Thursday, July 24, 2014

Shotgun Shacks - Relics of a Bygone Era

Driving home from Lincolnton one day I passed a group of shacks along the side of the road. They are at the intersection of  Routes 150/27 on the north side of the road. Intrigued, I turned around and headed back to take some pictures and a closer look. I got so much more for my trouble, it was worth the time.

The shacks date back to the earlier part of the 20th century, probably about 1920 or so. They were rented by the day, night or hour to people passing through. That was the story I got from the bank that sits adjacent to the shacks.

I was directed to the owner, who lives across the road on 150. She is an elderly woman and I really didn't want to bother her, valuing my own privacy as I do. So I asked two guys standing outside the Realtor Office, which is next door, about the shacks. They directed me to the Lincolnton Historical Society and gave me a contact there along with a number to call. And I just may do that. But the story they told was so good, I'm afraid that the truth might spoil it for me.

The area was known as Goodyville back then. It sits next to the town of Boger and has been swallowed up by Lincolnton over the years. It was commonly knowledge that these shacks were mainly used for drinking "white" liquor and also prostitution during the years of Prohibition.

That was all I needed to hear. My mind raced with sepia toned images of hot, sultry summer nights and ladies dressed in flapper type outfits with rolled stockings, drinking white liquor from glass jars. Maybe there was music -a radio, or perhaps a piano...

The mind is the most fertile of places. Images come and go as you drive by and stories plant themselves in your head. They take on a life of their own that nothing, not even the true story, can change.

I'll probably make that call to the Historical Society, but I'll always hold onto this little slice of life that I got driving down the road. Sometimes the truth just don't cut it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

People Who Wear Masks

People who wear masks while advocating a political point of view have always baffled me. I know that they believe in the causes they claim to support- but I have to question the wisdom of the masks. Here is a photo from today's news showing the Basque Separatists declaring a truce. I never thought of a truce as something to be ashamed of. What is so shameful about advocating for Peace?

Regarding masks in general, it would seem to me that if the cause were a just one, I would want my face to be associated with my point of view. I would take pride in my position. On the other hand, I do recognize that in some countries the mask may be necessary, especially if your views are not in sync with the repressive government with which you may be in contrast. 

But the mask does seem to take away from the perceived legitimacy of the argument. I cannot imagine George Washington or Thomas Jefferson wearing masks to obscure their identities. Because I have been raised in a free society it is hard for me to imagine the necessity of taking such measures. As a child I quickly understood that only the bad guys wore masks, with the possible exception of Zorro.

Once mask wearing begins, it doesn't stop. It snowballs into a mindset of deliberate obscurity, in which no one takes a personal stand for what they believe in. Even the Police and Military, when they don masks, detract from the honor of what they do to protect us. But given the danger of what they are up against, namely other people in masks, well, I understand that this may be necessary, although it does make me somewhat uneasy. Where does the responsibility lie when justice is obscured behind a mask?

Halloween is an appropriate use of masks, as is Mardi Gras. Here is a group of revelers in the Big Easy last year during Fat Tuesday. The masks are rather gruesome, but they are about fun, and not clandestine in nature. In my opinion, Political Views and Law Enforcement should be conducted in an atmosphere of transparency. It is only through a spirit of openness and honor that we will ever be able to face one another, and ourselves. And wouldn't that be something...?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jackie "Moms" Mabley

Jackie “Mom” Mabley was the Minnie Pearl of the old Chittlin’ Circuit. There’s only one big difference between the two; “Mom” came first by about 20 years. She appears to have hit the circuit sometime in the early 1920’s, arriving in Harlem at the height of the Cotton Club and everything else which came to symbolize a vibrant Black Renaissance; Langston Hughes, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, and the list goes on and on.

Whoopi Goldberg narrates and appears in this lovingly made documentary about the life of one of show businesses arguably most beloved comediennes. Harry Belafonte, Bill Cosby, Quincy Jones, Billy Mitchell and a host of others, all reminisce about, and add individual bits of knowledge concerning “Moms” and her sometimes not so clear biographical background.

But one thing is sure in all of their minds; this little woman with the big heart was one the most unusual, and outspoken of performers to come down the pike. And to have done this as a woman during the time period in which she lived, made the journey; let alone the actual feat; remarkable to say the least.

Raped twice and forced to give up both children, she never really had another man. She was an un-closeted Lesbian off stage; even dressing as a man and squiring beautiful young women with her wherever she went. Off stage there were no house dresses and funny hats. There were 3 piece suits and gold watch chains, with a fedora to top it off!

I first became aware of “Moms” through the magic of the Merv Griffin Show, which aired after school. She fascinated me with her stories; she told stories more than she told jokes. Her stories always touched on the human condition; as well as politics.

Here again was a woman way ahead of the curve. But armed in that housedress, with no upper teeth in her mouth, speaking from beneath a floppy hat, she could; and did; say whatever she wanted to say. Sometimes the white audiences didn't know if they were being made fun of or not. Black audiences loved her because she could say what they were thinking, and say it on the television!

“Moms” was born in Brevard, North Carolina years before many of the comedians she has influenced, right down to the present day. Arsenio Hall, Kathy Griffin, Joan Rivers, Jerry Stiller and Eddie Murphy all appear in this film to share the influence which she had upon them.

If you have never heard of “Moms” before, then you need to hit You Tube and then get this HBO biopic to catch up with the rest of the world. Here’s something to start you off;


Monday, July 21, 2014

"Dear Leader" by Jang Jin-Sung (2014)

Through his writing and poetry, Jang Jin-Sung became a member of the inner member of the Korean leader Kim Jong-il. The author explains the role he played in the constant program of propaganda that has come to define North Korea; where it is not legal to write anything unless it is state sanctioned. That includes diaries and even something as innocuous as this blog.

Writing is controlled by a central agency which assigns the subjects to be written about. Mr. Jin-Sung was good at his craft and reaped much reward for his efforts, believing that he was a perfect example of the promise of a "perfect" system of government. After all, this is what he had been told and all he had ever seen.

The author explains why poetry is often the preferred way of distributing the party line; a la Mao’s “Little Red Book.” The simple answer is economic; as there is not enough paper and ink. It is also cultural in that it is so much easier to present a bad argument as art rather than simply try and impose a new set of rules. When people think that what they are doing has cultural merit they seem to go along easier. Think of the Jews and the calming effect which classical music had upon them as they were herded into the gas chambers.

His life at the top in one of the world’s most secretive nations; as well as his subsequent decision to escape; will have you turning the next page, all the while thinking “I’ll read just one more…” A trip outside of Pyongyang opens his eyes to the truth about the leader he is serving, triggering a crisis of conscious which affects him to such a degree that he is moved to plan his escape.

But how do you escape such a repressive regime? Where do you turn to find the kindred spirits to assist you when everyone is too afraid to speak openly? And, lastly, how do you get the money and food to travel? These are the most fascinating elements of the book. The human spirit is something which lives on within even the most repressive of situations. The stories of the Holocaust and the small acts of kindness; even in the midst of genocide; inform who we really are inside. And the author has to rely on that unique trait being present in his countrymen as he makes good on his plans.

While it is true that his past life as a propaganda artist may leave you feeling a bit unsympathetic towards Mr. Jin-Sung, in some respects I could not help recall the plight of the “wikileaks” guy, Assange; as well as the NSA whistle blower Anthony Snowden. In spite of the differences in their professions, the status of the 3 men as traitors versus heroes all depends upon which side of the divide you happen to be standing. This is a very informative book. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Don't Love Me Anymore"

It’s hard to be loved when you don’t love yourself to begin with. I mean, if you can’t stand yourself, why should anyone else even try. That is one of life’s hardest lessons to absorb. 

And once you realize it; well then you have to make sure you walk that fine line between a normal, healthy ego and a crippling self-aggrandizement.

On the other hand, if you don’t learn to at least like yourself, then you could end up like the fellow in this song. He finally gets it; but it’s too late to do him any good.

EABAE

I’m sorry to say but I noticed today
not for the first time.
I know that it’s happened many times before.
With each word that I say I catch you looking away
it’s not the first time.
I’m beginning to feel you don’t want me anymore.

AEBAE

Maybe you've heard my stories once too often.
I certainly never intended to become a bore.
There’s nothing new or exciting I can offer.
I’m beginning to feel you don’t need me anymore.

The smile on your face when you leave for the day
it speaks volumes.
And tells me just how glad you are to go.
I can’t really say that I’m even surprised
or that I blame you.
I’m starting to see you don’t need me anymore.

You know the words, the words to to all the stories.
You've memorized the punch lines, and you know the scores.
And though it's easy to blame you for turning away and leaving,
I never learned how to love myself before.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Synchronicity -

I have nothing to say today; a very unusual occurrence to be sure. Most days I have something to say; although whether or not what I do say is worthwhile, or not, is for others to judge. The fact remains that I usually have something to say; just not today.

The only thing interesting to relate here is that this Norman Rockwell painting graced the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on July 19, 1930. That’s 84 years ago today. I wasn't looking for synchronicity; it found me. 

I always loved Norman Rockwell, his illustrations graced the covers of the Boy Scout magazines I got when I was younger. His pictures always told a story beyond what you saw. For instance, when I look at this one I see more than an old man fishing.

I see contentedness in his posture; the way his hands are laid across his stomach, and the way the pipe is securely held between his teeth while he slumbers. I also see the loyalty and love of his dog, who is gazing expectantly at the water, waiting for the fish to break surface so that he can bark and wake the old man. The two are a team; where one goes, the other follows faithfully. Ah, if only life were filled with such trust.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Last Photos of John Lennon and Paul McCartney Together (1974)

Note: This may not be of interest to anyone else but me.

These are the last photos ever taken of John Lennon and Paul McCartney together. They were taken in the spring of 1974. It would be 6 more years before Lennon was killed in New York. The two would meet for the last and final time in New York City in April 1976, but there are no pictures to document that visit. (That was the night when they were watching Saturday Night Live together at the Dakota.)

This first one, above, is of John and Paul at the pool of the home in Santa Monica; which was owned by RCA and loaned to Harry Nilsson as part of a recording contract. It had formerly been owned by Peter Lawford and was the house where JFK had his trysts with Marilyn Monroe.

Nilsson was letting John use the house during his time away from New York with Yoko's  assistant, May Pang. Keith Moon and Ringo Starr, both recently divorced, were also living there at the time of Paul and Linda McCartney’s visit in the spring of 1974.

This next photo is of Harry Nilsson and Paul with John; back of Linda’s head. This was the same month in which John and Nilsson had their famous brawl with the bouncers at the Troubadour. Also, during this meeting, Nilsson offered Paul some PCP which he declined on the basis that when he asked Nilsson if I was any fun the singer said, “No, it’s not.” To which Paul replied, “Well, you know what? I won’t have any.” (page 108 of “Man On the Run” by Tom Doyle - 2014)

And this black and white of John with Keith Moon and Paul and Linda was taken by Peter Butler; the color ones I am not sure of. These 3 photos are the only surviving photos from that day. They were mostly Polaroid’s and time has had its way with them. Note that in this shot John is holding one of the photos.