Who are we? We are our stories.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Harmony Park

As a young person I attended the First Baptist Church of Clarks Grove, Minnesota, where my namesake grandfather was the pastor at one time. In the 19th century before the big church was built, outdoor services and baptisms were held north of town at the Narrows of Geneva Lake. Times have changed. The beautiful oak wooded peninsula is now Harmony Park, a campground/outdoor music venue where neo-hippies gather to listen to music, laze in the sun watching the pelicans wheel across the sky, and smoke their herbs in peace. A few years ago I went out one beautiful Saturday afternoon to kickback and listen to Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. I looked at the gentle people smoking, drinking and dancing in the late afternoon sunshine and thought, "Damn, those old dead Baptists gotta be rolling in their graves". For them I threw in the Flecktone's bassist Victor Wooten playing Amazing Grace.

This is irritating as hell, the yuppies trying clap along with a improvised jazz piece. They couldn't clap on the backbeat on a bet. Why on God's green earth would they have the balls to think they know where Victor Wooten wants to go with this piece. All they can do is distract him and screw things up. He ranted.


...but I will post John Cash.

The Kings of Leon

Years ago I introduced a nephew to my sometimes quirky taste in music, launching him down a long, slippery slope. Eventually his living room became a killer listening room with a high-end audio setup and nicely framed LP covers from John Cash's American Recordings on the walls. (Of course after his marriage, fatherhood, and "decorating" all that went to hell.) Two days ago he posted his schedule for the Austin City Limits Music Festival that he and his lady will be attending in early October. One of the acts he had checked off was The Kings of Leon. By chance the young lads did three numbers on the Today program this morning. Now I realise I'm a little older and tastes differ, but it was simply brutal, almost embarrassingly bad. The music was poorly conceived and incompetently played. The young crowd pushing on the street barricades loved it. This musically opinionated old goat will not be posting any of their music.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Country Mavericks?

I was going to post a couple of The Mavericks playing Country, but I got sidetracked. The first is obviously a take on Dwight Yocum. On the second Raul is at least wearing a cowboy hat and maybe there's a little pedal steel, enough to offend my baby, but it doesn't have a country soul. The third? Well, he just kicks the shit out of poor Roy Orbison. But Country? Naw, just good.

Happy Birthday Ukulele Girl

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Continuing a Mavericks Jag

The Mavericks cranked out a lot of great music, stylistically all over the musical map. They imploded, but are rumored to be back together. Raul Malo plays wonderful guitar and piano, does all the arrangements, writes songs so good they feel familiar at first hearing. He can capture any vocal style and do it better than the original. The problem is, where is Raul Malo? Maybe he can't DO Raul Malo?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Raul Malo

My daughter doesn't like Raul because she thinks he's country. ??!

This one was a tough call because there is also a version of Indian Love Call. (You may have heard Raul singing this as you filed out of the Apollo movie)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Slow Moving Outlaws

This morning the dog and I were in the garden drinking coffee. A year ago there were three of us, but his old sidekick Sam died. I've noticed that Bud's been moving slower these days too. He took slow, measured steps up the walk, stopping every few feet to rest and smell the dog scent on the plants. The thought went through my mind that we were both getting to be old outlaws. Here's one from Waylon. I didn't really get the soul of song when it was new. Listen up, young bucks, and know why the dog's heart aches. (I apologize for the graphics. Close your eyes.)

A song for Bud.

Waylon at peak voice with agony on his lips and pain in his eyes.

Blog Chain

"There is endless journalistic comment on the web - about other blog-comments that are in turn about further commentators."

Just as a matter of pride I feel obligated to comment on the above.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Jolie Holland

For all of those of you who are trapped.

Carolyn Wonderland

Carolyn Wonderland was on Austin City Limits tonight. I stumbled onto her about three years and immediately sent for a CD (I know, CDs are so yesterday). She's a little like a Janis Joplin with a hot guitar who writes her own material. As an old Blues lover it's nice to know the kids are still playing it.

A mandolin?

It's amazing that an old Robert Johnson tune written 75 years ago, played virtually note for note, is still fresh.

The Rock of Ages

This interesting rock is on a farm south of Albert Lea, Minnesota. The exposed portion is 3' X 6'. How much more is underground is not known. It has been dusted with charcoal to more clearly show the lettering. It is quite likely French, as there are records of a French expedition in Southern Minnesota in 1712. Purpose? (Ed Shannon photo)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Garden at Dusk-Jul 24, 09


I love the texture of old bricks mortared with moss. It's probably the quintessential embodiment of wabi-sabi. Enjoy being taken down the garden path.

About half a mile from my house there is a park that used to be "the old brick yard". Actually I believe there were a handful of different brick makers. There seems to be a couple of variations on the local bricks, some are dark red paving bricks and the others are softer, cream colored bricks. These are from my garden path. The pics may seem gray - they ain't, they's cream and kinda..brick colored. I particularly like the one above. At first I thought it was a animal track, on second look probably finger tips with just a slight kiss of the thumb tip.

Contador the Conqueror

I noticed the Versus boys and some team mates are snipping at Alberto for not holding back for "The Team". When Merckx became the "Cannibal" for relentless solo attacks, or Coppi's victories were measured by the town square clock instead of a stopwatch, people don't remember that they didn't wait for their teams to catch up. Historic mountain breakaways are not team events. There is very little aerodynamic advantage at climbing speeds. Being surrounded by teammates is a psychological advantage which some riders don't need. The giants of cycling have not always been team players. Alberto has gained his time in the mountains and individual time trials. Alone.

The Lanterne Rouge Crashes!

The light of the lanterne went out yesterday. Kenny Robert Van Hummel crashed and was sent to the hospital with a smashed knee. He was dropped from the peleton almost at the outset and was trying too hard, taking too many chances in a valiant effort trying to regain time to avoid the cutoff. He has the consolation that, although he was the Lanterne Rouge for eleven days, it took an injury to take him out of the Tour. He went out on his bike still in the saddle, rather than having some weasel official stripping the number off his back. In years past it has often been a game with some of the water carriers to see who could be the Lanterne Rouge. Kenny was different. Obviously he did not have the skills to be in the Tour, but he was making the best of his good fortune, trying as hard as he possibly could. It's a shame he couldn't make it to Paris. I salute him for his dogged courage.
The new Lanterne is Yauheni Hutarovich. I know nothing about him other than after Kenny he is just another pretender with an unpronounceable name.

Oh... and Alberto Contador is still the Maillot Jaune...really, really in yellow.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Good Morning America

ABC's Good Morning America was broadcasting from Albert Lea this morning, covering our Blue Zone community health and exercise programs, which promote quality of life and longevity. Ms. Lorna is a walk group leader and managed to get on nation television. We're hoping this will open doors and she will finally be discovered and become a movie star... or at least a commercial spokesperson promoting sturdy walking shoes or baggy, comfy walking shorts.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kenny Van Hummel Survives Again!

"I was left by the bunch on the first climb today but I stayed at my own pace and kept on going. I had to take some pretty big risks on the descent to limit my losses but I can do that. I can go downhill very fast when I have to. I can gain two minutes back, no problem," Van Hummel said with a grin, after making the cut yet again.

"On the flat part after the first climb the terrain was up and down and of course the second climb was also hard, but I could hold the speed a little bit. Once I got to the top I knew that I would make it to the finish in time."

Van Hummel has received attention from the press in this year's Tour for his style of riding, but he's doing more than just surviving, often competing in the sprints, with several top 10 places to his name already. "I just do my job," Van Hummel said when asked about the media attention he has received.

"There are some better climbers than me in the race," Van Hummel joked. "I'm a sprinter and generally riders like me tend to struggle in the mountains. In the Pyrenees I had a few guys with me but they've all gone home now."

The Wake

Last week the mother of an old friend died unexpectedly...at age 101. The funeral was Saturday morning. As I am the only one still in Albert Lea our house became a meeting place. The first overnight guest rolled in Friday afternoon. Because things happened rather fast, I was caught unaware, with only one bottle of Akavit in the freezer. As soon as I realised my social faux pas, I slipped two more in beside it. (There has to be a more Scandinavian "faux pas", but it escapes me.) By evening when more people arrived after the visitation, I was able to offer them the choice of Danish, Norwegian or Swedish versions of "The Water of Life". The stemmed shot glasses were fetched from the high cupboard; beer taken from the fridge.There was much sincere eye contact... toasting and drinking with men I have known for 50 or 60 years, my best and longest friends, their wives and their grown children. The "Skal" is not taking lightly here. It is not a formality mindlessly uttered before you take a drink. It is a liege, a pledge of life loyalty, a willingness to die, to fall in battle while sacking an innocent English village. There was more after the funeral and burial on Saturday. I hate to say it was a wonderful time, after all Clara died, but then again she never approved of most of us anyway.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Lanterne Rouge Survives

On Sunday Alberto Contador launched himself off the front of the peleton and blew the field apart, surprising no one who follows cycling, except apparently the hacks at Versus, who kept babbling about "...this will be the Stage that Lance finally attacks and establishes..." etc. What planet are they on? I first saw Alberto three years ago fly up a mountain and it was obvious that it was just a matter of time. Hell, there are 15 guys riding in the Tour that are 35 or older. It isn't that Lance is too old, it's that Alberto is too good.

And now onto the real world. In his fight for the Lanterne Rouge, Kenny Robert Van Hummel, riding for Skil-Shimano, has established himself as a real "Everyman", representing all of us that struggle to get to the top of a small knoll. I want to say that "Kenny is us", but he could still leave all of us gasping for air with spittle dripping from our chin. He has been in the Red Jersey for 10 stages, trailing by 39 minutes overall. His danger is missing a cutoff time in a mountain stage. The tube is heart rending, poor Kenny 12 minutes behind the next rider, exhausted after fighting this way through the crowds streaming off the mountain, certain he has missed the cut. But he survived to fight one more day. May the ghost of Fausto Coppi ride with him.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bangkok Post, Tuesday, July 14,2009

From the front page,"Mathematical minds tally up major medal haul" - also the daily Education Section. An 8 page daily Education Section! While there is sports news, there is not a Sports Section.

There is a two tiered pricing system in Thailand, one for tourists and then the real price, the one for Thais. My daughter who teachs in Bangkok says that teachers are revered in Thailand (Anna the King of Siam?). Speaking a little Thai and being a teacher helps her pay local economy prices.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Great Adventure: Installment One

Addy drives. Lorna rides.

After the crash.

Primitive accommodations.

More roughing it.

Mother and Child at the Child's Bangkok apartment.

Serendipity - our pilgrims were in the back of a truck traveling to a remote destination when they noticed the baseball cap of young woman traveling with them. It read: ALBERT LEA SEED HOUSE. A story for another time.

The Archdruid Report (again)

".... perspectives on nature, culture, and the future of industrial society".

The Archdruid Report is my favorite blog. Week after week, John Michael Greer consistently makes me think; challenging what I think I know to be true. It is sometimes painful, but invariably refreshing after the work is done.

Monday, July 13, 2009


This past week an attachment was forwarded to half a dozen of us old farts, friends from high school and college. It was entitled:

It triggered ten liberal treehugger exchanges about how dumb and environmentally out of touch the GOP is, etc, etc - back and forth. Dorgan stopped us all in mid-keystroke with,
"What are you all getting so flummoxed about? Michelle Bachmann is my congressional representative. Top that as a source of constant aggravation."
Damn, that is tough sledding.

TdF Rest Day

It's time to catch our breathe and kick back for a day - time to think about WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

First, the important stuff. On day six Kenny Robert Van Hummel wrested the Lanterne Rouge from Alan Perez Luzaun who had held last place since Stage 3. We also lost a contender in Danilo Napolitano riding for Team Katusha who failed to make the time cutoff. Realistically I don't think Van Hummel can hold it. He is a weak rider for a weak team. Eventually he'll make a mistake and miss the time cut.

Next, for news on the other end of the peleton, Armstrong and Contador are still in a pissing contest. In the opening individual time trial Contador placed 22 seconds ahead of Armstrong. On a later stage Lance gained a 19 second advantage when the peleton was split by cross winds, with Lance in the front group and Alberto in the back. Normal team tactics would have dictated sending a couple of riders back to help Contador bridge the gap. Instead Team Sportif (manager) Johan Bruyneel had Astana in the front group attack hard. After that I don't think there is any doubt where his loyalties lie. Contador was apparently pissed. Still burning, he attacked without orders when they hit the Pyrenees. Lance was unable or unwilling to answer. At the end of the day they were virtually tied and remain so. Word on the street is that Alberto can count on Sergio Paulinho for help, while the rest of the team are old Armstrong cohorts or have allegiance to him. The team has taken the split I hoped for, but uneven. Another stunner from Alberto may bring a couple more over. That's the tour as I see it. So far.

Ravaged by Time and Abuse

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Spoons and Rhubarb

I've know Frank Wright a long time - ever since he was a younger man with wild eyes and a radical ponytail. We talk liberal politics, art and gardening. By schooling Frank is a veternarian. He originally came to Minnesota as the raptor specialist at the Minnesota Zoo. Somewhere along the line he starting running with Peggy Hanson, an activist lawyer who was a lobbiest for liberal causes. When the smoke finally cleared they settled in Lanesboro, Peg running a B & B and Frank carving beautiful wooden things. And raising rhubarb at Oz.

And Arv is back where he belongs, making sausage and playing his accordian.

Creameries of Freeborn County

In 1911 there were 28 operating creameries in Freeborn County, Minnesota. Initially villages sprang up spaced about 10 miles apart, about as far as farmers could get to town with horses to deliver their milk and buy staples. Times have changed. Now there are no operating creameries and many of the villages are gone, marked only by the abandoned creameries and overgrown cemeteries. The creamery in Clarks Grove had a community meeting hall on the second floor, complete with stage and a drop curtain painted with advertising for turn of the century businesses. When I was in grade school our woodframed schoolhouse burned down. The second floor of the creamery was hastily divided into rooms and I attended school there for two years. The city fathers were too efficient. I only missed two days of school. And worse, they saved all the desks and books from the old school. A childhood dream gone awry.

Clarks Grove







Thanks to Ed Shannon for the photographs.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Edith Piaf

This one's going out to the little lady who thinks that Bettye Lavette's "dramatic performance can seem a little over the top":

And with a vibrato that you could throw a cat through...but what the hell, she's French.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Oh, What the Hell...

This has nothing to do with anything, other than it's a 55 or 60 year old Vincent racing a newer Japanese crotch rocket. And doing pretty well at it I must say.

Review: Big Sid's Vincati

I recently finished reading Matthew Biberman's book BIG SID'S VINCATI. Although I have only been on a motorcycle a handful of times in my life, I throughly enjoyed this book and I am shamelessly pushing it.

Before we get into Matthew's story, I need to talk a little about the Vincent story. Vincents were made in England by Phil Vincent from 1928 to 1955. The early Vincent, the Rapide (Jay Leno's pictured above) was fast, but in 1948 they introduced the Black Shadow. Sixteen of these were were special factory set ups designated as the Black Lightnings. In 1948 an American, Rollie Free set a record of 150.313 at Bonneville on a Black Lightning. As the famous picture indicates, Mr. Free was courageous to the point of stupidity. But the Vincents were fast. Fast enough to merit a song.

The following is a quote from Hunter S. Thompson:

"The Ducati 900 is so finely engineered and balanced and torqued that you can do 90 mph in fifth through a 35-mph zone and get away with it. The bike is not just fast -- it is extremely quick and responsive, and it will do amazing things.... It is a little like riding the original Vincent Black Shadow, which would outrun an F-86 jet fighter on the takeoff runway, but at the end, the F-86 would go airborne and the Vincent would not, and there was no point in trying to turn it. WHAMO! The Sausage Creature strikes again."

Matthew is a college professor who teaches literature and creative writing. Over the years he became disconnected with his father Sid, who eked out a living repairing and refurbishing Vincent motorcycles. Matthew, the struggling writer and college professor didn't feel anything in common with Big Sid, the acknowleged Vincent expert. When Sid had a severe heart attack he became depressed and Matthew realized he would lose him if he didn't give him a reason to keep living.
While the Vincent had the best powerplant of it's time, the Italian Ducati was the best riding and handling machine. So the Vincati plot was hatched, find an old Ducati frame and chop it, rebuild it so it could accept a Vincent engine. It became a reason for Big Sid to keep living. The book deals with finding and rebuilding motorcycles, but primary it is about Matthew reconnecting with his father, Big Sid. There is a slick Youtube hyping the book, but I like this one better:
Disclaimer: My book has really nice personal notes inscribed from both Big Sid and Matthew. Thanks guys.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Old Five and Dimers Like Me

If it wasn't for BJS's songs, you wouldn't know Waylon Jenning's name. I still much prefer the BJS version. Too bad you can't hear it. Life is a series of day to day compromises:

The Amazing Rhythm Aces

1970s Alt Country- when Miss Lorna and I were hot stuff. Please pardon the awful graphics, particularly on Beautiful Lie. As we say in Minnesota, "Uffda, you bet that's pretty bad ya know".
(It was so bad it was impossible not be distracted and I deleted it.)

Michael Jackson

This week Michael Jackson is being touted as "THE GREATEST PERFORMER IN HISTORY!!!". Well, history is long. I'm getting older, but I still subscribe to Rolling Stone and follow current music. I have way too many records, tapes, CDs, etc - Jazz, Blues, Rock, Country, Classical, whatever. I have books on music. My point is, I guess, it's more than just background for me. It's a big part of my life. That said, I have never owned anything by Michael Jackson. I can put aside the fact that he was a creepy, pathetic little man who could not come to terms with his race nor sex. I cannot ignore the fact that to my ears all of his music was a bunch of overproduced crap. "A bunch of crap!" (imagine Peter Boyle saying it).

July 8, Morning Garden With Coffee and Camera

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lanterne Rouge: Early Results

With the retirement of Wim Vansevenant, the winner of the Lanterne Rouge for three consecutive years, we have an open field for the coveted last place Tour de France finisher. In the old days the overall last place rider actually wore a red jersey. Now that the Tour takes it's self so bloody serious (it's just a bicycle race!) the politically incorrect jersey has been retired.

It's far too early in the Tour to start picking favorites for the Lanterne Rouge, the end of the train, but right now we have Alan Perez Lezuan of Euskatel-Euskadi in 178th place "22'10" back, trailing Astana's Dmitriy Muravyev by about three minutes. While losing 22 minutes in three days is quite an achievement, Lezuan will have trouble maintaining his "lead", as he's a climbing specialist and will be forced up in the rankings when they hit the mountains. In Muravyev, who is a water carrier, a domestique, we may have a contender. A lot will depend on him not missing any cutoff times and how much his team can support him when
they have two or three Yellow Jersey contenders to also support. I know he has my support. GO DMITRIY! or is it DON'T GO DMITRIY? That's all I got for him right now.

For more on the history of the Lanterne, go here for a complete listing of past winners, or here for an ongoing discussion of this years race for last. I'll post more results if it becomes interesting - but I do miss Wim.

Yesterday's TdF Finish

Thor Hushovd rode a perfect race, tactically perfect. He worked his way up to the front as they approached the finish. When Mark Renshaw, the Highroad lead-out, pulled Mark Cavendish out front, clear of the peleton, the God of Thunder (don't you hate Phil Ligget?) was exactly where he wanted to be, sucking tight on Cavendish's rear wheel. As Renshaw pulled off, Thor wound it up with perfect timing, at exactly the right instant he shot out of the Cavendish slipstream and launched himself toward the finish line. He pulled next to Cavendish on his way by, both at top speed. Well, not exactly. Mark saw him out of the corner of his eye and simply dropped the hammer on poor Thor. He cranked it up to a speed that Thor has never dreamed of. Cavendish gained separation, then eased up as they crossed the line. This was his second Stage Win of the the 2009 Tour de France, to go with the four he picked up last year.

Who is faster, Mario Cipollini in his prime or Cavendish right now?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Walter and the Red Ribbon Ride

As Walter rolls through life he continues to shock and amaze. He is simply a great guy- a kind man and a wonderful violin player. When he's not working or playing with his String Quartet, he smokes and drinks too much and plays Finnish folk music or hot ukulele - one of his proteges being the famous "Ukulele Girl". Walt is the spawn of a tepee dweller and a professional unicyclist... which kind of explains the bicycle doesn't it? His two cats and he share an apartment with my Great-Great- Grandmother's dresser, which he is guarding with his life. Or he damned well better be!

Good luck in the Red Ribbon Ride!