Saturday, February 17, 2007


We are trying to get Mama C's house empty so we can either rent it or sell it, thus increasing her income for the years ahead, as her need for care increases.

Part of the process has been for her to give each of us items that should stay in the family for one reason or another. My sister got some china. My brother got Papa C's old tool chest--an old wooden chest--not a Sears and Roebuck tool chest filled with Craftsmen tools. Dad was a machinist and these are specialized tools that none of us could ever use. But it's a part of him. The first time I opened it after Papa C died, I was surprised to find three pictures fixed inside: one of Mama C, one of Pamela C, and one of his pal Clarence Matthews.

Clarence is a story unto himself--he has reached legendary status in our family and I would need my Papa C here to embellish the stories with dialog and other details.

But, I digress.

I got the piano. Mama C's upright piano. Right now, it sits in my living room near the sliding glass door, but well out of the way of incoming sun. Atop center sits old clock that, the last time I heard, sounded the time increasingly out of tune with each passing hour. Next to that, I have a framed photo of Mama and Papa dashing out of the church on their wedding day, their faces alight with smiles and youthful energy. To the left of the clock is my Oscar Schmidt uke and the last portrait of Papa C taken by Mama C's cousin Jimmy Rose.

There is another picture I am tempted to dig out and put on it--one of a young Mama C as a teenager sitting at the same piano in her parents home. The same clock is there--as is a bust of Beethoven. This is from her days as a young singer of local notoriety. The piano still looks new, as does she.

The piano I have still has a fine tone. But it looks a little worse for the wear. Along its once-perfect smile of a keyboard, one key sits broken like a missing tooth. The tapestry that once protected the insides from dust is torn (I don't know what this is called, but it is tacked behind the carved face board of the piano and was once made of beautiful fabric. I've googled for images that might show you what this looks like, but can't find any).

I made many of those tears as a small child. I imagine I found and imperfection and began exploring it. In spite of Mama C's pleas to leave it alone, I still explored the tears when I found myself alone with the piano. Why? The same reason I drew on the newly painted walls of my bedroom or ate the paper wrapping from the cupcakes Mama C bought from the Helms Bakery truck.

So, while I don't play the piano, it is a part of my history.

While most of the memories of Mama C accompanying herself on piano blend together into one, two stand out for me. The first comes from my childhood, when Billy C was a tween and I was probably in 5th grade. I think Papa C and Billy C were arguing over something--hair, friends, whatever. 'Midst the din, Mama C inexplicably started playing loudly and singing a song hymn and when she got to the refrain, got up and patting Papa C's chest, sang loudly "Bless this house firm and stout!" Or something like that.

The other was right after Papa C died. She was sitting alone in the living room (I was in the den), playing a song they had heard when they went through Marriage Encounter together.

Friday, February 09, 2007

More Reflections on Patti Smith's "The Jackson Song"

Vivage had mentioned that she first heard this song when she was prego with Blowhard Canary. That's when I heard it too, while I lived in their house with them. Billy C had a radio show on a local college station. I rarely listened to it on my car radio because the reception was iffy. But I did one time while driving around UCR shortly after the child prodigy's birth and just caught the end of this show, where Billy dedicated this song to his new infink son.

I think now that it might need a female voice singing the lead (Princess?) with the boys' lush harmony wafting in the background. There's a line about seeing a hero's wing and thinking of daddy followed by a line about a nestled wing and thinking of mommy that just sounds better coming from a female.

I supposed you could juggle that part around somehow, if you had to. Plus, there are plenty of songs out there written and sung by men where the persona is a woman.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Now to Change the Subject

How do you like my Google upgraded blog?

UF recently advised me not to be so dependent on tabs and songbooks, but to just listen to my heart and let the chords of new songs find their way there or some complicated sappy metaphysical crap like that.

But, hey, I think it works. I've got two new tunes that I am figuring out based on his advice.

Do had suggested a song, "Tiki Torches at Twilight" by David Lindley and, when I tried to get it on, I couldn't find it. So I just bought it on I tunes (both the David Lindley version and the Petty Booka version) and just listened. Then, I began to sing along and figure where it was in my vocal range and, relative to that, I think I got most of the chords figured out.

Then, I got a hankerin' to learn a Patti Smith tune, "The Jackson Song." But Chordie was also pretty chintzy with Patti Smith tunes. I found this odd, because awhile back I'm sure I found a load of Patti Smith tunes on some guitar tab site and now I found chordie was packing light, as was every other tab site I could find. Dunno. Funny thing: One of the Patti Smith tunes was actually the Patti Smyth tune "Good-bye to You." I thought the Chordie guys were hipper than that.

Anyway, I did the same thing with that song--more easily, because I am more familiar with Patti Smith's work and know kind of where her vocal range is and what chord progressions she uses a lot. So I am a little pleased with myself tonight.

Anyway, I want to learn "Tiki Torches." I think "The Jackson Song" would be a good Canary song with Billy C on the lead because he's a father and with Blowhard and me coming in with some fine harmonies (and Princess as well?).

Those of you who are thinking what the F**K! Patti Smith? Harmonies? Listen to this song. It's on the Dream of Life album.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Mighty Wind

I've told most people this story, but those of you who don't live around here shouldn't be cheated.

My friend PJ's mother died just before Christmas. They held off on the memorial service until shortly after the holidays.

Like my friend Do, PJ's family does not adhere to tradition when it comes to celebrating a life. Where Do and her family take a musical approach, PJ and his family prefer a lot of speaking. A harpist provided music and PJ's vegan friend Dick provided guitar and raspy singing, but testimonials ruled the day.

Cut to the chase: As PJ closed the memorial, he asked that we all stand for a moment of silence in honor of his mother--that we pray, meditate, or just think of our favorite memory of his mother. Just as the crowd fell silent, someone released a hushed but potent fart--loud enough for only a few of us to hear. I looked up and met the startled gazes of four or five others--all of whom immediately averted their eyes back into meditation mode. I felt the urge to giggle, but suppressed it.

PJ ended the moment by saying "Now we hope you hold your memories of Mom gently in your heart."

Again, as if paid to do this on cue, the phantom farter released again.

This time, I kept my head bowed and I chuckled quietly. I couldn't help it.