Truth

Preservation Hall, Welllfleet, Massachusetts
Preservation Hall, Welllfleet, Massachusetts

Truth has neither fear nor doubt, 

Truth has patience to wait.

I have been thinking about truth a lot recently. Actually I guess I have been thinking about the lack of truth, the bending of truth, and the fear of truth lately. Or maybe I am thinking about alternate facts, I’m not entirely sure. Yes that last one comes from the headlines, but it speaks volumes about where we are now and how the truth is seemingly less important than ever. Which should frighten us all.

I remember taking an Economics course in college and the professor saying once that no two economists will ever exactly agree on anything. Having at one stage of my life watched those Sunday morning news programs and seen economists debating, that adage is accurate! But it seems that in some circles now we have allowed the truth to suffer and deteriorate.

We have moved to a place where some no longer believe what were once solid principles. Science and History have increasingly come under attack with revisionism. In that light,  maybe the Cubs didn’t actually win the World Series last year. Maybe Thriller isn’t the top selling album of all time. Maybe the dodo bird isn’t extinct. Of course those are what we might call indisputable truths, but then again, I never thought I would believe some people saying today that the earth doesn’t actually revolve around the sun, or that the Holocaust never happened either. Yet some people believe that. Continue reading “Truth”

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Photo Shuffle-Sitting On The Porch

I pressed play on my Ipod and this is what I heard…I’m Gonna Sit On The Porch & Pick On My Old Guitar By Johnny Cash

Have A Seat

Have you ever noticed that in moments of stress and bad news people are often told,   “Better take a seat”? Or conversely with good news the same words are usually spoken. I am not exactly sure why that is. The knot that inevitably forms in the stomach feels the same regardless of the option. On the other side of that are those moments you feel you need to just have a seat somewhere and look out at the world around you. That might be looking out at the ocean while sipping a nice drink, enjoying the breeze to the sound of the waves crashing in a repetitive and calming pattern . Or maybe on a bench in the park people watching-families strolling by, dogs pulling their owners, bicycles whizzing by, seniors shuffling along, couples holding hands. Perhaps it is even just sitting on your own bit of space at home, contemplating the weather/politics/money/health/work or whatever happens to be on your mind.

I have experienced all of the above situations of course, but as I have written about in other posts, the little balcony in our apartment now allows for lots of time for me to think about all sorts of things. It really helps to have that sort of space available to us. Now that the weather is getting nicer I look forward to being out there again. And occasionally I do what Johnny Cash sings about in this song-ponder things and strum my guitar (badly in my case!)

In an earlier post I wrote about buying the complete Columbia Records collection of Johnny Cash-all 62 albums in total, packaged in one convenient box. I knew I would return to his music at some point here because of that wealth of music. I’m just surprised it took this long for one to pop up in my Photo Shuffles! I like to think that everything I just wrote about is something Johnny himself pondered as he wrote the song. Those moments where you catch yourself daydreaming a little bit. Your mind drifting through a sea of ‘What If’s and ‘What would happen’ types of scenarios. As I continue to  absorb all the music that comes from such a large source, I remain amazed by the ideas the man had as a songwriter. As I have delved deeper into his catalog in the last few years I began realizing that many of his own song ideas seem to stem from those moments of just sitting down and watching the world go by around him. His music continues to  ring true for me on so many levels and I am glad it popped up again for a Photo Shuffle today!

Where do you like to have a seat to think about things?

I’m Gonna Sit On My Front Porch & Pick On My Old Guitar-Written By J. R. Cash

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My Four Seasons-Summer

MATURITY

“I’ve been everywhere”

Continuing on from yesterday’s blog, if spring time represents our birth and growth in life, then summer is a continuation of that growth, as we mature and become stronger as people and learn more about the world.  It is also when real life issues inevitably start to intrude. Things become real. But it is also the time we probably have the most fun in our lives. As I mentioned in the introduction, this series has become more autobiographical than I had imagined originally. In previous blogs I have touched on some of the years I would consider to be part of “my summer.” For that reason I will touch on some of the times I have not already mentioned. It covers a pretty large span of years as a result, from pre-teen all the way up to my early thirties before it all came crashing to a halt as you will soon discover. Summer in my mind is full of exuberance, dumb mistakes (that somehow remain good memories for some reason), figuring stuff out, and lots of laughs and good times.

When I was thinking of the markers to set for my own timelines in these Four Seasons blogs, I spent a good week or so reconstructing the key periods in my life. Though the actual teen and college era years might seem like the logical place to start for summer, I have pushed it back slightly further. More specifically to the summer of 1979 when I turned 11. That was the summer that Clan Doyle undertook their greatest adventure-a 5 week long summer drive across country and back. Though there was no Wally World as a prize at the end (for fans of the Vacation films), there were numerous prizes in exploration of this vast and varied country. We set out once school let out for the summer which interrupted the best Little League season I ever had. Yes, I estimate I was batting an average of .195, which for my readers around the world who may not know much about baseball translates to being abysmal! I do remember filling in at third base for one game where I promptly mimicked the great defensive playing of New York Yankees great Graig Nettles, guarding the line against the line drive and making spectacular Nettles patented instant replay worthy (in my mind) plays diving for the ball and protecting against an extra base hit. Again, apologies to my non-baseball watching readers but it was the pinnacle of my achievements in the sport I love best and I am damn proud of it. Sadly I was not drafted by the Yankees and my baseball career was soon over.

Forgive me, I digress. So in that sultry summer of 1979, Mom and Dad, together with my two sisters piled into the  Ford LTD station wagon for five weeks travelling across America. Much planning had gone into the trip before we left and there were lengthy discussions and disappointment when people’s choices would have to be bypassed. So sad as we were that there would be no Colorado or Pacific Northwest, no Montana or Yosemite, we still saw a lot of great places. Chicago and up to South Dakota through the wonders of the Badlands, before moving on to the Black Hills where we stayed in a cabin by a lake near Mount Rushmore. Then on to Yellowstone and the Tetons in Wyoming and the unforgettable town of Emblum, Wyoming, population 10. From there it was on to Salt Lake City and across the desert to Reno, Nevada before spending about 2 weeks in California. Starting in Sausalito and San Francisco and winding our way down to Los Angeles and San Diego, with stops along the way to see the Redwood forest, and Disneyland.

Eventually we moved on to Arizona, passing through Yuma (the hottest place I have been in my life, I believe it was something like 115 in the shade…in the late afternoon) and on to the wonders of the Grand Canyon. Then on through the unique colors and landscape of New Mexico and the gradual race to home passing through parts of Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and on home. Through all those travels there were only two mishaps with the car that I can recall. When all was said and done the five of us made it through inevitable family strife, long miles of driving and cheap motels, unique and beautiful landscape, encounters with buffalo, tourist kitsch (“Stop at Wall Drugs in 40 miles. Wall Drugs coming up in 10 miles…and so on), amusement parks and California ocean, Native American creativity and more long miles we finally arrived home to New Jersey.

All those long miles made for a long list of cities and towns to circle on a map. When we were back home I think we tried to trace the journey made with a continuous line colored with marker. From New Jersey across to the west and back, passing through towns like Gary Indiana, St. Paul Minnesota, Albuquerque New Mexico, Amarillo Texas, Little Rock Arkansas, and hundreds more. I doubt I heard Hank Snow’s classic song “I’ve Been Everywhere” (which is itself adapted from Australian songwriter Geoff Mack’s original version) on that trip, but for my money it is the benchmark of an American travelling song as it rattles songs off from east to west and north to south. Which is surprising since Hank Snow was originally from Nova Scotia, Canada. I am pretty sure I did eventually hear Snow’s version of it in my 20’s, but it wasn’t until I heard Johnny Cash sing it on the album Unchained, part of the American Recordings series that it really resonated with me.

If you go back to Part 11 of this blog you can read about my own history with Johnny Cash, but to sum it up quickly here if you have not read that particular blog, Johnny’s music never really did anything for me until those American Recordings came out. I’ve Been Everywhere closes out the Unchained album, and even though Johnny had performed it many times before, this version is by far the best. When I had my a ha! moment with the importance of Johnny Cash’s music, this song quickly became one of my favorites. It was then that I began equating it with that summer of 1979 and that car journey, so I feel it is a fitting choice for the start of my ‘summer.’ Of recognizing the world surrounding me and trying to come to grips with the differences that were not quite so different when you really got down to it. I have not been everywhere yet, but I sure as hell will give it try someday.

 

Continue reading “My Four Seasons-Summer”

Soundtrack Of A Photograph, Part 11

Boom-Chicka-Boom That Train, Man

 

“I hear the train a-coming, it’s rolling around the bend”

  A couple of months ago I was thinking about a great series of children’s illustrated books I used to own when I was young and they sprang to mind again when thinking about ideas for this edition of The Soundtrack Of A Photograph.  They were written in the late 1950’s- early 1960’s by Elizabeth Cameron, illustrated by George J. Zaffo and published by Grosset & Dunlap. They were about different forms of transportation, so there was The Big Book Of Ships and Boats, of Real Trucks, of Real Fire Engines and of Real Trains, and I proudly owned all of them. What made them so memorable were the illustrations, which showed them in action getting all dirty and used as they were meant to be, rather than as shiny museum pieces. They were also incredibly detailed and had no doubt been researched thoroughly. In terms of subject matter, what more could a young boy want to read about than trains and trucks and ships. I hesitate to say I favored one over the others, but for some reason the one about trains really stuck with me the most over the years because, let’s face it, at that age most boys still had dreams of being a train conductor, and I suppose I was no exception

 

 

It was also probably because it covered everything from noisy steam locomotives on to diesel and electric, and all the cars you might see on either a freight or a passenger train in between. At the bottom of each set of pages there was a small gray sketch of the line of a train from left to right and whatever car was featured on that particular page was highlighted in black. There were also some great illustrations of long winding trains through the mountains that from an artistic standpoint were very well executed. These were not illustrations that were made to look cute but instead almost bordered on the technical. That I can still picture them in my mind after all these years speaks to how well done they were in fact.

 

“Well listen to the jingle, hear the rumble and the roar,

As she glides along the woodlands, through the hills and by the shore”

The Moodna Viaduct, Salisbury Mills NY

 

I think another reason why The Big Book Of Real Trains was so memorable is because when I was growing up, I could still see most of the types of trains and train cars featured in the book (with the exception of steam locomotives), as well as the legacy of a once booming industry. In all directions outside of New York City there was then as now passenger trains bringing suburbanites back and forth from the city each day to work. Of course along with the commuter trains we also have the subway trains in the city as well. But when I was young, you could still see freight trains once or twice a day coming through the town, often quite long ones at that. You might be in the car being shuttled somewhere after school when those gates at the intersection would come down and there was nothing for it but to sit it out and wait. You would know how long that wait might be by the number of locomotives at the front. If it was only one, you knew it was going to be a short wait. But if it was two or three, you knew it would be a good while before you saw that Caboose come snaking past and the gates went back up. Kids would drive their parents crazy by counting out how many cars went past while the parents no doubt wondered why wherever they had to be was on the OTHER side of the tracks. The thing I remember being fascinated by, and because most of the companies still existed then, was the mix of names of the different train haulers you might see going past. The locomotive might say New York Central, but the boxcars going past might say Burlington Northern, Erie, Norfolk & Western, or B&O among others.

Years later when I heard about that uniquely British pursuit known as trainspotting I thought it an odd contrast how for them it seemed to be a fascination about the engines themselves, particularly the steam engines since they often had unique names or designations. They spent hours writing them down in their little books with great interest as if it were the rarest bird in the world.  I could not imagine anyone obsessing about things like gradients and gauge, timing or signaling.  For me though it was about seeing those different names from all over the U.S. and all the different types of cars there were. You had the boxcars of course, then you had the liquid storage cars with all sorts of valves and dials all over them. Often those cars were destined for a plant just up the road from my house growing up, where the tracks met a junction from the main line and the cars were rolled directly into the plant. There were the hoppers filled with materials from quarries. Then you had the flatbeds which either had heavy industrial equipment on them, or what I recall more of were those that were hauling tractor trailers on them, which was called piggyback. Every few towns near where I grew up there would be a local depot where some of those trailers would be unloaded and brought to local merchants.

 “Train, train, train, you’re fading from the scene,

But you’ve had your days of glory”

 

Continue reading “Soundtrack Of A Photograph, Part 11”