Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Share the gratitude #6

The final one in the series. Now that's something to be grateful for!

O xein!, angellein Lakedaimoniois hoti tede
keimetha tois keinon rhemasi peithomenoi!

- Simonides of Ceos

Paraphrased quasitranslation:
O dear reader!, go tell Clint that I rest here all finished,
while obeying his initial injunction undiminished.

Yes, Clint is a modern Spartan (Lacedaemonian). You didn't know that? You mean you've never seen him in his spandex bodysuit with the big lambda on the front? Huh.

I'm grateful for:

1. Tom's health. FIL Tom has been dealing with some significant health and pain issues. It was pretty scary for a while but he recently got a diagnosis and treatment plan which seems like it should provide a good outcome. I'm grateful for "Papa" Tom in general because he's a wonderful person but I'm specifically grateful that this particular issue is looking like it's gonna turn out ok.

2. Bob's health. My old college gymnastics buddy Bob has had a couple of unpleasant health problems lately. I won't go into great detail but after two operations recently, he's finally gotten a kidney stone condition resolved after almost a year. Once he heals up from those surgeries, he'll go under the knife again for a hernia he's been living with for a coupla years. By the time he's done, he'll be out of pocket for the equivalent of a new compact car. It sucks to be without health insurance in this country but I'm grateful that my friend will have these problems corrected, despite the cost. Then, it'll be time for some new adventures for us crazy, and now old, idiots and our frequent companion, the infamous monkey bastard. Don't ask. Never mention the (infamous) monkey bastard. Never.

3. The Greybeards and their sexy Hot Backup Chicks. It all started at the fabulous LIFE is Good conference in May 2009. I don't remember exactly where the concept originated or who was the first to mention it but Jeff Sabo wanted to play some bass and Russ Anguish wanted to play some guitar. When they queried me, well, I'm always willing to play my organ (Synthia) and we had our music gear there cuz my family was doing a song for the talent show. So, in a progression as inescapable as the gravity well of a singularity, we formed up as the Greybeards and decided to play a song after the Maier family appeared as the Motley Penguins at the talent show cuz that way the gear was already set up. We did Gloria cuz it's an easy one and had Ronnie, Shonna Morgan, and Robin Bentley sing the chorus and backup bits as our Hot Backup Chicks. That effort is (mostly) recorded for posterity here.

It was tremendous fun and we glibly spoke of repeating the experience at the Good Vibrations conference in the Fall without any actual specificity to that brave talk. I enjoyed the experience so much that I did strongly wish for a repeat, whether at Good Vibrations or some other venue. Be careful what you wish for because once we entered the gravity well of the Greybeards singularity, things accelerated all on their own. First, we committed, actually and specifically, to do a song together at Good Vibrations. Cool! Talent show here we come! Then, somehow, it became a mini-set of a few, or a handful, of songs, maybe as an opening act for Amy Steinberg or perhaps as part of the Sunday night Farewell Dance or …? The next time I read my email, we were talking to Flo, the conference organizer, using the phrase "house band" in the context of the Farewell Dance. Ultimately, we wound up sending around among ourselves email lists of potential songs to fill out TWO COMPLETE SETS of music, approximately two dozen songs!

We lived in two different states and a province of Canada. We had no drummer. We did have a preliminary song list and a commitment. We voted for a core list of songs from our distribution list which would probably work for us. We decided on resources for and versions of those songs so we could listen and practice individually and we started looking for a drummer.

The Washingtonians visited Canada for some partial-group practice and further refined the playlist while getting some experience actually playing together. Later, the Canadians visited Washington for some additional practice and song refinement. Meanwhile, Jeff bought himself a beautiful bass and practiced alone in San Diego while trying to work in some together practice time with Marc Lavallee who planned to play guitar with the Good Vibrations incarnation of the Greybeards. Jeff's wife, Ginger, was also considering a position as one of the Hot Backup Chicks but ultimately decided that she had too many other obligations, assisting Flo with general conference stuff.

As we got closer to our play date, still without a drummer, we finally snagged Alex Hoeltzel through some desperate online begging. We emailed him the playlist and he started working through it with his drumming teacher. Despite his temporal status as a teen, he instantly became an official Greybeard. Phew! Rock band achieves completeness.

Eventually, we all wound up in San Diego at Good Vibrations, except that Russ couldn't make it there until Saturday; so the rest of us met together, some for the first time ever, on Thursday. We had a couple of get-acquainted practices in my hotel room and then on Saturday, with Russ' arrival, Flo gave us access to one of the big rooms where we had our first-ever practice all together with full gear. Sunday was the gig.

And it was wonderful. Obviously, we weren't fabulous. We weren't tight. We screwed up a lot. We won't be going on tour any time soon, earning zillions of $$ from adoring fans. But we were pretty damned good for a gang of near-strangers who had negligible practice together. Most significantly, we were good enough for rock 'n' roll and we, AND THE CROWD, had FUN. Marc didn't get to play with us because of family demands. Being unschoolers we all understood that but I wish he'd been able to. He plugged in and started to tune up but then he was called away. Maybe next time! Ginger did get to join us for one song as she sang lead on "Walkin' on Sunshine."

I love playing with the Greybeards and the Hot Backup Chicks and look forward with vast excitement to future gigs! I'm also grateful for our fantastic FANS. They are the best!

4. My friend Mange and his killer stuttering guitar. (#31 at that link. Edited version reproduced below.)

THE G100

31. Better Half Dozen: I'm Gonna Leave You/I Could Have Loved Her. [Link to "I Coulda" on YouTube. No online version that I know of for "Gonna Leave." I might hafta upload one.] A supreme 2-sided masterpiece which has everything. The A-side is a monster punker with frantic organ, basic pounding drums and a ridiculously effective stuttering guitar [Emphasis added] solo. The B-side combines a memorable haunting chorus with upbeat pop sensibilities, and more frantic organ and killer guitar [Emphasis added]... Hear both killer tracks on Sixties Archives 5: Louisiana Punk Groups from the 60s.

Mange is my remaining pal from high school and my music compadre. We played together thru the 60s then physically went our separate ways, although we kept in touch over the years. We played a reunion gig once, in '91, then returned again to our separate lives. Mange has just announced that he reactivated his guitars, amps, and accessories from a 10-year dormancy and he has returned to playing. For my part, as I said in #3 above, I've reactivated my musical life by playing with the Greybeards and the Hot Backup Chicks, which has been wonderful. And now I really wanna play another gig, even just ONE, with my old guitar pal Mange.

5. Knowledge. In contrast to bowdlerized and eviscerated school textbooks containing nothing but pablum, I've enjoyed reading serious history books from which I learned the harsh reality of the Pilgrims/Puritans/Separatists and the pogroms against, and wholesale enslavement of, the indigenous peoples of the American continents undertaken by the European powers from 1492 onward and especially the draconian increases in violence against the natives to the level of genocide by the newish government of the United States of America, compared to the more-reasonable interaction of the Northern European nations with the same native peoples prior to the formation of the U.S.A. For an Anglophobe like me, it really sucks to be morally inferior to the fucking British Empire. And, yes, I did specify Northern Europe cuz Spain was always the worst of the worst for enslavement for profit and wanton genocide under the umbrella and in the name of religion. Give Spain that, at least their purposeful, unadulterated evil made the emerging USA's casual genocide look decent and compassionate by comparison.

Speaking of religion, Thanksgiving Day is historically a day to give thanks to some mythical boojum, usually called "god," for giving us this land just like the Tetragrammaton gave Jericho and much of Canaan to Joshua; all Joshua hadda do was exterminate the current inhabitants. I'm happy that I don't believe in any kind of sky-dwelling superbeing, mystical juju, or Western cargo cult. Guess that makes me grateful to be an atheist.

The Pilgrims' legacy: strange fruit.

Me, I'm grateful to have ordinary fruit in a delicious pie with the family as a dessert course after our turkey feast, specifically, homemade, hand-picked blackberry pie luxuriating in grandma's perfect crust. Thanks, Mary!

Vivamus … atque amemus! - Catullus
Let us live and let us love!

Because, really, what else is there?

Golden oldies:
Gratitude #1
Gratitude #2
Gratitude #3
Gratitude #4
Gratitude #5


  1. Happy Day to you and yours, Frank.

  2. What a great way to spend 6am on a Wednesday morning! First I listen 3 times to the new song on the setlist, wondering "WTF am I doing at 6am listening to a new song, testing out harmonies?!?" And then....some stroke of coincidence had me read singularity....and now I can't wait to get together again and practice! Woo hoo!!!! Life is WAY Good!

  3. Frank,

    Thank you so much for doing this list every week, I look forward to your posts. Spartan,huh? Should I say thanks?

    Happy Thanksgiving and gobble,gobble