At the Toledo Zoo

We told the border officer at the Ambassador Bridge, en route from Windsor to Detroit, that we had planned to go to the Detroit zoo, but we might go to the Toledo one instead because we had heard that it was better. He agreed that it was. He thought that because he was a member himself. The Detroit zoo was okay, he said, but it meant a lot of walking to see not that many animals.

These are not guys that are known for chit-chat. Upon being waved through, we headed straight for Toledo, though the bridge itself empties directly into Detroit.

The hour drive down, along I-75, was not pretty. I thought of some Vietnamese friends, who had yet to master the language, describing a certain picnic at which they had all sat on the ground, as “not beautiful.” This drive was also not beautiful. Detroit went bankrupt in 2013, long-ago dethroned as Emerald City of the automobile. It is a pretty gritty place today, though the downtown itself is vibrant and we will return someday to explore more thoroughly. I-75 itself was under heavy construction. A billboard whizzed by for the Detroit Pistons; only then did it occur to me: Of course! Pistons—what else would you name the team from the motor city?

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You can see Detroit from the Windsor shoreline, a narrow strip of park. It is very pretty and the GM building dominates. Peter Lynch once wrote that the nicest thing that he could say of General Motors was that it was a terrible company—bloated and inefficient, but that was long ago. No doubt it is firing on all cylinders now. Do not say that these stone figures became such when they fled the sinking town and disobediently looked back, as though fleeing Sodom. It is a cheap shot. Don’t go there. No. This is a statue of Canadian people doing something else.

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We had spent the night in Windsor because, from upstate New York heading to Detroit, you are better served crossing into Canada and traveling “atop” Lake Erie.

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Phone service dies, because we don’t have Verizon, and you have to drive those things they have there instead of miles, but the trip is shorter. We stayed at a Best Western—it was once called the Waterfront Hotel. The next morning in the elevator someone commented on how Justin Trudeau had also spent the night there.

Could it be? The Chrysler Theater was right next door—there is even a connecting passageway—and there had been a long line wrapping around the night before. I had gone out to investigate, but I assumed it was for a music concert, as the marquis suggested. Quite a few cops were there, too, but not that many—I mean, Trump would have shut down half the city. A protester there had been shouting that Trudeau was a racist, and though it made no sense then, afterwards I found out that some college photos of him in blackface (“face-darkening make-up,” a friendly news source said) had been discovered and published by those who didn’t like him. It occurred to me that protests are pretty much the same everywhere—just plug in a fresh set of faces and you are good to go in any land.

It turned out that he had not stayed overnight. That was just rumor encouraged by the guest having seen a SWAT team. He had just been there to give a campaign speech—he was in and out. Moreover, the relatively small police presence occasioned remarks afterwards of how nice they are in Canada, how just a few cops will do for a visit from the Chief of State—you really don’t need too many—and how even the terrorists, should they feel obliged to shoot up the place, are invariably polite and apologize for the inconvenience.

My wife and I were on the final leg of our Zoo tour. We had signed up as members to the Cincinnati zoo last year so as to get in at half price; the clincher had been when they told us that we could then get into other zoos at half price. We had planned to see about 20, but life gets in the way, and we only made four: Syracuse, Buffalo, Hershey, and now, Toledo. Even Rochester, closest to where we live, we did not get to.

We did not even need our membership at the Toledo Zoo—it was senior day—“Senior Safari”—and oldsters that we are beginning to resemble were admitted free! They were trucking them in, hauling them around in golf carts, and lining them up for vendors and agencies who would pitch services to them.

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It was all sponsored by the Office for the Aging. The old people didn’t look too healthy, many of them—old age is not kind—and one of them (who did look healthy) keeled over right behind us in line for no reason at all. He suffered no injuries, fortunately, except for pride. It was a splendid day weather-wise—sun, mid-seventies, with low humidity.

They offered seniors a special deal for lunch, just five dollars per head, so of course, my wife and I signed up. I absolutely refuse to wear the “Where’s My Senior Discount?” tee shirt that some nutty friend gave me a while back, but when a bargain falls right into your lap, of course you take it. So did hundreds of others—when I saw how long the line was, I began to regret it. But it moved quickly, and once inside, we were seated at round tables of ten—with tableclothes—and waiters placed identical meals of a hamburger and a few tiny side dishes before each old person.

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And then, lo and behold, the master of ceremonies, standing before the aquarium, introduced the Contours, that Mo-Town band of the 60s! I had seen them entering from the other side of the building and had not known who they were. There may have been close to 1,000 in attendance to hear these guys. Who would have thought it? See them here on-screen, but also in person away to the left in the connecting room. They only sang four or five songs. The topper was: “Do You Love Me?”—a 1962 hit that became a hit all over again from the 1988 movie “Dirty Dancing.”

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They are still the showmen they once were. One of them exclaimed: “There’s a lot of good-looking women here!” What was he smoking? Even local realtor Sam Morreale, extrovert like you’ve never seen an extrovert, who thrives on people-contact and has done several deals for family members—I would recommend him in a heartbeat—told me that he doesn’t go to class reunions anymore because “the women don’t look so good” (as though the men do). There may have been a few good-looking women there in Toledo, but it WAS senior day, after all. One band member introduced another—I wish I could remember the names—and observed that even after all these years—even with his store-bought teeth—even with his store-bought teeth, that he got from K-Mart, he can still “really shake ‘em down.”

I love the scene from “Dreamgirls,” code name for the Supremes, where Eddie Murphy croons some song nice and bland, so as to appeal to the white people, and breaks down mid-song. “I can’t do it,” he cries. He then lets out a shriek and launches into pure funk, at which point the all-black horn section exits the bleachers and parades single file past him, joyously blowing for all they are worth. Let’s face it—modern music doesn’t really get interesting until the black musicians get their hands on it.

The Toledo zoo is rated by the Ranker.com site as the seventh best zoo in the country. Is it just a coincidence that the #2 (Columbus) and # 3 (Cincinnati) zoos are also in Ohio? As good zoos do, it intertwines people pathways with animal quarters. The former get many viewing angles—see how you can look through this aquarium and see folks on the other side?

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The animals have varied terrain and relatively spacious quarters. Probably not as spacious as Detroit, which is still in the first half of the Ranker list—after all, if you have to walk a lot to see not that many animals, it means that the animals have more space. The American Zoo Association mandates 5000 square feet for every two wild animals. When I was a boy, zoos used to be jails for animals—they have come a long way. Still, that is hardly the space that they would have in the wild, and my brother (the one who cheats at Scrabble) doesn’t like zoos for that reason. They represent one segment of humanity protecting animals from another segment that would kill them off in one way or another. I don’t know how the animals might feel about that.

Toledo used to be one of those jails for animals—most zoos were. The former gorilla enclosure literally looks like a jail, but it is now a restaurant where people come to dine behind the bars. It opened in 1993–it is called “Carnivore Cafe.” As I panned my camera, so as not to be obvious that I was honing in on a couple of diners, the woman wasn’t fooled a bit, and she began waving even before I pointed toward her—how can people be so clever? Later, when I sat back there myself, my wife exclaimed that they still do have great apes back there—see what I have to put up with?

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These days the gorillas get some revenge for their forebears being jailed. They can soak visitors if the latter happen to be standing in the wrong spot and the former are quick enough.

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And the translucent mannequin simulating how the body reacts to venoms and stings, who in this case represents just an ordinary joe cleaning his house gutters, dies after disturbing a nest of wasps! I mean, they went out of their way to have him die—ordinarily he wouldn’t have, but this fellow had a specific allergy.

The New York zoos that we went to—Syracuse, Buffalo—and we know Rochester from before—are all down near the bottom of the Ranker list. They are well done—almost all zoos are improving—and reflect people dedicated to their care, but they are smaller. Even ZooAmerica in Hershey, Pennsylvania—with a name like that we figured it must be spectacular, but it actually meant that it contained, as a refuge zoo, only animals native to North or South America—one would never describe as “bad.” Sometimes less is more, and having defined their more modest goal, they go on to do more with it.

Most zoos undertake the mission to educate as to how to be better stewards of the planet. The aquarium building had photos—they are spotted only as you are close to the exit—of just how damaging human pollution is to marine life. Some birds will feed on small discarded plastic items, filling their stomachs and causing starvation when real food no longer fits, one sign informed. And the next one of the turtles speaks for itself:

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Another exhibit of the Cassowary bird even illustrated a Bible verse for me. The creature defecates thousands of seeds that sprout and serve to repopulate the rain forest in which it resides. That called to mind the derisive title given the apostle Paul by the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, who wanted to know “what is it this chatterer is trying to say?” (Acts 17:18) Literally the word means “seed-picker” and it denotes a bird that picks up a seed here and poops it out there—it is not as though they held him in high esteem

Just as some other creature did something so amazing that I was overwhelmed with appreciation for God’s design, some evolutionist behind me exclaimed: “It seems almost a miracle that natural selection has resulted in these ingenious behaviors!” So I spun about and threw him into the lions den behind me, where he was instantly devoured, as the three Hebrew lads had not been. Look—I gave him a chance to prove survival of the fittest—don’t judge me. I admit that it was an overreaction, but I was tired of his type carrying on about how the Chinese steal intellectual property, whereas nobody steals intellectual property today more than scientists themselves. The way jet wings tip up at the extremities, the way they never used to? That comes from watching buzzards, eagles, and storks. It wasn’t the brainchild of any human, but of God. Fortunately for them, it was not patented, and God doesn’t begrudge them for copying it. But they have no right to pass it off as their own brilliant idea and not give credit where credit is due.

 

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“I Ain’t Going to Work on Maggie’s Farm no More”

I haven’t written any Bob Dylan posts for a long while, and I wouldn’t have written one today, except that the dryer broke. That meant—with my wife looking on approvingly—that I would be spending precious time hanging stupid wash on the line! It’s ridiculous!

Of course, as I was doing so, the lyrics of Maggie’s Farm came to mind:

Well, I wake up in the morning/Fold my hands and pray for rain

I got a head full of ideas/That are drivin' me insane

It's a shame the way she makes me scrub the floor

I ain’t going to work on Maggie’s farm no more.

This prompted me to investigate further in (of course) Wikipedia, where....gasp!....I discovered that the most bedrock and undisputed fact in the musical universe is, in fact, not so!

Bob Dylan rose to fame on the strength of his folk ballads. We all know that. We also all know that he reinvented himself, and has done so several times since. We all know that, at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, he was roundly booed, and we know the reason why: he went on stage with electifried sound, and the snooty purists there stuck up their nose at anything not acoustic. I mean, we all know this!

We all knew wrong! It is another “Everything You Thought You Knew About Such and Such is Wrong” headline. I am coming to think that there is no reason to accept anything anymore. If a pitch is not to your liking, just lay back like Casey and wait for one that is. Unlike Casey, you will get more than three. You will keep getting pitches until the cows come home. Just wait for one you like. Everyone else does—why should you not as well?

They booed because they didn’t like the electric guitars? No, they booed because the sound was terrible and they couldn’t hear the words! Look at what Pete Seeger (termed Dylan’s harshest critic that day) said:

“There are reports of me being anti-him going electric at the '65 Newport Folk festival, but that's wrong. I was the MC that night. He was singing 'Maggie's Farm' and you couldn't understand a word because the mic was distorting his voice. I ran to the mixing desk and said, 'Fix the sound, it's terrible!' The guy said 'No, this is what the young people want.' And I did say that if I had an axe I'd cut the cable! But I wanted to hear the words. I didn't mind him going electric.”

It was all a lie! The folk people didn’t mind him going electric that night. Someone else on the program had already gone electric and nobody had lost their cookies over it. This is just the result of some revisionist falling over himself to paint a titanic “Clash of the Cultures” when in fact there was none! “Bob’s going electric?” is more like it, “Well, what d’ya know? Wish we could hear the words.”

Now, if this is a big lie about a bedrock and undisputed fact, it must be conceded that it is not a big lie about a very important bedrock and undisputed fact. (Unless you are a musician, in which case it overshadows everything else) “Who cares?” is a reasonable reaction. However, though trivial—or maybe it is even magnified because it is trivial—it serves to illustrate the quicksand that those of critical thought stand upon as they presume to instruct those less mentally disciplined. As with the Christian ministry, the “ministry” of conveying human knowledge is carried in earthen vessels—humans. In fact, not just “earthen vessels,” but sievelike earthen vessels that leak most of the water before it ever gets to you. In fact, worse than sievelike earthen vessels that leak most of the water before it ever gets to you, but sievelike earthen vessels that leak the most of the water while various yo-yo’s are replenishing the supply with their own water, which turns out to be contaminated—so that what finally gets to you is not the real water at all.. I mean, if you can’t believe that the folk singers booed Dylan because they were elite and snooty, what CAN you believe?

This is only the beginning of the woes for ones who suppose that critical thinking will save us. For the ones steadfastly filling the leaky vessels are not the careful and wise ones, intent upon safeguarding knowledge. As often as not, they are yo-yos and liars, concocting their own version of events so as to sway viewpoints their way. Sometimes they are deliberate frauds. More often they are sincere persons truly doing their best but, since we are all molded and skewed by our own individual experiences, one must analyze in detail even the most mundane and obvious statement—in this case that the folk singers were shocked at Dylan changing the genre. With him, there is almost nothing that has been related accurately. Even his supposed leadership role as a counterculture icon is all wrong.

Are people inclined to analyze in detail even the most “mundane and obvious” statement? You know that they are not. But even when they are, the fact remains that nobody has the resources to do it—the disposable time of any given individual is very, very small. For many, it is effectively zilch. Plus, there is much to compete with that disposable time, and most often entertainment wins out over research. Stacking the odds even more is the habit of some to hide matters in a barrage of irrelevance (that is not to say that THEY regard it as irrelevance), muddying the waters, to the point where people say: “Ah, to blazes with it! They’re all liars anyway!” When this happens, as the saying goes, “the terrorists [to human knowledge] have won.”

And yet those of critical thought strut around on the world stage as though their grasp on the “facts” makes them invincible. It is as Jack Nicholson said to Tom Cruise in the movie: “You can’t handle the truth!” We leak away the true facts in no time at all, and compensate for it by tapping the minds of pillars who have also leaked away the true facts. 

Alas, “critical thinking” will not save us. It may even make matters worse, for who has not noticed that those who harp with greatest tenacity about critical thinking invariably assume that they have a lock on the stuff? One of our first conclusions as to critical thinking ought to be that we are not very good at it. Nope. It is the heart that will save us—not the head—the heart refined by spiritual principles that are true, that have emanated from a Higher Source, that have the greatest odds of mending the earthen, leaky, flawed vessels that are us.

.....

Now, as long as we are at it with my hanging clothes on the clothesline until the repairman comes—if he comes, because when this post is written I will explore fixing it myself—I fixed the dishwasher, after all, when it did not heat, so maybe the dryer will also surrender its secrets to me, even though I still remember that time decades ago when I scorched the clothes in an attempt to fix another recalcitrant dryer. At any rate, Dylan’s Clothesline Saga comes to mind (I am done with ramifications to critical thinking; read on only if you care about Dylan):

After a while we took in the clothes

Nobody said very much

Just some old wild shirts and a couple pairs of pants

Which nobody wanted to touch

Mama come in and picked up a book

An' papa asked her what it was

Someone else asked, what do you care

Papa said well, just because

Then they started to take back their clothes

Hang 'em on the line

It was January the thirtieth

And everybody was feelin' fine

 

The next day, everybody got up

Seein' if the clothes were dry

The dogs were barking, a neighbor passed

Mama, of course, she said, hi

Have you heard the news he said with a grin

The vice president's gone mad

Where? downtown When? last night

Hmm, say, that's too bad

Well, there's nothing we can do about it, said the neighbor

It's just something we're gonna have to forget

Yes, I guess so said ma

Then she asked me if the clothes was still wet

 

I reached up, touched my shirt

And the neighbor said, are those clothes yours

I said, some of them, not all of them

He said, ya always help out around here with the chores

I said, sometimes, not all of the time

Then my neighbor blew his nose

Just as papa yelled outside

Mama wants you to come back in the house and bring them clothes

Well, I just do what I'm told so I did it, of course

I went back in the house and mama met me

And then I shut all the doors.

It took me years to realize that this song is a parody of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Jo,” which dominated the charts in 1967. That song revolves around a horrible tragedy—Billy Jo jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge, and what hidden and unnamed inner torment might have caused him to do that? The event is related in the first person at a rural Mississippi dinner table, where it must compete for attention with the most banal and ordinary conversation of the adults. It is a “teenage self-pity song,” as Garrison Keillor would have put it.

In Dylan’s parody, the conversation is even more banal, and the “tragedy” is outright ridiculous:

Have you heard the news he said with a grin/The vice president's gone mad

Where? Downtown When? last night/Hmm, say, that's too bad

Well, there's nothing we can do about it, said the neighbor/It's just something we're gonna have to forget

Yes, I guess so said ma/Then she asked me if the clothes was still wet

and Bob sings it in the most laid-back and uninterested drawl that is a hoot in itself. He really is pretty clever. Alas, I can no longer find it on YouTube. There is a pretty good version of it from The Roches, but to a purist, such as I used to think they were at the Newport Folk Festival, only original will do. It may even be that the song will get increased recognition in a modern context, from political zealots, on account of it underlying tragedy: “The Vice-President’s gone mad.”

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“Rochester, I Think We’ve Got This”

“Rochester, I think we’ve got this,” said Eli Paperboy Reed, venturing opinion at the onset of rain that would drench his listeners while he stayed dry. As though to show him that the city had more to offer than rain, his mike went dead. But he didn’t miss a beat, belting his soul out as the sound tech fixed it. He is a must-see artist who deserved more than the handful of weather-proof diehards that he got. One of them hollered that he must come back, for the weather is not always like this. What had he been smoking?

Actually, it was not like this last year. The ten-day Lilac Festival was picture-perfect almost every day. What are the chances of that happening two years in a row? I had heard Rochestarians grumbling all way from god-awful 90 degrees muggy Florida the prior week, and I had said “No worries. It will all clear out in time for the festival.” What had I been smoking?

I was there, all right, for I had come prepared with blue raincoat to slip over a warm grey jacket, which also wasn’t needed when I arrived after 4. When he waved everyone in close for the final number or two, I was close enough to get a decent photo or two, even with the crummy phone camera. Mrs. Harley doesn’t come to the Lilac Festival when the weather looks surly, so I was on my own.

It took him the entire set—I mean, he really must work on timely delivery—but at show’s end, the sun did indeed begin to pierce the gloom. A half hour later, it was full sunshine for the next group, who probably didn’t even thank him. I’d never heard of they or Eli, but that is only because I don’t keep up. The devoted fan next to me was aghast at my ignorance.

Garnering attention over the last decade, Eli was named Breakthough Artist of the Year by the MOJO awards people in 2009. Anyone who savors R & B must not miss this fellow when he comes to town, enhanced by a phenomenal backup band. How can you go wrong with someone who starts his set with ‘Go Tell That Long Tongued Liar’?

http://www.elipaperboyreed.com

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At the Beatles Tribute Mr. Mustard Concert

I got my Mr. Mustard pin because I was the first to show up, with my party of four. I chatted a little with the band, not too much, just a few words, because they were tuning up and I did not want to be responsible for a lousy concert because they had failed to tune up.

I set up our chairs, and then we took off to see the other sights of tiny Honeoye, such as the spectacular view of the lake from the Harriet Hollister State Recreation area. Surely, our visiting friends would like the Mr. Mustard Beatles tribute band as much as we had 5 days before. Though the audience was to be tiny compared to the prior show in a much larger facility, I liked this concert more. It had more of a ‘hoedown’ air about it, the five guys on the town gazebo.

Honeoye concerts start surprisingly late, at 7 PM. This time of year, it means darkness falls during, and the guys soon enough said they could only see silhouettes, nothing more, so the audience should make noise, which they did. Then someone figured that waving flashlight trick with the smart phones, which many did but not me because I don’t know how to use that feature.

The second person to get a Mr. Mustard pin was a woman with a dozen years on me, no spring chicken, even more than I am no spring chicken. Whoa, you should have seen her shake it. When she got up for a second time, I checked with HQ, then with her husband who said “Go ahead, I can’t keep up with her,” and joined her in bouncing. Presently, my wife and several others all scooted up to the front and jumped in, sort of a group hop.

They don’t dress like the Beatles or pretend to be them. Their website says they have enough hair between them to make up one Beatle. The instrumentals are near perfect, and the vocal timbre is surprisingly close and seems to improve as the show goes on, as the five (not four) faithfully replay Beatles tunes old and new. They hiccupped with the opening vocals of Paperback Writer (which I should have sung because I, too, want to be one), but that was the only blemish that I heard. Got to Get You Into My Life, the only Beatles song with french horns more than made up for it. They do the flipside medley of Abbey Road. Come to think of it, though, I have never actually heard them do their namesake, Mean Mr. Mustard.

Two or three times one of the guys even did his own Ed Sullivan voice, as though he was Ed himself introducing the boys. They took note of a kid in the audience who was most attentive and for the final encore song, let him sing the lead to “When I Saw Her Standing There.” Presumably someone was ready to turn down the mike in case he stunk. Instead, he turned out to be a highlight of the show, with vocals as strong as any one of the guys. The guys are great fun, highly recommended. Most of those there are old-timers reliving the music that they grew up with. Still, the liveliest one in the dance area was a teenage girl, hopping more energetically than everyone else put together.

The meme around here, for those who know me, involves my daughter’s dog, who we care for right now, and whose purpose in life is to chase cats. The guys will not use these lyrics because the audience would stone them for it. Besides, they are mine. Still, if they offer to serve as backup, maybe someday I will sing ‘With a Little Help from You Chumps.’ (sung to the tune of ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’)

~~~***~~~

Fleas, fleas, fleas….

What would you do if I swallowed your cat?

Would you stand up and walk out on me.

Give me a break, it was juicy and fat.

You should take it not so personally.

Oh, I get by with a little help from you chumps

Please understand when I bark you should jump.

Here is a shovel – go pick up my dumps.

How do you feel when you’re left by yourself?

‘Don’t worry about it, I’ll be fine.’

What do you see on the counter or shelf?

‘I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine.’

Oh, I get by with a little help from you chumps

Please understand when I bark you should jump.

Here is a shovel – go pick up my dumps.

Do you need anybody?

I just need someone naïve.

Could it be anybody?

So long as he is naïve.

Would you believe they’ll catch on to your tricks?

‘No, I’m certain it won’t happen anytime.’

How do you know they won’t give you the slip?

‘Cause they’re stupid, and their heart is mine.

Oh, I get by with a little help from you chumps

Oh, understand when I bark you should jump.

Here is a shovel – go pick up my dumps.

Yes, I get by with a little help from you chu, with a little help from you

CHUH HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH UH UMMMMPPPPPPPS!

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'It's My Party' Plays at the CharBroil Corral

The fellow on the left (stage right) is the driving force of It’s My Party, a recreation of the all-girl groups of the 60’s. Some of the performers (it is an 8 or 9-piece backup band) are high school students, as I’m pretty sure the girl in the middle is. She stood by as I spoke with the one on the right, a college student from out-of-state. Even while working both hands, the drummer beams at the audience for long takes, as though he is P.T. Barnum, so pleased that the audience is enjoying his greatest show on earth. And they did enjoy it. By the end of the show, during which the girls had changed into new outfits (closely resembling a certain sister at the Kingdom Hall), they convincingly transported geezers in the crowd to ‘back in the day.’

 

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The group is thirty years old, and the female performers have been allowed to ‘age out’ several times so as to preserve authenticity. It is a temporary gig, and everyone knows it going in. Hopefully, those who are students get credit for it somewhere, and I said to my wife that they must be drama or music students, but when I spoke to the oldest singer it turned out that she was an economics student. Some of the performers have gone on to professional recognition. They have toured the country, which somehow came as a surprise to me given its local founder and the age of its participants.

Toward the end of the first set, the girls sashay down and invite persons of the audience to dance through a tune with them. Of course, all the guys in the audience remain firmly ensconced in their lawn chairs, for fear of their wives, as did I, but finally one old duffer whose wife had probably died took them up on it. This prompted a few children to join in also, along with their mom.

Later still, the audience was invited onto the dance stage for another number. It was an unusually docile group of bumpkins present. No one responded, save for one awkward couple who essentially leaned on each other for support so that the two-party pile would not collapse in a heap. Therefore, with plenty of space available, I led the lovely Mrs. Harley (don’t kid yourself – the woman’s a looker) up front to do the slow number and then the performers tricked us into remaining by saying they had another one. The other one was much bouncier and that is what we did – bounce. Seldom, in fact probably never, have we had such floor space to show off our moves, and the girls commended us later, I don’t think patronizingly, but you never know.

When they finished the first set and disappeared I predicted that they would emerge with new outfits. My wife took this as a no-brainer. “Oh yeah. Freshen up. Take a potty break. Have a drink. (Atypically for her: “Smoke a joint. I mean, get real.”) But it is hard to think that these girls would know how to smoke a joint if they wanted to, unlike those at the Grateful Dead tribute band that played on another occasion, where it was hard to believe that they would do anything else. Afterwards, I observed to Sienna, the economics student, that it must be strange for them to transport themselves into a much different age. I mean, these are not exactly feminist songs they are rolling out for the crowds. But she said that the music they were performing was from ‘a better time.’ Maybe she was just placating the duffers and the three collapse on each other in laughter afterwards, but it seemed reasonable to suppose that she was sincere in saying it. Even the duffers in the audience rolled their eyes at some of the corn, for they are not immune to contemporary times, even if they have not fully been molded by them.

This is the third time I have heard the group. The first time, with a different set of singers, was entirely by accident, back when I was working at the group home, and I wrote about it here:

After the meal, we drive over to the Fairport commons area - Liftbridge Park - to hang out a bit. We're in luck. Lots is happening - a classic car show and a live band. I wheel Doug near the band, an all-girl group called It's My Party, who perform songs from the early 60's, and perform them very well. They have matching outfits, just like in the 60's, synchronized gestures, and ... um...some campy 60's dialog between songs. The drummer is their producer, and their website says they have performed for 20 years. How can that be, since the singers themselves are yet high-schoolers? Ah, the producer has been around that long, and maybe some of the backup musicians, of which there are 8 or 9 - are some of them high-schoolers, too? The girl singers have been replaced once or twice.

Many in the audience are older folk - revisiting their youth, one suspects - and after the show, a woman remarks on the lankiest singer's long limbs. "Yeah, it's hard to get clothes," the performer replies. Actually, I thought she said it's hard to get close. That would fit too, for the trio accentuate their songs with 60's cheerleading gestures, arms flailing like windmills.

Doug is captivated by all this. You want to leave? I ask after a few songs. Slight but emphatic shake of the head no. You want to stay? Slight but emphatic shake of the head yes. You want one of their CDs? Yes. So we wait in the lineup, which really isn't wheelchair accessible, and they sign his copy with hugs and kisses - xxooxxoo. Of course, Doug solicits actual hugs and gets them from the girl or two closest to him. Backing out, he keeps it up and gets several more hugs from other girls....you know...girls in the audience, girl friends of the singers, and so forth!

Back at the home I write up a report - they like to keep track of social progress and "if it's not documented, it didn't happen." I tell about all the hugs and conclude with the question: "How does he do that?" I mean, it's not as though anyone offered to hug me. You don’t think I need hugs, too?

Though you cannot see him at all, positioned behind the middle singer as he is, the male guitarist had the most clear voice and playing for covering tunes such ‘Our Last Kiss’ whilst the girl singers wailed accompaniment. Garrison Keillor called such songs ‘teen-age self-pity songs’ and it is not hard to see why:

“The squealing tires, the busting glass, the painful screams that I heard last…

Well, when I woke up the rain was pouring down,

There were people standing all around.

Something warm running in my eyes,

But I found my baby somehow that night.

….She said ‘Hold me darling for a little while,’

I held her tight, I kissed her our last kiss,

I found the love I knew I would miss..”   and so forth.

Keillor responded with his own ‘dad self-pity song’ in which ‘the car slid through the mud, they heard a sickening thud. “Oh, Daryl,” Janie cried, “Is it bad?” “Yes,” he choked back tears, “it is my mom and dad.”

Daryl cradles his dying daddy’s head to hear this last words….and it is the same drivel that the old man said when he was healthy, matters pertaining to going to college and getting a good education, but also matters more mundane, like changing the oil every 3-4000 miles, and ‘when you go into the fridge to pour yourself some milk, don’t open a new container. Pour from the one already opened.’

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You Have to Support Your Local Buskers; You Just Have To

Summer is concert time in the city, and two days after the Skycoasters event by the shore, I went to one at the Public Market Friday eve. The public market gains in visibility each year; the city has lately poured some money into it, and starting mid-July through August, there is a series of free concerts (bring your own chair, and you can only bring in a bottle of water before resorting to the venders) called 'Bands on the Bricks.'

I got my timing mixed up and arrived when the AC/DC tribute band, Bonfire, was playing, so I had to sit though them. Don't misunderstand; it is not that they were bad - they were very good. It is just not my g-g-generation. The Led Zeppelin tribute band, Kashmir, is what I'd come to see. My wife had stayed home. Zeppelin is not her thing.

Isn't AC/DC an example of the "heavy metal" that Witnesses used to carry on about, along with rap? (so it was clear no one was playing racial favorites) They petered off on that per se, perhaps because, as my son told me, those genres mutated into other names and they still were saying 'heavy metal' and 'rap,' dating themselves with the kids and thereby making themselves look a little silly. Nowadays they just say 'inappropriate' entertainment. They never named any specific groups. They probably never knew any by name.

I dutifully scowled throughout the heavy metal AC/DC session, until the Led Zeppelin tribute band appeared, which was only slightly less heavy. In fact, THEY probably represented the greater slide into decadence, and AC/DC was just one more step. I didn't really frown for either one. A 30-year-old was holding his toddler son aloft, bouncing him to the music, and I said, "Yeah, train that boy right!" What are you going to do?

For that matter, it was thought to be the Beatles by my folks, who raised an uproar when I started to grow my hair long like theirs. My 'long hair' was laughably short by today's standards (though it later grew longer still), but Pop was raised on a farm and was familiar with the concept of shearing animals. As a young dad, he purchased a set of clippers and sheared his kids the same way, though they were barnyard animals, leaving just an upright tuft of hair front and center, like a hood ornament. Deviating even a little from that pattern was giving in to the decadant Beatle influence.

Or maybe it was Elvis. After all, HE was 'Elvis the pelvis,' not any of the Beatles.

Leaving a little before the crowds, I encountered a busker playing away on his guitar with his dog laying at his feet. I told him he had put his greatest fan to sleep and bid him a good night. I had only walked twenty feet, when I doubled back and dropped a buck in his hat. You have to support the musicians, you just have to; they play their hearts out. "Yeah, we can use it," he said, and I continued on.

57B9A82B-8FD5-4D8A-B02E-00DD2FA4EEF5Boys night out at the Led Zeppelin tribute concert.

 

C5CBBAFE-580B-4DBF-A39E-33D3343162A3Sometimes, for lesser volume, you hang out off to the side, behind the food guys.

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Skycoasters on the Lake


After the umpteenth costume change into garbs alternately goofy and gaudy, my wife paid the Skycoasters band singer the ultimate compliment. "I have to go home and watch Dr. Who, because this guy reminds me of him." At the time he was wearing LED lit lapels, as were flanking band members in lights of different colors, having just lost his sharkhead hat. There was pentup demand for the Wegman's concert by the shore. Two weeks ago it was cancelled due to rain, one week ago due to obscene heat. Wegman's mans the food tent and passes on the instinct to make profit. Hog dogs are two bucks, and other items are reasonable. I like Wegmans. Most here do.

It is the brilliant name that seals the place of Skycoasters as Rochester's premiere party band. They might win the crown in any event, but the name clinches the deal. It recalls the L-shaped wood roller coaster of Roseland Park on the shore of Canandaigua Lake, a park that existed long ago, and is now townhouses. You used to have to drive through the darkened country to get there. Today, all is one great suburb in between.

The band has been playing 50 years. They were hawking a CD of their songs, apparently with one from their first ever concert at Brighton high school in 1968. No, I was not there. I was at a different high school. They also sent someone through the audience with a hat, announcing that not all expenses were covered, and asking persons not to be stingy. This is something I have not seen before at a sponsored concert. However, it was sort of like Jehovah's Witnesses (who nonetheless do not pass hats or plates): people look around themselves, feel they obviously are getting much value for very little money (in the case of the concert, none at all), and are mostly willing to chip in something. After all, it is a nine-piece band with a significant support team and seemingly endless props.

I am practically the only Jehovahs Witnesses who has attended the Theocratic Ministry School AND the meetings of Toastmasters, since the two are essentially similar. But I was a little bit grumbling over some things at the time, and when the Toastmasters events came up my wife and I would skip the meeting at the Kingdom Hall. After my first Toastmasters talk, the moderator said: "Either you are a born natural or you have done this before." In the local chapter was the Skycoasters public relations person (I think that's what he was) brushing up on his public speaking skills. It is a curious side effect of theocracy that most of Jehovah's Witnesses can speak publicly with minimal fuss, whereas the prospect of public speaking terrifies the average person.

A co-worker of the time kept inviting me and other employees to the Toastmaster meeting. He was almost evangelical about it, as though one could be saved there. In a sense, he counted himself saved. He was painfully shy and he credited Toastmasters with making him less so. Several co-workers attended once or twice. My wife and I stayed for the longest interval, but when we finally drifted, this fellow was a bit put out, almost as though we were going apostate.

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I Didn't Know it When Lynard Skynard Went Down

Forty years ago their plane went down, killing six. I didn't know it at the time. It was during my righteous period when I was not listening to music. But in the years since I have heard song after song that I have liked, starting with 'Sweet Home Alabama,' only to find it is one of theirs.

My righteous period lasted nearly 20 years. It didn't end until my kids reached the age where they wanted to attend concerts like their friends and I wasn't too happy about it. But I realized you cannot stop lava and so I gave in, with the stipulation that I would go along too. The first concert was Weezer. Everyone held their hand out in line to get stamped, so I held mine out too. "You don't need a stamp," the attendant said - I little disrespectfully, I thought. So I shot back: "Aren't there any grownups here?" Oh, yeah, the boy was thrilled to have me along. But I rather liked Weezer, or at least I did not dislike them.

I used to play a game with my kids which, in hindsight, was a little sick, but the purpose was noble and I think ultimately successful. I didn't want them idolizing any band members, so we would play: 'How did they die?' Was it suicide, overdose, or plane crash? It's amazing how long that game can be played.

Lynard Skynard wins hands down, though Badfinger gets runner up. The lead singer hung himself. The group disbanded and some went back to laying carpet. Years later they regrouped with a new lead singer ... and he also hung himself! The fate the second group, however, and the existence of the first group, I only discovered after my righteous period had ended.

Lynard Skynard had just released the album 'Street Survivors' when their plane went down. The cover pictured the group standing before a wall of flames. Someone prevailed upon the record company to take the flames out and substitute a plain black background. The surviving members were ever a mess and some met their end through overdose. The band still survives with but one original member.

Removal of the flames from the album cover was for symbolic reasons. Strictly speaking, it was not necessary. There were no flames in the plane crash - the plane had run out of fuel. You would almost think someone would check on something like that before takeoff. It is a fine reason not to be stoned. Lynard skynard

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She Listens to Rap all Day and Heavy Metal all Night

When my wife applied to regular pioneer, she was unprepared for the question about objectionable - or is it unsuitable for a Christian? - music. Never one to blow things away, she answered that she does listen to it sometimes. "Well," she explained later to some elders, "if the Beach Boys come on and sing 'Wouldn't it be nice to live together,' I do not turn off the radio. This appeared to satisfy them. "We've never had someone answer this way," they said, looking befuddled.

On the night that her appointment was announced, I approached those elders. "You're making a big mistake! How can you allow her privileges?! She does nothing but listen to rap all day and heavy metal all night! I expected you brothers to straighten her out!"

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What Sayeth Bob Dylan About Social Justice? - Nothing!

 It happened like clockwork for forty years. Bob Dylan would release an album and the aging flower children critics would say: “What does Bob Dylan have to say about social injustice?”

The answer was always the same: Nothing.

The man who wrote the injustice and youth rebellion anthems of a generation did so only because the market was eating up that stuff at the time. It was never his cause and he was never rebellious. “I latched on,” he said, “when I got to New York City, because I saw (what) a huge audience there was. I knew I wasn't going to stay there. I knew it wasn't my thing. ... I became interested in folk music because I had to make it somehow."

This is too rich—all the flower children revolutionaries swooning over a messiah who never wanted to save, who wrote what he did for purely mercenary reasons. And all of their own ‘prophets’ so woefully falling short in their own powers of expression. At its core, surely it shows the ‘generation of love’ to be little more than a facade.

It backfired on Dylan. He actually got stuck with being the king of people he didn’t especially care for—just like the people trying to make Jesus king and he evaded their grasp. Dylan wasn’t so adept. "I had very little in common with and knew even less about a generation that I was supposed to be the voice of," he writes in his autobiography. "Whatever the counterculture was, I'd seen enough of it," He grumbles on about being "anointed as the Big Bubba of Rebellion, High Priest of Protest, the Czar of Dissent." Instead, he writes that he wanted “to have a house with a white picket fence and pink roses in back, live in East Hampton with his wife and pack of kids, eat Cheerios and go to the Rainbow Room and see Frank Sinatra Jr. perform!”

Despite the most obvious lack of social interest content, flower children are not easily dissuaded. Dylan’s lyrics are complex. They would tease something out of each album so the singer remained the messiah. He got fed up with it at one point and deliberately wrote horrible stuff to throw them off track. “I wrote that,” he said of one dog, “to get the hippies off my lawn.”

While critics held their breath searching for social justice themes, what was Dylan singing? How about ‘Don’t Ya Tell Henry?’


Yeah, I went down to the whorehouse the other night
I was lookin' around, I was outta sight
I looked at a horse and I saw a mule
I looked for a cow and I saw me a few
They said, "Don't ya tell Henry
Don't ya tell Henry
Don't ya tell Henry
Apple's got your fly"

Several verses of catching people in embarrassing predicaments. In each case, they plead: ‘Don’t ya tell Henry.’ Who was Henry? I haven’t a clue, but can it not be connected with another Dylan song of the same time – ‘Please, Mrs. Henry?’ also vaguely off-color, though nothing specific. Just a frolicking romp of a drinking song:


Well, I've already had two beers
I'm ready for the broom
Please, Missus Henry, won't you
Take me to my room?
I'm a good ol' boy
But I've been sniffin' too many eggs
Talkin' to too many people
Drinkin' too many kegs
Please, Missus Henry, Missus Henry, please
Please, Missus Henry, Missus Henry, please
I'm down on my knees
An' I ain't got a dime


Well, I'm groanin' in a hallway
Pretty soon I'll be mad
Please, Missus Henry, won't you
Take me to your dad?
I can drink like a fish
I can crawl like a snake
I can bite like a turkey
I can slam like a drake
Please, Missus Henry, Missus Henry, please
Please, Missus Henry, missus Henry, please
I'm down on my knees
An' I ain't got a dime


Now, don't crowd me, lady
Or I'll fill up your shoe
I'm a sweet bourbon daddy
An' tonight I am blue
I'm a thousand years old
And I'm a generous bomb
I'm t-boned and punctured
But I'm known to be calm
Please, Missus Henry, Missus Henry, please
Please, missus henry, missus henry, please
I'm down on my knees
An' I ain't got a dime


Now, I'm startin' to drain
My stool's gonna squeak
If I walk too much farther
My crane's gonna leak
Look, Missus Henry
There's only so much I can do
Why don't you look my way
An' pump me a few?
Please, Missus Henry, Missus Henry, please
Please, Missus Henry, Missus Henry, please
I'm down on my knees
An' I ain't got a dime

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