Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Big Birds & Bulls

Associated Press

HARFORD, Pa. — Officials say a rodeo bull at the Harford Fair in Pennsylvania got loose and ran wild around the grounds injuring several people before the animal was captured.
Fair officials say the bull got loose during loading Friday evening. The Binghamton, N.Y. Press & Sun Bulletin reports that hundreds of fairgoers dove into carnival game booths and fences to escape the animal ( ).
At least 10 people were reportedly injured, but fair and fire officials would not confirm the number of injuries and declined to answer questions on the incident, citing an ongoing investigation.
Nineteen-year-old Raymond Rose told the newspaper that people were screaming as the bull ran toward them. He says it had big horns and weighed probably 900 pounds.
The paper reported the fair reopened Saturday at 8 a.m.

If you ask me, Americans are turning into big fat wimps!  How can a domesticated farm animal strike this kind of terror in the hearts of thousands?  No wonder a Muslim brother with aviator shades and an odd shaped brief case can set off more alarms than a Kansas twister!!  I watched one of the videos posted on Youtube and the bull appeared to be barely trotting down the fairway. I'll bet he was just looking for the cattle trailer or maybe the beer tent.  (Whiskey for my men, beer for my bulls*)  The plump old lady in the wheel chair?  The one who had to be life-lined to Geisinger Medical after being flipped into the air and left semi-conscious with half a corn-dog protruding from her mouth?  Well geez... maybe  next time she won't play rodeo clown around Tim Toro the Texas Longhorn!  

Excluding headlines concerning the gas rich Marcellus shale, the last incident in this area to go National happened back in 1986 when Christopher Lake ( a.k.a. "Lakie") and his pregnant wife Nanette, caught up with a high school kid  who had slipped into their home and pinched some marijuana.  Lakie, an affable fellow when not high on Bud Light or methamphetamine, was a Harley-Davidson homie renown for being wound a tad too tight. Only a fool would have thought to steal from Lakie, let alone go after the man's personal stash.  But to brag about it afterward at a high school dance was nothing less than a death wish.  

There is honor among thieves; when crossed, retribution is swift and often lethal.  

Lakie had to set an example.  So he and his bride, along with a friend, Hank Peck, apprehended the young scoundrel and in a makeshift court set up among the socket sets and tire-irons of the family garage, tried and convicted the kid of rifling through the Lake's nightstand and slipping away with a bud or two of fine Jamaican weed.   As punishment, they stripped the teenager of his clothes, covered his trembling body with axle grease and then broke a couple of down pillows over his head.  With the high beams of the Chevy illuminating the way, the three vigilantes then forced their prisoner to walk the length of Main Street, New Milford, PA to atone for his crime.  The story made NBC's TODAY show.  I later heard the eye-witness testimony of an astounded local resident:

"I could hardly believe it.  There was all this honkin' and hollering and down the middle of Main Street comes this... this... thing.  Well I don't know, but it looked just like Big Bird! "

Lakie was convicted of aggravated assault, fined about a thousand dollars and given a suspended sentence.  Some days later a hand painted sign appeared in his front yard on Cobb Street.  Atop a black background in neat white stenciling the plaque read:   

                                                               May 6, 1986
                                Site of the last American Tar and Feathering

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Whistle Blower

I used to play a lot of tether ball when I was in elementary school.  It was a simple game; a volley ball "tethered" by a thin rope to a tall steel pole.  The object?  Two players would face off against one another and try to clobber the ball in opposite directions.  The first to wrap the rope and ball completely around the post like the colors of barbershop pole, would win the game.  

The victor usually had a really strong arm or was just a tad taller than his opponent and was able to hit the ball high, foiling the defender's attempts to leap up and block its cork screwing flight.   When mismatched in height  the serve was of prime importance.   If the smaller kid had the serve, he could create sort of an angled, elliptical orbit by starting the ball low and sending it on a rising trajectory, sort of like an electron zipping around the nucleus.  If he smacked the ball right, the top of its arching flight would peek just above where the taller kid was positioned.  As it came round the pole again, it would dip low and the little red-faced server would smack it a second time, speeding it along the same out of reach path.  If the tall kid was lame and didn't move and he'd keep missing the ball until he lost.  I loved that game!

My other favorite game was a total guy thing with a modicum of violence and much battle field theatrics:  dodge ball.   Played in gym, with two teams on either side of the center line, and all you tried to do was hit each other with the volley ball.  If you could dodge the shot, you were still in the game, if not, out to the side lines you went.   The team with players left on the floor won.  Simple.  But my seventh grade gym teacher came up with a new version he called Combat Dodge Ball. Mr. Royer was a bald, squat, muscle bound, ex- Marine sergeant who made us line up in squads for roll call.  He would walk the lines of seventh and eight grade boys and with his index finger, stretch and release the elastic waist band of our jock straps.  A stinging zap made sure we had them on.  If not, back to the locker room we were sent.  Chas (his first name, uttered only behind his back) also checked our hair length to insure the bangs where no longer than the width of two fingers above our eyebrows and that no growth had touched the top of our ears.  If a kid was in non-compliance, Chas would let out a very pronounced nose grunt; a short nostril "HMMMFFFH" followed by the word "hairCUT!!"  He would then move on down the squad line, checking and rechecking his students.   

If your hair was too long (this was the 60's and every kid wanted long hair) you had until the next gym session to get to a barber (we had gym every other day) or he would send you to the assistant Principal's office for a talk with Mr. Fritz.  Fritz kept a file of index cards on which he recorded each student's disciplinary indiscretions.  I had a thick stack of cards (hyper-active kids usually did) that Mr. Fritz loved to thumb through as he interrogated me.  Earl Fritz was about 6' tall, had ink black hair cut in a squared flat top and always wore a white shirt and a black suit and tie.  He was intimidating and distributed detention liberally, but it was the principal... whose name I have blocked from my mind... who one time pulled me from a line for laughing and slammed me against the wall during a fall-out shelter drill.  He had sandy blond hair and a sort of pleasant demeanor.  Looks can be deceiving. 

Yeah, so combat dodge ball.  I assume Chas Royer invented it because no one had ever heard of it before playing it in his gym class.  Two big rule changes.  First, no player left the court during the game.  Instead they were forced to lay face down on the spot where they were hit. (the quick and the dead).  Second, we didn't use soft volley balls.  Nope, Chas' version of Combat D-Ball used rock hard basket balls.   Obviously the bigger boys had an advantage.  The basket balls required a big palm to handle and in comparison to a volley ball, were heavy.  Either you had a hard time throwing it, and missed a lot, or the ball worked fine for you and you could truly hurt your opponent.   And then there were Chas's disciples, the sadomasochists.   Big lads who were destine to be stars in high school football.  They loved to throw the ball at the dead and wounded, skinny little kids, pale and malnourished  symbolic of the world's underclasses, lying face down, heads covered with their frail arms, easy targets strewn across the maple floor of the gym.  No good moving target to throw at?  Slam a dead kid on the floor.  If they hit the cowering body just right, they could make the ball bounce back to them along with the moans of their victim.  That made Chas smile and his disciples loved to see him smile.

Its funny, those memories.  I am quite sure Chas Royer and Earl Fritz are dead by now, but they are quite alive in my mind, unaltered by time. 

Mr. Fritz and detention hall.  It was a small desk-chair unit placed in the corridor outside the main administrative office, the place everyone had to pas to come or go from the building.  If you were prone to shame, it was a horrible seat to occupy.  On the other hand, if you were slightly brazen, it could be a rather rewarding social experience.    My longest stint of after school incarceration was in punishment of good healthy capitalist spirit.  Something that should have won me praise from my elder educators.  It was 1968 and bird whistles were all the craze.  The whistles were tiny devices, made of a little piece of leather and a thin reed of clear plastic connected together by a U-shaped grommet.   This 1" long, 1/16th of an inch thick device was inserted behind the front teeth on the tip of the tongue.  Exhaling softly through the mouth caused the plastic reed to vibrate emitting an ear piercing screech with lips barely parted.  You could blow a bird whistle in a crowd, and no one could tell who had made the shrill noise.

So these little devices, which I imagine resulted in a good many deaths by suffocation when inhaled, were sold at the candy store across the street from Highland Junior High school.  There, along with sweettarts, jaw breakers, baseball cards, tootsie roll pops and a million other temptations were bird whistles, selling for a nickel a piece.  Unfortunately, we had two things going against us when it came to visiting Paisley's Candy Store.  Most kids attending the school (which was torn down some years ago and replaced with a mini market) rode the big yellow buses to and from home and lived miles from the town's sole source of bird whistles.  Second, we did not have what was called an "open campus".  That is, we were not allowed to cross the street to Paisley's or anywhere else not on the school grounds.  

Displaying the entrepreneurial genius of a young Bill Gates I sensed the potential popularity of the bird whistles. So, disregarding the distance, I mounted my bicycle one afternoon and rode the ten miles from my house to the store.  There I bought a big 40 cent bag of Cheetos and invested another buck sixty in bird whistles.  The next day I took them to school and began selling them for a dime a piece.  As my supply quickly dwindled, market pressure drove my price first to twenty and then twenty five cents a unit.   The profit was not only incredibly intoxicating, but with it came a new form of popularity; that of the "pusher-man."

Not more than two days passed and I was again aboard my Huffy one speed making another covert run to Paisley's Candy Store.   This time, with company profits, I bought five dollars worth of bird whistles.  Similar success was enjoyed at lunch hour the following afternoon. My pockets jingled with coins as the school came alive with the piercing call of unseen raptors.  But then the heavy hand of government, that hated thing called regulation, was placed upon my shoulder.   From the wall intercom came an announcement:  "Ronald Boyd, please report to the Administration Office.  Ronald Boyd, report to the office."  

There I sat in front of Mr. Fritz, a pile of discolored and misshapen bird whistles in a water glass beside him, my stack of index cards in his hand.  

"But what have I done wrong?"  I pleaded.  "I went after school to the store!  I'm not the one using the whistles during school hours.  How can I be held responsible for what other students do with a perfectly legal device?"

Had my case been heard before a jury, had I an attorney who could have expunged my prior school convictions from evidence, I believe I would have been vindicated.  But with Fritz manning the gavel of justice it was three weeks detention for possession with intent to distribute... BIRD WHISTLES.

I had a lot of problems with authority as a kid.  Real authority garners respect which must be earned.  Few of my disciplinarians in early childhood ever achieved anything close to my respect.  What they did instill was a healthy sense of how flawed most bureaucracies are and how corrupting even a small amount of power is.  

What can I say, once a whistle blower, always a whistle blower.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Madame Coo

Madame Coo
I remember the pigeons in Paris. During my second year there, I lived on Rue de Bois de Bologne in the 16th arrondissement.  I was a block or two from Avenue Foch, which if I recall correctly, radiates like an axle spoke from the traffic circle around the Arch de Triumph.  I don't have a great memory of how the streets of Paris were laid out, because I went everywhere on the Metro. 

Paris is divided into different neighborhoods or arrondissements and the 16th is pretty damn ritzy. Most of the buildings were constructed during the late nineteenth century as residential housing for the wealthy.  They were made of stone with beautiful metal work around the floor to ceiling balcony windows. All featured amazing main entrances; double swinging doors of impressive size made of naturally finished hardwoods designed to accommodate horse and carriage from which one disembarked in the building's central courtyard.  Each set of doors had a smaller pedestrian entrance built into it.  One announced themselves by pushing a buzzer on the outside wall.  The concierge,  who occupied the ground floor apartment beside the entrance, would peek out her window, determine your identity and either buzz you in or join you at the door to determine your business. In France, there is a certain formality even to the most mundane daily activity.

I rented a maid's chambre.  It cost about $100US a month.  It was tiny.  It had a small closet, a narrow cot-like bed, a sink and a bidet.  The communally-shared Turkish-style toilet was located down the hall.  My rental had two great features.  First, the building had an ancient, two person elevator that ran from the lobby to the sixth floor, leaving only one level of stairs to climb to reach the septieme etage, where I lived.  The year before I had not been so lucky. My place on Rue Marbeau had been accessed solely by a spiral staircase that connected the back doors of all the apartment kitchens.  That was the set-up in many buildings and it made for a real workout for the seventh floor tenants.  In my case, each trip up or down consisted of 126 small wooden steps, a sum I tallied unconsciously at least twice a day.  The second big plus of my new room were the windows. They were built like French doors, half the height but just as wide, and they overlooked the huge park on the city's western edge after which my street had been named. When they were open, the room felt like it belonged to the sky.

On my side of the building, the windows were built into the rise of the leaded Mansard-style roof-line.  Below the window sill was the wide curving lip that made a kind of eave over the building's edge.  It is there the pigeons liked to roost, particularly if one tossed a few bread crumbs their way.  Pigeon feeding was strictly forbidden and the city ordinance against it was posted on most buildings somewhere near the concierge's apartment.  The law existed because when pigeons take flight, like all birds, they lighten their load by pooping.  Concentrated feeding areas therefore result in high volume avian waste zones.  A "little pigeon shit"  is one thing, but when it rains down from a height of seventy or eighty feet and drenches your beautifully attired date as you embark for an evening stroll on the Champs Elysees, it's no laughing matter.

Paris, like any large city, shelters its share of lost and forgotten souls.  The little old lady who lived across the hall from me fit that description perfectly.  She had a face shriveled as a California raisin and wore layers of clothing from conflicting but equally desperate eras. She seldom was seen except from behind her cracked door, which she opened ever so slightly to spy on me  as I passed.  I always greeted her in French with a merry and bright,  'Bonjour Madame!" Just as predictably, she would grunt and jam her door shut.

I didn't know her name and since my French was pretty limited I never spoke to the concierge about her. Instead, I simply referred to her as Madame Coo, friend to the pigeons. Regardless of the anti-feeding ordinance  (which may have been left over from the German occupation of the 1940's) she derived great joy from scattering chunks of her left- over baguettes on her window sill for the birds. She would also put out plates of water and other culinary delectables, drawing huge flocks to the west side of our building. 

The sound of the pigeons as they gorged themselves on Madame Coo's handouts was incredibly disturbing, particularly on mornings after a late night with friends at the Mazet Cafe.  The flutterring of wings and the incessant scratching of clawed feet on the metal roof was bad enough, but that cooing!   My God, it had such a human quality, the tone and rhythm of muffled love making heard through walls too thin.  The ewes and coos of hundreds of arial rats pleasuring themselves was unnerving.    

What goes up must come down and what goes in must come out.  The mess below, as well as on the roof ledge, was a blight on the romantic backdrop of my otherwise museum quality neighborhood.  Madame Coo must have had a powerful nephew on the Paris Police Force, for I never heard anyone complain about her feeding the birds.  And the ordinance warning?  The official sign displayed seven stories directly below her window? It was almost illegible due to the Jackson Pollack size drips of grayish green goo smeared across the lettering.  

But it was okay.  The street cleaners, with their blue uniforms and long handled whisk brooms, would arrive in the morning and rinse down the sidewalk.  The sun would peak through the shimmering leaves of the sycamore trees and life in Paris would go on, carrying Madame Coo's pigeon pooh away on a curb-side stream of  non-portable l'eau.  As for me, during those far too frequent not so chipper early morning hours?  Well, I would roll my face to the wall, pull my pillow over my head and picture plump French girls romping about in Manet-like bliss until I drifted back off to sleep.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Bottle-neck guitar

A working man's injury has a story to tell.  Accidents often happen when we are rushing, over-tired or pre-occupied. The scars we carry remind us of our history and help define who are. 

I caught the index finger of my left hand in a hydraulic wood splitter.   I had been working alone on the hill when it happened.  It was the autumn of the year my wife and I separated.  I cut a lot of wood that season, selling it to make up for the loss in family income.  My spouse had been the primary wage earner.  I worked as a stone mason, spent a lot of time with our children and took care of our large rural property. 

I got so I was pretty fast when it came to splitting wood.  I operated sort of on automatic pilot, my mind lost completely in the work.  I would stack three or four logs on the support deck,  
then one by one, roll each into place, pull and hold the lever that activated the hydraulic arm and then watch as the wedge pushed slowly and evenly into the butt end.  In seconds, the  sawed log would split down the length with the grain and I would release the lever and the wedge would reverse course.   I'd then toss the smaller pieces into the truck bed, roll another big chunk of wood into place and repeat the process.  The repetitive act of making firewood had a sort of dreamy, slow motion quality that I quite enjoyed.  With sixty or eighty chords to turn out, that was a good thing.

Anyway, I rolled on a heavy log that had a "Y" at the end.  I propped the thicker stub against the back plate but it rested awkwardly there, so I supported it with my left hand as I pulled the hydraulic lever with my right.   As the wedge pressed in against the log, the tension created caused wood to twist and the upper stem of the "Y" pulled down, somehow pinching my gloved hand between its sawed stump and the back plate.  It happened just that fast.   

I'm a musician.   I've played the guitar for more than thirty-five years.  It was my profession as well as my first love.  My band mates and my past writing partners were like family to me.  I was alway jamming with new people, composing tunes, learning songs and performing until the year I divorced.  It was an artistic discipline as well as my social life.   My left hand is what I fret the guitar neck with and the index finger is incredibly important.  All the bar cords require the first finger, its primary in every riff and scale progression I'd ever learned.  

So I'm up there on the mountain on a cloudy Sunday loading the truck with ash wood and suddenly everything changes.  As I release the hydraulic and am able to pull my hand away from the machine, I know what has happened is bad, really bad.  I'm afraid to remove the glove.  I am worried about the bleeding.  I'm a long way from the house.  

I don't remember doing it,  but I must have reached down with my good hand and shut the gas motor off.  Then I climbed in the truck and with one hand on the wheel, spun the truck around and barreled down hill to the house.  The kids were there.  I rushed in and yelled to my thirteen year old son.  "Sam,  get a bag of ice.  I crushed my finger!  Hurry!"  He jumped up from his chair and ran into the kitchen with me. 

"How'd you do it Pop?"  He asked as he searched under the counter for a plastic freezer bag.

"On that God damn splitter."  I mumbled.  I was leaning over the sink intent on inching off the glove.  I was praying my finger wasn't going to come off with it.  

It was a bloody mess, but still all in one piece.  I rinsed it with cold water.  The skin had burst from around the bone like the rhine on an over ripe tomato.   Sam was cracking trays of ice into the bag he'd found and his little sister Sarah was standing across the counter from me her eyes wide, not saying a word.  

"I'm okay baby,"  I said to her  "but you'd better run upstairs and get my wallet.  I'm going to have to go get some stitches "   

I was in shock I suppose.  Everything was just a numb throbbing all the way up my arm.  As I flushed the wound, I noticed a big wood sliver sticking out of the center of my finger print.  I tried a couple times to pull it out but it wouldn't budge.  Then I realized it wasn't a sliver.  It was a chord of white muscle tissue.

I could sense that Sam was afraid to look at the finger.   He handed me the bag of ice and stood behind my elbow.  I folded it gingerly around the dish towel I'd improvised as a bandage.  

"Guys, I think you had better stay here."  I said as I took my wallet from Sarah's outstretched hand.  My little girl looked so serious that after I'd slipped the billfold in my back pocket I gave her nose a tweak with my good hand  "Hey, I'm okay baby.   You and brother call mom and tell her I'm going to the hospital for a couple stitches. " 

I headed out the back door and as I stepped off the deck I saw our old Dodge Caravan coming down the dirt road.  Sarah's mom had arrived early to take her to soccer practice.   She pulled in and I told her what had happened and she insisted on driving me back into town.  So the kids climbed in the back and off we headed to Binghamton General Hospital's emergency room.  The ride took forty minutes and the whole time I'm thinking "what if I can't play guitar anymore?"  Then it dawned on me.  Maybe that's why the early blues men started playing bottle neck guitar.  Most of them had been farm laborers.  Farmers were always getting hurt, always lossing fingers. 

I thought of old Walter Pavelski who owned the farm next door to ours.  When we were kids, he used to play his  finger-up-the-nose trick.  He would say, "Hey, see if you can do this!"  When we would look up he would have all but the base of his index finger buried in his nose.  Walt had a pretty big nose and when he didn't have his dentures in it seemed even bigger.  It really wasn't hard to believed he'd shoved his whole finger up that nostril of his.  But then he'd pull his hand away and viola, nothing but a stub.  He'd lost the other two thirds to the gears of a corn blower.     

The country blues players.  If they lost a finger, they could always tune the guitar strings to a cord, find a glass bottle and slide it up and down the neck.   Every position is another cord, no problem.  With a little practice, soon they could slide between individual notes and play melody lines.  "Okay," I think , "If worse comes to worse I'll play bottle neck guitar for the rest of my life."

It was a long wait at the emergency room.   My ex is a bigwig in the hospital's marketing department, but that didn't get us a doctor any faster.  Fortunately the physician who finally worked on me was a surgeon.  I guess somewhere along the line one of the nurses must have given me a pain killer, because when he slipped my injured finger through the hole in the sterile operating bib, I laughed out loud.  Isolated from the rest of my hand, this swollen, fleshy appendage certainly didn't resemble my finger.   

"Well Doc,"  I teased  "You look like a rabbi preparing for a circumcision.

"Yes,"  he said with a twisted grin "but I intend on reattaching the skin, not removing it."

It was weird to feel the tug of the needle and thread as he pulled the wound back together.  He had injected me with Novocain or something, so I couldn't  really feel anything.  It was more like my hand was in the other room and my arm was a mile long.

"So what do you think," I said to the surgeon, "Will I still  be able to play my broken hearted love songs?"

My ex was sitting in the cloth walled cubicle with our two kids.  I looked over at them and  smiled.

"Oh I think you'll be able to play them just fine.  You'll need some PT of course, but the joint is undamaged."

"PT?"  I asked

"Yes, therapy. "

"Therapy?  Like post traumatic?  What?  Do you think my finger is going to go into shock every time it hears a two-stroke engine fire up? Maybe flip-out or something?" 

"Physical therapy." he said, glancing up with a no nonsense expression.  "A crush can be many times harder for the body to heal than a laceration.  You must work the finger to prevent scare tissue from developing that could restrict movement.  That is, if you want to be able to play that fiddle of yours again."

"Guitar."  I corrected  "And I'll do all the therapy you want as long as the little bugger works."

"It will work." he assured me.  "You were very lucky."

Indeed I was.  I can still play the guitar.  Maybe even a little better than before.  Like they say about trauma, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

In a lot of ways I am stronger now than I was that day up on the hill with the wood splitter.  And every time I look at my left hand I think just how lucky I am.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Teaching The Blues

Mississippi John Hurt
I currently instruct one student in the art of guitar.  True, enrollment is a bit lean but I live in the second most sparsely populated county in Pennsylvania.  The local economy, once agrarian based, is now dominated by service sector employment with a smatterring of government positions and health care careers.  The average annual income for a family of four is a scant $33,600.  This leaves little in the way of trickle down revenue for private instruction in the arts.  

My classes are never advertised.  I rely solely on word of mouth.  My entrance requirements have been criticized by some, but I find them most effective in culling out the serious students from those of only passing interest. I insist all would be pupils fashion a hand made guitar from self harvested ash, maple or hickory and construct an instrument without the aid of 20th century technology.  If the guitar meets my strict requirements for resonance, pitch and tone, I then grant an audition.  A single performance of a selected composition is evaluated and entrance accepted or denied.  All decisions are final. 

Arkansas Mike came to me through the recommendation of a respected associate.  Gracious and articulate with the smooth oratory style of our former President Clinton, I invited him to my studio for a visit.  I liked Arkansas immediately.  A keen wit, clear eye and respectful demeanor presented itself, so when he pulled a crisp Jackson from his wallet and humbly requested an hour of instruction, I decided to waive the standard entrance requirements and pocket the twenty.

It has been almost a year since Arkansas Mike became a beneficiary of my weekly tutelage.  His progress has been outstanding as he is in possession of a very fine mind.  Also, without sounding too boastful, my inter-disciplinary approach to arts education has heightened his ability to absorb and process a far greater spectrum of musical styles and techniques due in part to the Renaissance under pinnings of our mentor/pupil relationship.

Coinsider this morning's exchange.  An email arrived expressing Arkansas' concern over the difficulty of mastering the rhythmic picking style of the Delta Blues.  His note also contained reference to a rather difficult encounter with his girlfriend Giggles.   The emotions stimulated by the confluence of Giggles and Arkansas Mike's personalities seemed like an excellent starting point for the week's music lesson.  Consider my approach:

The Student Inquiry

On Mon, Oct 8, 2012 at 10:22 AM, Arkansas Mike > wrote:

Giggles got drunk at Arlo's and I had to re-group and think about the "Simple Life"!!*   I got close to getting mad!!!  So, its bye-bye Giggles!!!!   I do not have the blues, but I would like to work on the song, "Fallin' Down Blues." ** I just have a problem with the blues.  I can't get the rhythm or something down. 

Simple Life 

Arkansas Mike
Susquehanna County

* Simple Life refers to the lessening of material and emotional attachements inorder to reduce human suffering. 

** Fallin' Down Blues:
The Instructor's Response:

From: Ron Boyd
Date: Mon, Oct 8, 2012 at 2:24 PM
Subject: Re: The Blues
To: Arkansas Mike

Rhythm problems?  Ah, the white man's burden!  You must tap into your "dark side" Arkansas Mike.  Funnel your repressed anger, your disappointments, your frustration, into twelve bars of repetitive melody;  give it a place to go.  

Have you ever asked yourself why the American slave sang the blues?  Well, if he expressed his anger, frustration or disappointment, if he actually stepped up and punched that big, fat, white overseer right in his bulbous red nose, he would have undoubtably been boiled like a potato  whipped like cream, stomped like grapes or shredded like wheat!  If by chance he survived, he would then have found himself bound in chains and headed for the auction block in the malaria infested swamps of the Mississipi Delta.  

So slaves learned to FUNNEL their anger.  They learned to hold on to it until they got to a secluded corner of the cabin where they could sit down on the dirt floor and just start rockin' back and forth, hugging their knees hard, swayin' side to side, rollin' their eyes and holding those powerful guns at bay.  Yeah, and they would feel that anger like it was molten rock sloshin' around in the earth's core, down where Satan swims.  They would feel those scalding gastric juices churning up in their bellies. They would feel swollen with sulfurous gas and taste the bitter bile of diminishment and insult.  Then, when they felt all the meanness and hate and earthly injustice they had endured about to explode inside them, they would throw back their heads, part their lips and with a glorious smile, let that poisonous geyser rip; let it blow right over their vocal cords like ink black smoke gushing from the stack of a steaming locomotive... and out it would a boil lanced:  The Blues!

Try singing these words, then make up a few of your own.
Well Jesus walked on water
Across the River Jordan
You can smell the beans and bacon
And the bones of evil breakin'

Giggles she been drinkin'
From dah fountain of dee Satan
Now she howlin' at dah Moon
Like a dog dat treed a coon

You see, you just have to let it come out.  You can't think about it.  You have got to feel it.  Embrace the pain.  Make friends with the pain.  Then you gotta sing the pain... dance the pain... love the pain... because the pain is the path to glory.  It is the way to God's SALVATION.

Okay, there is one other way to play the blues.  Its the Lennon/McCarthy approach.  A structured course of practice consisting of a minimum of 10,000 hours*.  That works too.

*see "Outliers" Chapter 2. by Malcolm Gladwell    

Good luck Ark!