the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band version for use here, but their youtube takes weren't up to the high and exacting standards of the Post's musical staff either. So, that leaves Dylan's version. Which is pretty damn good.

If I had heard this song back then, I think I would have remembered it because of it's almost narcotic, swaying, euphoric melody which makes me want to hear it over and over again. I love the lyrics (especially "Genghis Khan and his brother Don"); the whole damn shebang just makes me feel happy.

UPDATE: Dylan video removed, so here's the Byrds instead...

If you've got some time on your hands, you can read about the Byrds' troubles in making this, their first country album, here. You can read about how and why Dylan wrote it here. The Byrds were really ahead of their time with this fusion of  country and rock, predating such groups as the Eagles, America, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Creedence. It's all interesting stuff, so interesting that it took up about 3 hours of my time while I could have been knocking this out and hitting the sack a little earlier.

One thing that caught my eye while reading wiki about the Byrds who recorded almost half of the album in Nashville was their experience at the Grand Ole Opry. As the first long haired hippies to play the Opry, they were greeted with catcalls, heckling, and booing from the audience as they tried to sing Merle Haggard's "Sing Me Back Home." That's the way things were in middle Tennessee back in '68. We didn't need no stinkin' hippies messin' with our music. :-)  Check out the whole story on wiki.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wall Street Protesters Can Go Home, The Economy Is Healed

Satire Post

Washington, D. C. October 10, 2011

Bolstered by the unusual approaches (public sex, public evacuation, fury at New York Rangers hockey team owners, etc.) taken by the Occupy Wall Street protesters, President Obama today veered into the bizarre himself.

At the presidential press conference today, President Obama and press secretary Jay Carney walked briskly into the room. Carney approached the podium. "The President," Carney said, "has directed me to announce to you today that he's initiating a bold new approach in dealing with the American economy. That economy is, as you know, sick. Deathly sick. The first step in the President's new strategy is the appointment of a new presidential advisor, televangelist Benny Hinn."

The Rev. Hinn strode confidently into the Press room, shook hands with Carney and the President, and took a bow. The well known televangelist, famous for his spectacular incidents of public healing, wore his trademark Jodhpuri suit with brass buttons. Carney explained to the assembled journalists that the President had been meeting secretly with Hinn since the budget showdown with Republicans in August. "When it comes to the economy," said Carney, "President Obama has been thinking outside the box. He has spent the last few weeks learning the intricacies of Spritual Healing from the world recognized master of this powerful force, Benny Hinn. Mr. Hinn has shown this force can be applied successfully to the human body. The president is prepared to take this procedure to the next level, Spiritual Healing of Abstract Economic Phenomena . Today, President Obama will heal our sick economy."

President Obama stepped to the podium and nodded to Hinn who clapped his hands. The large double doors at the rear of the room opened and a large Brahma Bull and a tall black bear were led into the room by handlers and bundlers. Both animals were clearly ill, the bear coughing uncontrollably and the bull emitting loud gaseous farts. The lights in the room dimmed except for a spot on the President and a second one on the two animals. Carney then explained that the two animals were really symbolic entities which the the president would use in the ritual. "These sick animals represent our economy. Let the healing begin," said Carney.

The president began by staring silently at the assembled press corps. He said nothing. After a few minutes, several Fox News reporters began fidgeting and murmuring to themselves. Then suddenly, Obama fell to his knees and his eyes rolled back into his head. The stunned media representatives looked on in amazement as his body shook uncontrollably. After a time he sprang to his feet and moved to the side of the podium, his back to the reporters. He suddenly turned and reached out with his right hand toward the animals in front of him.

Several reporters were visibly moved by the president's actions. Chris Matthews fainted and Brian Williams swooned. Katie Couric touched the corner of her mouth with a tissue to dab at a fleck of drool. New York Times' columnist Paul Krugman was focused intently on the president.

"I say heal," said the president in a booming voice. "HEAL! Let the evil capitalistic demons come out of you. Let taxes rise and our wealth be distributed equally. Let the prayers of those young warriors who now occupy the Street that shall not be named, let those prayers be answered. Give them what they want. Let it come without effort. Reward our union brethren with unlimited power and let them all become workers for the State. Let all minorities receive reparations for our past sins. I say HEAL!" The president leaped off of the low stage and slammed his palm against the heads of both animals in rapid succession. "HEAL!" he said.

The Bear collapsed to the floor in a furry heap and the big bull belched and farted before crapping a large, steaming pile on the red carpet.

Carney quickly distributed information sheets explaining that the animals' response, particularly the bull's, was a vital part of the "spiritual purging process."

Times columnist Krugman said later, "I felt the energy, the power myself. That's why you caught me coming out of the bathroom. I was one with those animals. I felt what they felt. And I responded the same way. What we witnessed today was the most moving moment in American History. I'm certain that the congress will now give the President another 4 trillion dollars of stimulus . And I'm certain that not only the US economy will recover, but also the world economy, once we have purged ourselves of free market capitalism and replaced it with a more efficient statist economy. And I say to those valiant protesters on Wall Street and around the country. You can go home, now. Victory is yours. The One has delivered."

UPDATE FROM BP comment: Shortly after the presidential press conference, GOP candidate Herman Cain called one of his own. He said, "the only symbolic entity in the press room this morning was that stinking pile of bullshit. And we all know what that stands for--every one of the president's failed economic policies."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Autumn Leaves

Seems we're finally in an autumn state of mind here at the old Post. The nights are much cooler and the morning air has that crisp, fresh bite to it. The hackberries and the locusts are shedding their leaves and the maples and beeches down front are turning gold. The woods in the backyard are turning too, but they're not quite at the stage of my header picture yet.

So, I guess it's time for "Autumn Leaves." It was originally a French song, recorded in 1945 by Yves Montand and some French dame. The English version appeared in 1947 with lyrics by the great Johnny Mercer. Jo Stafford was the first to record it with those lyrics (I'm unsure about the date), and then Roger Williams took his instrumental piano version to number one on the charts in 1955. According to Wiki, this recording has been the only piano instrumental to reach number one. A Joan Crawford film with the title "Autumn Leaves" was released in 1956 and featured Nat King Cole singing the song over the titles.

There are many versions of this song with Johnny Mercer's great lyrics available on youtube, but I like this one,, by Andy Williams. Go ahead, call me square. Truth be told, I probably am.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Smokin' Olds and Sweet Buick Century

My friend Bob Bell sent this pic along.

In the '50s the cars were so cool they even needed a smoke now and then. Hey, don't "Bogart" that butt Olds friend!

Speaking of Bob, it's been too long since I posted a pic of his fabulous '55 Buick Century convertible, so it's time for another pic or two. 

This is one beautiful car. He was telling me recently about driving it for a couple of days to two separate car shows and how after that it took some time to adjust to the feel of a modern steering wheel after driving the Buick. Those old '50 cars had larger, thinner steering wheels and they weren't quite so responsive as the ones on today's cars. 

I mentioned car shows. At the 12th annual Cruisin' the Ridge car show held at the Joelton Baptist Church, Bob's Buick was selected from 160 other cars for the "Club's Choice" Award. As soon as Bob sends me a picture of the award, I'll post it here in an update. I think his Buick must have dazzled the judges; don't you love those stunning Kelsey Hayes wire wheels? The pics here are the ones I took this summer at the Nashville Fairgrounds which appeared in an earlier post. Congratulations, Bob, on a great car and a great win.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Recurrent Feeling

Along about this time every year, I notice a temporary uplift, a boost in my spirits.

Almost anything can trigger it: a slight change in the color of the sunlight, the noticeable yellowing of foliage, perhaps a cool snap in the air, the smell of leaves burning, or the laughter of young men and women on a sidewalk. I first noticed this in the Fall semester of 1963 when, at the age of 22, I was a beginning college instructor at Eastern Kentucky State College in Richmond, Kentucky.

I remember climbing the old worn steps to my first class on the very top floor of old Roark Hall; the top floor was really a finished attic under a gable with only one small classroom. I was a little nervous and very excited to be beginning my career as a part of the best system of higher education in the best country in the world, the United States. As I came to the intermediate landing on the stairs and before I started up again, I glanced out the window by the stairs and saw the yellowing leaves of a tree below and some students passing on the sidewalk. I caught a brief glimpse of my own blurred reflection in the glass and thought, damn, I'm finally a college teacher. After three years of pork and beans and other sorts of even worse deprivation I'd put my little family through, I had reached a goal. It was great, although not quite as I had imagined.

But, my expectations were high that day, as I opened the door and entered. The classroom was cramped and the class itself was small, about 12-15 students, if my memory can be trusted. The students were quiet, not a good sign as I later learned (usually that meant not much discussion, which was always a killer for me since my method depended on that). It was a Composition II class which meant it was out of sequence and which explained the small number of students present. I don't remember much about how I, or that specific class. or any of the other four (2 other Comps, and 2 World Lits) I taught that semester performed, but I think we all must have done okay.

As the years passed, I always seemed to get that same feeling, either before the semester began, or sometimes a week or two after classes started.

I suppose the feeling I sensed that day as I climbed the stairs has got something to do with "youth," promise, hope (not the political kind, but the personal kind). And there's joy there too. I can't fully explain it. But it's a good thing. It's a bit fanciful I know, but I like to think this feeling and being around a new crop of young people every year helped keep me mentally young over the years.

Of course, neither the hope nor the promise was ever fully realized. We are, after all, human, and the goals we set, the aspirations we reach for are usually compromised by our imperfections and flaws. Or, if we do achieve something, it turns out to be full of contradictions and complications we never expected.

And in this context, I'm not just talking about the students I taught, but myself as well. And yet, I'm proud to say, that uplift, that faith, if you will, that I began each academic year with, never dissolved into cynicism. Like the eternal seasons, it came around every autumn, as regular as that first bracing cool snap. I eventually came to expect it and to count on its recurrence.

I retired in 2003 so I don't teach any more. And I rarely go back on the campus where I ended my career.

But funny thing. I still get that feeling. And I'm glad that I do.


Note: That's really a pic of the Roark Building, restored in 1964. My office was in back and down on the basement level in 1963, one of the perks of being a freshman, just out of grad school instructor. There were exposed and noisy pipes along the ceiling and up and down the walls, but it felt like an executive suite to me. I remember going down there and sitting at my desk after I heard the word from students that JFK was shot. I thought the whole world might fall apart. It didn't, but things certainly changed.

The other pic is also from Eastern. It's a shot of the infamous "ravine" where students still lounge between classes and sometimes make out on the grass. The strange looking structure in the pic is an outdoor theater; it was there in 1963 as well, and in good weather I sometimes sat out there and ate a sandwich at lunch.