Friday, September 11, 2020

Slowing Down, Looking Back and Moving Forward

 

DUKES FANS:

Slowing Down, Looking Back and Moving Forward

  Benefits of Going Slow:

      We are in the 6th month of our COVID induced shutdown and lockdown, and it has undeniably been hard in so many ways for so many of us. Some of us have either had the virus or have had relatives, friends, neighbors and more who have been affected by it. Some of us have experienced deaths of people close to us from the virus, and there is no way of getting around the pain of that, especially when ZOOM and SKYPE funerals these days vastly outnumber live and in person ones.  If we have a relative in a nursing home, hospital or care facility we are probably not able to physically be with them. If we have friends, family, lovers, partners, or close colleagues who live away from us, we may not be able to see them except on screens. And if we have family living with us in the same dwelling, many of us have had to slowly and sometimes painfully learn a new definition of what “family”means.

   Yes, these changes are here and real, and they have affected every aspect of our lives. It has been hard to deal with in so many ways, and I hope we are all finding ways to cope. But it has also brought some unexpected benefits and rewards. For may of us life has slowed down a lot, so we are looking at things differently and paying attention to things we used to either ignore or only notice in a half-hearted, cursory way. Health, cleaning and safety items such as masks, sanitizer and first aid kits have jumped in consumer spending, of course during this time and that makes sense. But so have hand held toys and board games. Kids are jumping rope, playing jacks, doing hopscotch, and playing catch. Families and neighbors are actually sitting around a table and taking the time to play Clue and Monopoly and Battleship, and maybe even talk to one another and joke and have conversations with one another. Binocular and bird food sales have sky-rocketed as more people take note of the birds in the yard and around the neighborhood. And in online schools, science classes have been focusing on nature in ways few of them had before. A lot of people have taken up online meditation or yoga, or visiting museums online, or learning an instrument, or biking, Many people are also trying new recipes, hiking, re-decorating and even reading actual hand-held books. For many of us this slowing down has given us the opportunity to take in some new things and to look at parts of our lives in a new, deeper way. For me, my life has slowing down has taken me back to some important and revelatory things about myself.

  A couple of weeks ago I mentioned in a newsletter the re-discovery of my old playlists from my teaching days and the joy of delving back into those recordings. I am still doing that and totally enjoying it. Yesterday I listened to 2 of my favorite Geoff Muldaur cuts on one playlist from his wonderful CD, The Secret Handshake. The songs, Chevrolet/Big Alice and Alberta feature horn sections arranged by the great tuba, sax  player and bandleader Howard Johnson, Listening to those 2 songs suddenly reminded me of the great Taj Mahal live double CD with Howard Johnson’s band and arrangements, The Real Thing. Wow! I listened to the whole CD, singing along and dancing, and then I was reminded of his work on the Band’s CD and concert movie The Last Waltz.  So  I listened to that CD as well. It was an afternoon of tuba heaven, all because. I had the time to slow down, feel and make those connections, and follow them up. I had an afternoon with Howard Johnson.

   Another thing I have been able to do these days is read the newspaper. Not glance at a story or go through the headlines, but actually sit in the backyard and read the paper. As a kid that was so important to me-reading the paper was something I could not wait to do. I would see something that fascinated me or confused me, and it would send me to the library or to the encyclopedia, or to ask someone about it. I was making connections and following and seeing where things led me. That has been qn important part of my presence in the world, and I am doing that again. I read a reprint of a wonderful interview of the late Black artist Jacob Lawrence in The Philadelphia Tribune in which he took the interviewer on a tour of some of his favorite works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. I knew Lawrence had been influenced by Mexican muralists, so I was not surprised to read him talking about Diego Rivera. But he also mentioned a muralist I hadn’t heard of, Jose Oroszco. A little web searching took me to pages of his work and to a wonderful website, SmartHistory, which is an online resource on art history from around the world. Again, I spent several hours searching, exploring and being surprised. I found both a new artist to love and a new site in which I can wander about and get wonderfully lost. (https://smarthistory.org)

   In the Inquirer I have been reading the food section in detail, and I now have a list of 12 restaurants to try when the shutdown is over and I feel comfortable going to restaurants again. And I have gained a few new ideas to try in my own cooking that I probably would not have tried had I not read them in the paper. Making connections is still an important way of approaching the world for me, and it still motivates me, moves me and brings me joy.

  So slowing down has its benefits. We have to look at and do things differently these days, and if we can learn to let that be an opportunity and allow our curiosity to lead, who knows where we will be taken? It will probably be a great ride. Buckle up.

(Here are YouTube links to the Geoff Muldaur, Taj Mahal and The Band recordings mentioned above

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEkoKntwRV0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPF485guOH0&list=OLAK5uy_kua_bplHWDjg5KVL29G3JWfyCqNJBptDc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGDFvxalpjk&list=OLAK5uy_ncrJ9dsn5JiOz-PFi5eRTSTY3QMML2Rjo

 

IMPORTANT CITIZEN STUFF: please take note

CENSUS 2020: The census will be ending September 30, a month earlier than previously scheduled. This is important; if you have not done your census yet, please do it now! The census is hugely important. The information it contains helps the Federal government decide on things such as voting districts, grants for Federal aid, transportation and highway funds, and a hell of a lot more. It is one of the ways our tax dollars get to come back to us in our own areas, and as COVID makes abundantly clear, we need our tax dollars put to work for us. It is essential that as accurate a count as possible is taken, particularly when the the door to door census is on hold. Our online completions are even more important now than ever before. Please go to the website: https://2020census.gov/en.html And check to make sure friends, family members, and co-workers have completed the process.

VOTING 2020

November 3rd is the date of one of the most important national and state elections in our lifetimes. It is not too extreme to say that the history of at least the next 20 years of the United States is at stake here, so everyone should be sure they are registered, they have a plan to vote, and that they are ready to go. If you are voting by mail, order your ballot now and get it turned in as soon as possible to avoid any delays and craziness. There are also needs in states for poll workers, so if you can do that please help out. Here is a link to info about voting in your state:

https://www.aarp.org/politics-society/government-elections/info-2020/state-voting-guides.html             

THE DUKES ARE ON HIATUS!

  The recent upticks in local COVID infections means that the Dukes are going to lay low until December at the earliest. Hopefully treatments and/or a COVID vaccine can be developed, tested and distributed by then, but we are not doing any live gigs for now. It is simply too risky. We want to thank all of our fans and friends-playing for you is an absolute joy and the reason we do what we do. We are looking forward to a time when we can safely do it live again. Stay safe, be careful and be well.

Missing Dukes Sounds?

Dukes Live Dukes of Destiny - Chain of Fool's

Change of Address: Hideaway Records, owned by my high school buddy Brian Reisman and one of my favorite record, CD and DVD stores, has moved down the Hill to 8232 Germantown Ave. Look for the top hat on the sign


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Experiecning the Dog Days While At Home

 

DUKES FANS:

    THE DOG DAYS AT HOME

  It is hot again, and the weather has been a big part of our lives these last few weeks. There were most notably the downpours, thunderstorms, and tornadoes of last week.  Power was knocked out, roads and basements were flooded, and trees were felled throughout the region. Those events were both preceded by, and now followed by, intense heat and humidity. As many of us are home for so much of the time now, that means that we are spending a lot of time in front of fans, in air-conditioned environments, or trying to grab a little shade and a stray breeze on our porches or in our backyards.  This can often be a time of two-three showers a day. The “Dog Days” of summer are definitely here, and they have announced their presence in very dramatic fashion.

    The Dog Days are traditionally cited as falling between July 3 and August 17th-18th. In the Southern and mid-Atlantic regions of the US it is a time of intense heat, high humidity, torrential downpours, and thunderstorms and windstorms. When I was young I thought this time was called the “Dog Days’ because so often dogs would be seen on the streets with their tongues hanging out and panting, as if struggling to breathe. I had friends who said, “No, it is because dogs get driven mad by the heat in this weather, and they go around biting and attacking you.” I did not grow up in a house that had a dog, so this made me a little wary and afraid of dogs for a good long while. I did not want to be seen as a potential meal for a canine.

  Neither of those stories are true; “The Dog Days” refer to the period of time when there is the visible appearance of a super-bright star in the morning sky. That star is now called, Sirius” and its sunrise appearance was first noted and recorded yearly by the Egyptians thousands of years ago. They noted that when that star appeared, the Nile River would begin its period of flooding, and that was vital information. The Egyptians needed to know that for their agricultural output depended on the regular flooding of the Nile. The height and length of time of the flood season was the key to knowing when to plant crops, and when to trade items up and down the Nile.Knowing that was therefore the key to Egypt’s success as a civilization. Sirius was literally a watchdog for that event. Greece and Rome got a lot of their celestial knowledge from the Egyptians, and they eventually put Sirius into a constellation-Canus Majoris or Great Dog. The name of the constellation shows how important the star’s arrival was to them. And like so much of Egyptian, Greek and Roman cultures, that knowledge made its way to us.

   I am thinking about this now because for the first time in a really long time, I am spending all of the Dog Days at home in Philadelphia. August 8th is my wedding anniversary, and right after our wedding, 39 years ago, Penny and I headed north on a wonderful camping honeymoon to Maine and to Nova Scotia. And just about every year since then we spent the Dog Days of August in the Northlands, usually camping, in NY State, New England, and Canada. We got to see wondrous places and wondrous sites; heron and egret roosts in the evenings as the birds returned; the Perseid meteor showers, visible tonight and tomorrow, which are absolutely phenomenal when seen away from city lights and by a lakeside or a lighthouse. Watching sunrises and/or sunsets from a small mountain can be literally breathtaking. Those were times when we were able to truly have a vacation: to “vacate”-leave our regular lives behind. Special times, indeed.

   Last year I did not go camping, but I did go up to Kingston, Ontario, where Penny and I went for over 20 years. I got to see the Perseids one night at Kingston’s Confederation Park, right where the Rideau Canal meets Lake Ontario.  It was a bright, clear night, and meteors were streaking across the sky every few minutes.  It was special: magical.

   And it will be magical again as I watch the Perseids this evening and tomorrow night from my backyard and standing on Bryan Street. And it will be calming and soothing and wondrous as I go walking in the morning tomorrow and see the sunrise over Mt. Airy or Germantown or Chestnut Hill, depending upon where I walk. These are all special and quietly awesome things to witness. They are all part of the gifts that can come from looking up. And a part of me will truly miss being up North at this time. That had become so special to me, and I am a little sad about not doing it this year. But I am also so grateful to have had years of being able to travel northward and experience the wonders of looking up into a brighter and clearer sky. Who knew that simply looking up can bring such joy?

IMPORTANT CITIZEN STUFF: please take note

CENSUS 2020: The census will be ending September 30, a month earlier than previously scheduled. This is important; if you have not done your census yet, please do it now! The census is hugely important. The information it contains helps the Federal government decide on things such as voting districts, grants for Federal aid, transportation and highway funds, and a hell of a lot more. It is one of the ways our tax dollars get to come back to us in our own areas, and as COVID makes abundantly clear, we need our tax dollars put to work for us. It is essential that as accurate a count as possible is taken, particularly when the the door to door census is on hold. Our online completions are even more important now than ever before. Please go to the website: https://2020census.gov/en.html And check to make sure friends, family members, and co workers have completed the process.

THE TWO JOHNS ARE BACK!

Roadhouse Blues Concert, Sunday, August 16th- 4PM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vt5Zf51bDZk&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR3Jjfue8jqQVTGebnOVeO8KlwO7jPcN6bEIDamtrLfNwDwGwQkfchmG4Zk

    This is a live streaming concert featuring acoustic blues guitarist and singer Johnny Never, harp player John Colgan-Davis, and bassist Dave Young doing a wonderful mix of Piedmont, Delta, and other blues styles. And maybe even a little early jazz and rock and roll. No fee, but tips are definitely appreciated: https://johnnynever.com/tip-jars/3826

COSMIC CAFÉ:1 Boathouse Row; Philadelphia, PA; Sat.August 29

Johnny Never and John Colgan-Davis will be playing acoustic blues in a live concert on Saturday, August 29 at the Cosmic Café, a wonderful little outdoor café at 1 Boathouse Row behind the Art Museum. Sets are from 3PM-6PM. Masks are required and tables are separated. Great food and beverages. No cover, but tips are appreciated:

THE DUKES ARE ON HIATUS!

  The recent upticks in local COVID infections means that the Dukes are going to lay low until December at the earliest. Hopefully treatments and/or a COVID vaccine can be developed, tested and distributed by then, but we are not doing any live gigs for now. It is simply too risky. We want to thank all of our fans and friends-playing for you is an absolute joy and the reason we do what we do. We are looking forward to a time when we can safely do it live again. Stay safe, be careful and be well.

Missing Dukes Sounds?

Dukes Live Dukes of Destiny - Chain of Fool'




Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Music as a Healing Force


DUKES FANS:
“Music is the healing force of the universe.”
             Jazz musician Sun Ra  

   For the vast majority of my teaching career I was fortunate to work in places that made space for the individual student and valued relationships between students and teachers. That meant that for each student faculty had to write end- of-the-marking period narrative reports about them: how they thought, how they worked, their strengths, challenges, etc. We did not just fill in check boxes; we had to write paragraphs about each student. That meant, of course, that I had to know each student and how s/he thought. I needed to know their strengths, interests, and challenges. Yes, it was time consuming, and yes, and it could be hard to put things into words. But I valued doing it, and it undoubtedly made me a better teacher.

  I am thinking about that now because one of the things that helped me through all that report writing was music. I would need motivation to do all of the writing, and playing records, and later cassettes, and then CD’s and then computer playlists was a key part of my process. I needed energy. I needed to not be overwhelmed when writing the reports. I needed my mind to be in a positive place. The playlists helped with that. And as we move into month 6 of the COVID realities, I need that same positivity to keep me balanced and moving forward with what I want and need to do. So I have been listening to some of my old computer playlists again, and it has been absolutely delightful. I have been lifted up and restored as I have re-discovered some artists I have not listened to in a good long while. As Ra said, “Music is the healing force…”

Some of the musicians I have on those playlists would not surprise those of you who know me. There is some Muddy Waters, some James Brown, some Duke Ellington, some Aretha Franklin, Paul Butterfield, and plenty of Taj Mahal. There is some T-Bone Walker, Otis Redding, Otis Rush, Charlie Musselwhite, Geoff Muldaur, Miles Davis, Billie Holliday, saxophonists Wayne Shorter and John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, The Band, Sam and Dave, The Four Tops, the Temptations, Bonnie Raitt, and of course, some Dukes of Destiny.

There are some choices that might surprise some of you: Edith Piaf, Johnny Cash, Judy Collins, Buffalo Springfield, Asleep at the Wheel, Erik Sate, Richard and Mimi Farina, The Chieftains, The Byrds, Pete Seeger, Jefferson Berry, Tracy   Chapman, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Patsy Cline, and Willie Nelson. One of the best parts of this recent “musical archaeology” has been the re-discovery of a number of wonderful Canadian artists I had become aware of from attending the Limestone City Blues Festival in Kingston, Ontario for some 20 years. Dawn Tyler Watson is one of my all- time favorite singers and performers. The Ax Man and the Harpoonist are great musicians and straight up fun. Diana Krall is one of the most sultry jazz stylists and pianists. And Paul Reddick is flat-out one of the most imaginative songwriters, arrangers, harmonica players, and performers I have ever heard. From his first appearances with his old band, The Sidemen, up to the various incarnations his recorded music has taken since then, he has always amazed me. As we rarely hear Canadian blues in the US, it is good to have these folks and others back in my consciousness.

 I can’t believe that I had somehow let all of this incredible collection of music get away from me.  It was like turning away from something that had been an incredibly helpful and important part of my life for years. But these sounds are back in my life now, and they are again playing a key role in my life. They keep me energized. They help keep me inspired. They help keep me balanced. When I am sending handwritten post cards to registered voters to ask them to vote; when I am calling some legislators’ office to give my opinion about some policy; when I am sighing deeply at the news of coronavirus infections and deaths; when I am witnessing news coverage of some new outrage, and when I am almost overwhelmed  by the multitude of problems on display and facing our culture, these sounds are there and they help keep me going. Keep me smiling. Keep me hopeful. Keep me committed. I think of the late John Lewis and Reverend CT Vivian and all the “good trouble” they got into. The music was there-always there. The Civil Rights Movement; the Anti Viet Nam War Movement; the Labor Movement-all social justice battles had music deep at their core. Keeping spirits up, setting the rhythm as they marched, uniting people, and promoting hope for a brighter future.  We need that now as much as we needed it then. Music as motivator. Music as solace. Music as comfort. Music, indeed, as a healing force of the universe. It is good to reunite with these sounds.
  
(Each of the musicians mentioned above has their own presence on the web with web pages and YouTube videos. If there is someone mentioned with whom you are not familiar, you can find them there. Enjoy!)
 
IMPORTANT CITIZEN STUFF: please take note
CENSUS 2020 The census helps the Federal government decide on things such as voting districts, grants for Federal aid, transportation and highway funds, and a hell of a lot more. It is one of the ways our tax dollars get to come back to us in our own areas, and as COVID makes abundantly clear, we need our tax dollars to work for us. It is essential that as accurate a count as possible is taken, particularly when the the door to door census is on hold. Our online completions are even more important now than ever before. Please go to the website: https://2020census.gov/en.html
 
THE TWO JOHNS ARE BACK!
Johnny Never and John Colgan-Davis will be playing acoustic blues on Saturday, August 29  at the Cosmic Café, a wonderful little outdoor café at 1 Boathouse Row behind the Art Museum. Sets are from 3PM-6PM. Masks are required and tables are separated. Great food and beverages. No cover, but tips are appreciated

THE DUKES ARE ON HIATUS!
  The recent upticks in local COVID infections means that the Dukes are going to lay low until December at the earliest. Hopefully treatments and/or a COVID vaccine can be developed, tested and distributed by then, but we are not doing any live gigs for now. It is simply too risky. We want to thank all of our fans and friends-playing for you is an absolute joy and the reason we do what we do. We are looking forward to a time when we can safely do it live again. Stay safe, be careful and be well.
Missing Dukes Sounds?