Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Blue Moon and Jamey' Emergency




Tonight and tomorrow night is the Super Moon ending to August that has so many folks all over the world so excited. The sky in the Philadelphia area will be a little cloudy, but we should still be able to see much of the moon’s beauty. The moon is closer to the earth tonight and bright, so some of it should be visible. It is a wonderful way to say, “Goodbye” to the month of August and to make our way towards the transition to the next season. Socially and culturally thie upcoming Labor Day weekend is thought of as the end of summer, but we know that the real arrival of Autumn will be Saturday, Sept. 23rd. But we can ease into our Labor Day weekend having had the beauty of something special happening, “Once in a Blue Moon.” Look up and enjoy! 


As readers of this newsletter know, Jamey’s House of Music in Lansdowne is one of my favorite places in the area to both hear and play music. I have played the premises with The Dukes numerous times, I play once a month with the Girke-Colgan-Davis Project at Sunday jams, and Johnny Never and I have been there several times, including our upcoming appearance on Saturday, September 23rd. Recently the upstairs tenants at Jamey’s flooded the bathroom leading to a collapsed ceiling in the club itself. There is a Go Fund Me set up to help raise the estimated $16,000 needed to pay for repairs. Please give what you can; every little bit helps. Even if you have never been to Jamey’s, you know how valuable this place is with its incredible roster of blues jazz, and folk concerts, its Sunday jams, and its great food. Please help out: 

The Sunday Blues Jam; Jamey’s House of Music;  32 S Lansdowne Ave; Lansdowne, PA:215-477-9895; House band set from 12-1PM-open jam from 1-3:00 pm. No cover.  

(The Roger Girke-John Colgan-Davis Project’s next appearance is Sunday, September 10th 

  Blues lovers and players have made Jamey's Sunday Blues Jam the place for great blues jamming, really good and inexpensive eats, ales on tap, fresh ground coffee and espresso, and friendly people who love the bluesEach Sunday features an hour long set by a house band, and then an open jam until 3PM. Most Sundays the great Philly Blues Kings, featuring guitar and keyboard ace Dave Reiter, do the 1 hour set followed by the jam. Most months, the second Sunday finds The Roger Girke-John Colgan-Davis Project laying down the opening set. Got an instrument? Sing? Just want to listen to some exciting blues? Come on out and take part in this great blues jam with great food and wonderful liquid refreshment. And don't forget to contribute to the Go Fund Me   

Thursday, August 24, 2023

We Name, Therefore We Are



“It’s a full moon on Main Street...” 

The Kinsey Report 

August has been a great sky month. There was a new moon at the start of the month, the Perseids, and a “Blue and Super Moon” coming next week. . Because the earth is not a perfect sphere, the moon at certain times can appear to be larger and more brilliant as the earth revolves. Thus, it appears to be “super.” August gives us the opportunity to look up and observe two of these this month. While not rare, it is an uncommon event. So, we name and note it. 

 The Full Moon from August 30-31st is also called a "Blue Moon.” This is because it is the second full moon of the month. That happens “once in a blue moon”; ie, it is unusual. We get to enjoy the full moon twice this month, and we name that occurrence. 

This, of course, brings up a question: why do moons have names, anyway? The August 1st full moon, for example, is also called the “Sturgeon Moon.” Why?? Does it need a name?? 

 One of the things that makes humans “human” is that we name things; we have to name things. If something is seen or happens and it seems important, humans, no matter where on the planet we are or what time period we are in, simply have to name it. We do that for several reasons; to attempt to understand it; to recognize it so we can prepare for it if it happens again; so we can connect it to or apply it to other things that occur around it, and more. The sturgeon moon, for example, is called this because for Northern midwest Native Americans it happened when sturgeon fish returned to the Great Lakes to spawn. This was a huge event. Much like the role the buffalo played for many other native American cultures, the sturgeon was an important food source and trade item. As with the buffalo, some Great Lakes Native peoples even moved to follow the flow and path of the fish. So they needed to know just what could herald its arrival. The early August full moon did just that. 

I mentioned in an earlier newsletter the origin of the term, “Dog Days "and its celestial connections. It had to be named because it signaled something that was essential to Egyptian culture. It is the same thing with the moon. So much of what happens on earth is connected to what is happening in the sky, so we have to track it and name it. It is one of the things that links all humans and all human cultures-we all do it. We may do it in different ways, and we may come to some different conclusions as to what the names we give things mean and imply. But ultimately, we are reacting to and interpreting our surroundings and our important experiences through the power of naming. We are all simply being human. Enjoy next week’s Super Blue Moon. 

(For a discussion of how the sturgeon affected the history of parts of the United States, go to: 


Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Goin' To Memphis



“Long distance operator, give me Memphis, Tennessee...’ 

Chuck Berry 


Saturday and Sunday nights were the peak times for the Perseid meteor showers. The viewing conditions were not ideal in our area, but I hope you could get away from city lights and find some darkness so you could catch some of the showers. If you did, I hope it was a joyous experience for you. And if not, remember that there is always next year: they are an annual event. And you can count on me to remind you about them next year. (smile) 

I had the Dukes gig at The Mermaid on Friday and two gigs with Johnny Never Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. I was exhausted Saturday night and just went to sleep, but I got home after our Sunday afternoon gig and did get to see some meteors around 9:30 PM before I had to crash. I wanted to see more, but I had to get some sleep after three gigs in three days; I am not as young as I used to be, and I need more rest (smile) 

The Sunday afternoon gig at The Central Delaware Blues Society IBC challenge was wonderful. The society is a great group of people, and I met and re-met several people from my earlier playing career when the Dukes played in Delaware on a more regular basis. Johnny and I were in competition with a great acoustic guitarist and singer named Diamond Jim Greene. He played a wonderful set, and he did one of my favorite Skip James songs and a Tampa Red Song. I loved listening to him. It was tough for the judges, but Johnny and I were declared the winners of the 2023 Central Delaware Blues Society IBC contest! That means we will be going down to Memphis to compete in the IBC Finals in January of 2024. We are obviously overjoyed, and we are beginning to make plans for getting to and staying in Memphis. There will be news soon of some fundraising events to help make that trip possible. Thanks to both Diamond Jim and the Central Blues Society folks for a spirited and exciting time in the wilds of Dover, DE. Here is a link to Diamond Jim Greene’s website; he is a fine performer and a hell of a nice guy. We were happy to meet him and hopefully we will run across each other again. 


Friday, August 11, 2023

The Dog Days Revisited



( A reader wrote to me after my last newsletter and reminded me that I had mentioned the Perseids meteor showers a few years ago in a newsletter that focused on the so-called “Dog Days” of July and August.  I went back, found that, and thought it might be good to look again at the origin and meaning of the phrase, “Dog Days.”  So, here it is, heavily edited). 


   The weather has been a big part of our lives for the past month or so. There were most notably the downpours, thunderstorms, and possible tornadoes in some of July and earlier this week. Power was knocked out, roads and basements were flooded, and trees were felled throughout the region. Those events were preceded by intense heat and humidity for much of July. It was in fact, the hottest July, and indeed, the hottest of any month ever recorded. That meant that we spent a lot of time over the last month under umbrellas, inside, in front of fans, in air-conditioned environments, and/or trying to grab a little shade and a stray breeze on our porches or in our backyardsThis can often be a time of two-three showers a day. The “Dog Days” of summer are 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.  The Southern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the US often experience this as a time of intense heat, high humidity, torrential downpours, 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 shared this with friends, and they said, “No; it is because dogs are 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. 

  Of course, neither of those stories are true. “The Dog Days” refer to the period of time when there is the visible appearance of a certain super-bright star in the morning sky. That star is called, Sirius”-the “dog star,” and the time of its sunrise appearance was first noted and recorded 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 and entire economy 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 key to Egypt’s success as a civilization. If they got the timing wrong or if the Nile did not flood as expected, it meant times if struggle and famine for Egypt. Sirius was literally a watchdog for that event, and it loomed large in Egyptian science and religion.  

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. And we recognize the importance of this time period by calling it The Dog Days. 

   I am thinking about this now because once again I am spending all of the Dog Days at home in Philadelphia. August 8th is my wedding anniversary, and right after our wedding, 40 years ago, my bride Penny and I headed north on a wonderful 2 ½ week camping honeymoon to Maine and Nova Scotia. And just about every year since then we spent the Dog Days of August in the Northlands, usually camping. We spend time in upstate New York, New England, and/or Canada, and we got to see wondrous places and wondrous sites. We saw numerous heron and egret roosting in the evenings as the birds returned from eating to spend the night. We experienced lovely lakes and waterfalls, The Thousand Islands of New York State, the beautiful campgrounds at Ivy Lea Provincial Park in Ontario, and the exciting Limestone City Blues Festival in the great city of Kingston, Ontario. Watching sunrises and/or sunsets from a camp site or small mountain or a lakeside can be literally breathtaking. And we also regularly got to see the Perseid meteor showers, which are absolutely phenomenal when seen away from city lights. Those times were magical; they were times when we were able to truly have a “vacation”: to “vacate” and leave our regular lives behind.  

   And it will be magical again to watch the Perseid showers this Saturday and Sunday night, whether from my backyard or standing on Bryan Street. And it will be calming and soothing and wondrous as I go walking early the next morning and see the sunrise over Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill. These are all special and quietly awesome things to witness. They are all part of the gifts that can come from looking up. A part of me always misses being up North at this time of the year. That had become so special to me, and I get a little sad about not doing it. But I am also very grateful to have had years of venturing northward and experiencing the wonders of looking up into a brighter and clearer sky with my all-time favorite traveling companion. Finding out about that little Egyptian dog star when I was in high school was a game-changer for me; it was one of the things that started me looking up. That little action now plays an important part in how I live my life, and it regularly brings me joy and wonder. I hope you all can find and feel such joy by simply looking up, especially this weekend at the Perseids.