Music, Poetry, Prose and Changing Times

Music, poetry and writing are the methods of following change in the U.S. Music uses repetition, rhythm and where it helps, rhyme. Rhyme is difficult because it has to further the message without over simplifying it. The movement of the blues and jazz, of black hymns, of swing, put such energy into music of the common man that we needed the sixties events to sway us into all of the rock genres. We had radios. That’s nothing in today’s world but in the sixties and seventies TVs and radios became cost effective to own. It was a social revolution. The process of miniaturization was on the development tables. We had seat belts in cars. We didn’t have to rely on a newspaper that was out of date before it was printed. No, words of the doings of man seemed rocketed to us. And we sang songs and danced to welcome the changes.
At the time I was in college studying music performance in the 70s, there was a dispute over the role of modern music (as it’s now labeled). We studied the classics, progressive, gregorian chant, romantics, baroque, and folk music through the ages. Plus we had our own style emerging in direct response to our environment. The music of the sixties and seventies was so powerful that it swayed a huge portion of the population into a passionate response. There were messages that were so powerful they couldn’t be spoken with the same impact. We demonstrated, stood up for rights and believed we could achieve them. We saw West Side story on the TV with Leonard Bernstein conducting. We wept tears at a story that Shakespeare told so long ago put into our world where racism was real and the South was dangerous. Times changed quickly. Things that seemed my parents had always known suddenly exposed themselves for what they were, new and changing to meet the demands of the entire population of the U.S.When I graduated in 1975, Native Americans were about to be given the vote if they lived on so-called government “reservations.” In 1976, Title 9 came into being giving women a new outlet in sport. It was a real challenge. In 1977, I was in the last basic training class of only women. We wore the Woman’s Army Corps insignia all the way through basic, and it was retired with our graduation. Standards changed and people changed with them.

Poetry and music lyrics share similarities, and they both deviate in how they are used. The tools are there.  California Dreaming is said to have a simple set of lyrics, but the concept was new. The method of delivery was new. The fact that the idea was accessible was also something new. We’d seen and heard Elvis. He outlined the status quo for us. We saw John Wayne who was the ultimate macho man. We learned from the music that the Beach Boys sang. And there were many new lessons.  We didn’t have to stay in one place for the rest of our lives. We could travel and that concept brought on a period of extreme social change, and because of the Kennedy brothers being murdered, the image of Jackie’s son saluting the flag covered coffin, the tragic death of Martin Luther King Jr, the music we heard was portraying both sides of our society, good and ill.

We knew more. We questioned our roles as women, becoming a stronger voice for the right to be more than in the past. Men had to choose an image that the TV wanted to suppress, macho or stupid were portrayed as the two options they had. The TV hyped Jackie Gleason and John Wayne. But there were strong elements there too ; The Smothers Brothers and Laugh In. Intelligence in both sides of our species. Only the messages mattered. I watched those “Commie Pinko Shows” with my parents and we loved to laugh at the mixture of music, jokes, skits and just plain fun. It was hard to believe that that was dissident thinking, it’s still hard for me to believe. It seemed like the John Stewart Daily Show, a representation of our world with humor.

My generation talked. My mother’s generation talked and we communicated. That was strange. For many many years when I needed a wise best friend, my mother was the one to turn to, she always had a song for an aching heart, a melody for an infant, a poem for a toddler. She’s still my best friend. But, I digress, we were talking about love and (deep breath) sex. That was new. We were talking about current events and we knew them because of the TV and radio. We talked about, sang about, and demanded social change. For a little while, things did change. It looked like the dreams of the 60s were coming true. I was all in favor of a nicer kinder world, like the one Stevie Wonder sang about. I loved his lyrics, music and optimism. I loved Peter Paul and Mary, and Janis Ian, Phoebe Snow, Shawn Phillips, the Who, and the what, where, and why.

Then came the period of the 80s and our social progression and ethics changed. We became more egocentric, the accumulation of things by adults became more intense. Money was the important thing. Do unto others before they do unto you. You saw the black rage at society with rap because of the inequities that life provided them, again with rhyme and a strong bass, words so powerful that they broke your heart, angered you, or made you sorrow. You had grunge begin in the white population in protest of materialism, surely there had to be more to life than this existence, and suicide took some of the best artists. You saw alcoholism appear strongly in music where it had been mostly in prose before that time. Drug addiction was still referred to with stealthy whispers, “Only that kind of person does drugs.”

Then the internet took off. We could afford computers at home that had more power in each case that the huge rooms of data banks from the past. They improved every day. Technology doubling itself, faster and faster. There was a rebooting of the seventies material in the 2000s, issues that had been laid aside, brought their messages back. It looks simplistic but it represents who and what we are today.

Poetry is complex with people finding a voice in a nearly forgotten format. It isn’t always clear in its message, it requires thought and the interpretation doesn’t guarantee that you understand what the author meant. But the reader’s message is equally valid. Old dusty professors will always come up with a different interpretation that those studying under them, twenty to forty years younger. Time changes our outlook. Music simplifies the message. Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait is straight forward and the music heightens the experience so you don’t forget the simple words. Puff the Magic Dragon was and is a story for the imagination of the young and old, not a drug message. Where have All the Flowers Gone is a song about the repetition of the mistakes that we repeat as a society. The Beach Boys was about having some fun and not becoming too serious to soon. “Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tack and they’re all made out of ticky tack and they all look just the same.” A protest about the loss of creativity and the sameness that felt forced upon us.

The audience and the message have to concur before fame occurs. We have something to say, audience needs to want it. Music and writing are two vehicles to send a message that will leave footprints long after we are gone. The amazing thing is that because of the internet, writing and music are marching around the world demanding to be read and heard. Cuba allowed some old English rockers to perform in Cuba and they wanted to go meet fans who could have been jailed for listening. They performed for free. Imagine that. Classical music is performed for free on the streets and plazas of the world. Day concerts of Beethoven, so that the music lives on. Bach is used to heighten our knowledge of math. So is Mozart. Wagner introduced a social message that helped bring on World War II and the quest for supremacy. What a powerful medium emerged! Tolkien took Wagner’s message and wrote a message of opposition and unity in the face of evil. There was a cartoon, Wizards, that took a cartoon audience through the message that Tolkien took four lengthy novels to write. Before Tolkien was Dickens with his eternal belief that we have to believe in the good of people, that good would overcome greed, that good people would be rewarded. There was Plath who suffered from severe bouts of depression, her poetry was part of her therapy. She needed meds. We all have a little bit of all who have come before and while poetry-blind as the times may be, I know a revolution of poets just waiting to emerge. Just check in on LinkedIn.

It isn’t the written word alone that is swaying thought, it’s the combination of music and attainable art, attainable word, dance, politics, social ills, and the acceptance of change. There is nothing simple about it. I find myself singing the damnedest things at strange moments. And behind all of the musicians, writers, politicians, do gooders and tyrants are the messages that the common human needs to hear to preserve their sense of self. There’s nothing simple about lyrics, only that when analyzed out of context and condemned as primary, elementary, simplistic, and even moronic, aren’t. But the analyst is a fool to think they can control the reception something gets. We’re evolving, and we demand the right to hear ourselves reflected in art.

It’s Rained on my Fourth of July

It’s raining outside, and I can’t say I’m sad about it. So many places in the US and Canada are suffering from drought. I like the rain, although I can’t go to a ball game or to the fireworks tonight. My grass is green in July and the air is mild. I can go and splash in the puddles, jumping up and down like a kid as the neighbors call for reinforcements and my husband shakes his head. My garden is blooming and I haven’t had to set a sprinkler yet. I’m saving money by watching nature at work. The little green frogs climb the side of the house for the bugs at night, and the fireflies are hovering just over the grass if they are males and about six feet up if they were females. They prefer nights and I prefer them to the mosquitos who hunger for flesh.

I have movies that I love on the Fourth. 1776, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Forest Gump, anything not to violent but that represents history. There was a great show on Edison and how his lack of mathematics eventually worked him out of the electric business. They rarely mention the things that he did to Tesla, although he wanted to be the genius to think of things, he didn’t want to be a team player. So, we ended up with General Electric and Westinghouse which were a very important part of my upbringing.

I’ve been to the fireworks in Washington DC, Chicago, Akron, Minneapolis, St. Paul, San Francisco and I love the color, the sound and the smell of the different chemicals. My son and son in law buy from local legal firework stands and make safety a part of their private show in our driveway. They even make me put my shoes on. Sometimes we have been in the mountains when people start firing their fireworks off and you can see them for miles. Traveling in the US is something that became Americana in the time right after WW1. My dad learned to drive a Model T by accident when he took the brake off at the top of a hill, or that’s one story he told. He said his father was angry, really angry.

I served in the US Army and marched in parades on the Fourth as a member of the 6th US Army and 1st US Army. Marched up and down the coast of the Pacific, and visited a lot of places that needed music on the Fourth. I’m pleased as punch that we entertained so many. Music is a passion of mine. It builds an energy that is transferred to an audience, as long as you play the right notes.

But the biggest part of being a patriot, is a series of behaviors that my parents modeled for me and I tried to model for my kids. Voting after studying the platforms of the candidates, that’s number one. Helping my neighbors if I can. Donating to food banks, clothes banks, and charities. Paying my taxes and telling the truth about what we earn so that schools, roads, police departments, farm subsidies, the military, etc. can do what they are supposed to do. People who put their faith in God to solve problems instead of following up their words with actions really take away from our society. I honor the President of the US with paying attention to his policies, writing him with my opinions, and being respectful of him or her. Respect and politeness, saying please and thank you, not gossiping or lying to make a point are all standards of behavior that I was told were American.  I taught school because it was a job with the honor of working with the people who would run my world when I got old and grey.

Our country was founded by a group of people as different as if they were the same. They shouted and argued but they also acted. They found people who could find ways to communicate to represent them. Granted there were problems, but the American way was to find a way through them. Injustices still exist that shouldn’t anymore. I hope we work our way though them soon. We were promised an awful lot growing up. I want everyone to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Enjoy the fireworks tonight if it isn’t too dry or too wet. Happy Fourth of July.

Now for Baseball

We spent over 5 hours and 56 minutes watching the Minnesota Twins and the Washington Nationals spare on Sunday. In what Dusty Baker called the absolute weirdest game ever he ever managed, the Nationals managed to come out on top. Both teams were running low on players. The ninth inning save goes to Bryce Harper who said he’d hit a homer and tie the game, which he did. The first seven innings go to Steven Strasberg, for incredible pitching. Then Petit came into the game and held on for more pitches than he had pitched for many years. The out fielding was outstanding. Werth, denDecker, Heisey, Taylor all made significant catches. Add a glorious actor named Perez and and his acting and dancing ability, two catchers named Ramos and Lobaton, speed demon and shortstop Espinosa, Murphy, Drew, Papalbon, Rendon, Zimmerman, and a partridge in a pear tree and you have us sitting on the sofa. Yup, me the eternal optimist and my husband, king of gloom and doom. It’s good to believe in a team when they win. It’s good to believe in a team even if they lose. But it is priceless to have such a good competition between two tough teams and yours wins by a squeak. I was exhausted at the end.

There was some savvy decision making. I am pretty sure that Dusty didn’t know that Perez hadn’t hit a ball since 2010. I’m pretty sure he was afraid that he would have to use Trienen who had played two days before. He was wise to switch out the catchers. How do those guys keep from having knee cramps all night long after a game? Dusty picked and chose who did what carefully, and having put our all on the table, created a memory that will be on MASN TV all next winter. I won’t forget the game.

May I add that Dusty Baker’s philosophy of life is making baseball “fun again.”  His way of enthusiastically pumping up the players, of believing in them, and of keeping his word are new to Washington. I hope he stays for many years. We need someone like him. Oh, the keeping the word, in case you hadn’t heard, was telling Bryce that he could since hit, but because he had the day off, that was ALL he would be allowed to do. Barry Bond had gone into a game with 16 innings in the ninth, and he played until the win was secured. So much for his day off. Funny he had mentioned that to Bryce. I hope he buys a lottery ticket. His words, “If man can move a mountain, surely man can move a baseball.”

Oh, we saw you Ben Revere and your gnome outfit. You keep coming. You are our lucky gnome of the year. I can hardly wait to see you as a bobble head. The hat, the hoodie, the scarf, the hope that you kept going with your being willing to be silly and support your team even when injured. Nice going. Effort noted and best wishes to getting 100% well.

I was glad the Twins won their game by a squeak in the ninth last night. They deserved a good win too.

Fifty-eight years old, and somehow over the last four years, I changed my spots. I love baseball and I understand why we need it. We need something to believe in. We need the normalcy of a tradition that started somewhere around 1890. As long as we can step away from our problems and be part of a great effort, things have to get better.

Sports reporter, Ann White, heading back into the real world.

Thinking Green

The world, a single landmine,
found in a solar system of beauty.
Ordered by nature to change,
the leaves fall, sprout, grow and dream
of what life would be like
if we danced with the rules of nature,
If we protected with our careful steps.
I saw a wave, long and sensual,
White caps spilling into sand
Loading lighthouses, lighting them.
If we tread carefully, perhaps,
just perhaps, someone will defuse our danger
and allow skipping to flourish.

Life’s Tapestry

Woven strings hanging on walls in castles tell us the tales of knights, kings, queens, hunting, war and the need to protect against drafts in large buildings. I’ve been to museums in many places and admired the time and effort to achieve these beautiful tapestries. Then I went to Morocco. Somehow the guide brought us to a carpet dealer. I think there were relations or crossed incentives for each carpet that could be sold to a tourist. They were beautiful, colorful, all handmade by members of what they told me was the Berber tribe, desert people. I am a sucker for a well presented adventure, so we bought one. It was golden, and it became one of the wedding gifts for my daughter from us. It also inspired me.

I was at a fragile state in 2014, both mentally and physically, and I wanted to leave a footprint of who I was in case anything ever happened to me. So I started my own embroidered tapestry. It’s 40 inches by 48 inches on monk’s cloth. It tells a tale of what I love and who I am. It isn’t finished by any means yet. I’m embroidering every single tiny square with flowers and bushes. Add to the gardens and moving up you will find the lighthouses, great lakes and finally arriving in space; beautiful, colorful outer space. I need to add my home, my dogs, more gardens, some fish. The Potomac River and the Mississippi are sure to turn up somewhere. There is no pattern to rely on, and some of the stitches are better than others. It makes for a contrast of the changes in my life. Sometimes I am well organized and a perfectionist. Other times I give a lick and a promise, and just make sure something is on the canvas. The contrasts are so me.

I have to finish this before my reunion in 2019. I started it at the one in 2014 where I was mocked for taking on a project like this. I thought I could finish it in a year, but it has to be done for the next reunion. If nothing else, maybe it will show how my life has twisted from promises of finishing things to finishing things. I have a book to finish this year as well. That will be on the tapestry somewhere I’m sure, somewhere where the fairies and gnomes live in my heart. My dad used to say, “Annie has only one foot in reality, and she hops a lot.” He was right. There will be a hopping Annie with a jump rope and a bit of tar on her knees in the tapestry as well.

A life is worthy of a tapestry. All lives are worthy of the woof and warp that give us flavor. If I could create a tapestry of the world, I would need a much bigger monk’s cloth and a lot more time. I would create the lines of peace and friendship I hope to see develop more fully in the world. I would take the violence, hate and prejudice and cut their threads from the pattern. The three sisters of the fates would be as cousins to me as they weave their patterns. Perhaps I could convince them to cut those threads that I chose to cut as well. Perhaps, but today I will work on my tapestry and try to make it as truthful as possible. I may even become an antique someday and the tapestry, too.

Are there threads you would wish to see on my creation? I’d love to hear from you.

Krampus Night Lullaby

On Krampus night,
The elder ones wake.
The dance begins
In wild, old ways.
The children quiet, and
Listen in fear, as old
Krampus draws near.
Don’t be afraid,
My darling child.
Just close your eyes
and dream of time.

Auf Krampus Nacht,
Die älteren wecken,
Der Tanz beginnt
In wilden Wege.
Die Kinder ruhig, und
Hört in Angst, wie alten
Krampus kommt in der Nähe.
Haben Sie keine Angst,
Mein liebes Kind.
Einfach die Augen schließen
und träumen von der Zeit.

On Krampus night,
Strengthen the Old.
The wild dance ends
As night grows cold.
The winds will calm.
The cries will end, as old
Krampus draws near his end.
Don’t be afraid,
But sleep, my little child.
The morning comes.
You’ll open your eyes,
For the sun will shine.

Auf Krampus Nacht,
Oh, Stärkung der Ältesten.
Die wilden Tanzenden,
Als die Nacht wird kalt.
Die Winde wird zu beruhigen.
Die Schreie enden wird, so alt
Krampus naht seinem Ende.
Haben Sie keine Angst,
Aber der Schlaf, mein süßes Kind.
Der Morgen kommt.
Du wirst deinen Augen zu öffnen,
Für die Sonne scheinen.

@2015 Ann WJ White

The Sword

The sword is a romanticized weapon of extreme sharpness, beauty, and brutality. It brings death face to face. The skill and training are the indicators of noble truths. The sword is a lie.

The rifle takes the personal interaction between enemies and makes death more impersonal, less brutal, and more deadly. When Earth’s UN Council on weapons met, rifles and technology were banned. It was thought that the sword would humanize the battles between country and country, race against race, and religion against religion. What the council did not count on was man’s love of brutality, power, and hatred. Unarmed planet-wide, governments began to fail. Assassins were honored as heres for the deaths they took. The planet’s government fell to extremists.

“You didn’t attend your class on self-defense today. Why?”

“Granddad, I don’t want to kill or hurt others. I know you mean well, but if we keep weapons of any kind, we will always be a target of violence.”

Granddad turned a virulent red, coughed into his handkerchief and sputtered, “Don’t be a damn fool. If someone comes through that door, you will become mincemeat or worse. I’m not hanging on to life just to make you unable to take care of yourself.”

The coughing fit continued as Annie hurried to the sink to get a glass of water. The nozzle on the sink prevented water from being wasted, but it slowed the amount of water available. With the glass finally half full, she hurried back to her Granddad.

“Come on, Granddad. I have the water. Take a sip.” His coughing fit gradually stopped. “Granddad, why do you think we have a bullseye painted on our family? What happened in the past that no one will talk about?”

Granddad just sipped his water, tears forming in his eyes and escaping down his cheeks to his neck. The coughing ended. His memory filled with the blue eyes of the woman he had loved who had been murdered over an empty purse. The murder had been bloody and made the headlines. Eventually the murderers were found and prosecuted, but the hurt lingered, always hovering in moments of dreams, stress, or despair. She had been beautiful, his wife, always on the run to do something good for someone who needed it. Now his granddaughter, an orphan, was his greatest worry. Three family members hacked to death, one precious and kind granddaughter left.

“Granddad, the world is supposed to be kinder now. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.”

She tucked her granddad into his favorite chair with his favorite blanket. Watching him drift off to sleep, she counted the minutes until his first snore. Sneaking out of the room, Annie went down into the basement. Behind the freezer were three long narrow cases. She quickly opened each, removed the rifles from their resting spots, and made sure the ammo was loaded and ready. Locking the cases, she took them up to the second floor master bedroom. The room had been decorated so that there was no way anyone could access it without paying a steep price. She turned on her blue tooth, short wave radio and scanner. Listening, she heard the scanner report a rape at the entrance of her neighborhood. It had been done at the edge of a sword.

Changing clothes to blend in with night colors, she opened the rifle case and took her M-16 out. She had a job to do. All she needed was an animated cartoon and a super hero persona. Later, when the police arrived to question her as part of their evidence collecting, they told her of a strange tale. A man who had been armed with a knife and sword, had been found handcuffed and tied to a tree. There was a thank you note attached to the collar of his shirt.

“Thank you, officers. We appreciate the effort you put into keeping us safe.”

Granddad coughed and reached out for his glass of water as the news came on. Annie sat next to him on the sofa.

“Look, girl, that happened just down the street. Go to your lessons from now on.”

“Okay, Granddad.”

The Drunk’s Protector

I was nineteen, full of life,
student, musician, believer
and happened upon 
A wall flower, sodden but sweet,
A drunk, full of his nectar.
 
A peaceful drunk
Leaning upon a concrete wall 
Near the overused metaphor of a 
Greyhound Bus station.
Of a bus stop occupied
By the rushing middle class.
Of a city overcoming change.
 
A drunk, a target of easy mark
Was found by another mark,
A pointed mark.
Perhaps needing ease from his demons.
The voices listened and 
He took a knife, leaned, put it 
On the old man's neck.
Close enough to shave.

The audience breathed drama,
Turning slowly, waiting for buses.
Standing full of wisdom
As far as they could go. 
Time froze.
They were mannequins.

Needs,
Simply a phone in need of quarters,
An operator call,  
But locked into movie reviews,newspapers,work,
They were motionless. 

I was nineteen then. 
Full of life, a 1945 wooden case 
that protected my heart, 
Holding my horn.
My weapon of choice.

After years, why a decade of years,
Of playing, of lugging miles, building brass muscles,
Of practice at spinning, 
I launched myself  
Pushing my horn between the two.

I was a shield maiden,
Because I was nineteen, descended
From blonde Vikings and grim Scots, 
I became a piper of sound
With the bottom of my lungs. 

Somehow, instantly, incredibly,
Unsummoned, the infantry arrived.
A squad car, blinking red,
Drove up upon the curb.
Collared the knife, the shield maiden,
Slipped the men apart.

I was nineteen, set to
Activism, driven in hopes to 
Change poverty, racism, anger, hate. 
The men in blue sent me on my way, 
Part fool, part human. Head patted.
Reform suggested for my safety,
After all, I was nineteen.

At Bat

Just let it come. It’s looking for you.
Stand still, head steady.
Breathe. Inhale.
Focus on the pitcher,
The ball will come.

Don’t worry over balls.
They weren’t for you.
Focus your eyes.
Open your eyes, larger, larger.
The mound moves.

The pitcher moves.
Slow motion, hand curving.
Eye on the ball.
One third of a second and
You swing.

You can do this.