Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bye Bye Love

Phil Everly died on January 3. Even my husband, who doesn't know beans about pop music, knew The Everly Brothers, admittedly after I sang him snippets of a few of their songs. Their influence on the Rock and Roll world was enormous, bringing the sweet beauty of harmony singing from bluegrass and country traditions to generations of rockers. The Beatles claim The Everlys taught them how to sing harmony, evidenced in "Please Please Me" and "Love, Love Me Do." Ricky Nelson, Linda Ronstadt and The Eagles are all descendants of this legacy. CBS News does a much better job of detailing The Everlys' influence, including audio and video clips to enhance the effect, in this tribute, written after Phil's death.

But no one can dispute that the group who was most inspired by and aspired to be The Everly Brothers was Simon and Garfunkel. They met as schoolboys and, in the beginning, called their duo Tom & Jerry, trying to look and sound as much as they could like Don & Phil Everly. In 2003-2004, Simon and Garfunkel organized a world tour, "Old Friends," celebrating fifty years together. There was no question of what group, if any, could share the stage with them. It had to be The Everly Brothers. Rolling Stone profiled this reunion in a great article, which I hope you'll take the time to read. Be sure to watch the video clip, showing S&G and The Everlys together briefly and then the brothers singing two songs. 

My sister, Iris, and I attended the Austin,Texas stop on the "Old Friends" tour and it was a night neither of us will ever forget. As soon as I heard Phil had died, I emailed her and reminded her of the experience; she replied that it was the first thing she'd thought of when she heard the news. It was a remarkable night because the concert almost didn't happen. As the Erwin Center filled and the crowd grew restless, starting time moved by and the curtain remained closed. At one point a spokesperson came out and told us one of The Everly Brothers was ill and was being evaluated by medical personnel, asking for our patience. More minutes passed until finally, over an hour after scheduled time, the curtain opened and the music began. It was immediately apparent that Simon and Garfunkel were not happy. Who knows what backstage intrigue had been going on and then spilled onto the stage. They sang beautifully, as consummate performers would, but they didn't smile, didn't look at each other and even stood at such an angle that they were almost back-to-back for the first few songs. But the audience that night, in my belief, saved the show, or at least made the show. I have never experienced being in such an enthusiastic audience. Nearly every song received a standing ovation and loud cheering. By the time S&G brought The Everly Brothers out, early in the set, the crowd was practically screaming, and continued to roar after every song. By the end of the evening, Simon and Garfunkel looked at each other, first with expressions of surprise, just shaking their heads at the reaction and then later, with smiles and laughter, ending in hugs all around. Magic. We got three encores and demanded more. 

In the 2003 Rolling Stone article I linked earlier, Paul Simon said, "It was hilarious that the four of us were doing this tour, given our collective histories of squabbling. And it's amazing because they (The Everly Brothers) hadn't seen each other in about three years. They met in the parking lot before the first gig. They unpacked their guitars--those famous black guitars--and they opened their mouths and started to sing. And after all these years, it was still that sound I fell in love with as a kid. It was still perfect."

Harmony singing has a unique effect on both those who sing and those who listen. As David Bauer said in his AP tribute to Phil Everly, "Singers discover that the sound of their voices together creates a magic that isn't there when each is alone."

Thank you, Phil Everly, for creating magic with your brother for so many years. You enriched my life and millions of others. And sadly now, whenever we want you, all we can do is dream. Here's my favorite Everly Brothers song, posted on YouTube ("Let It Be Me.")  

Thank you for stopping by today. I'll be back soon.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Thank You, Paul Simon

I think we can all agree that Paul Simon is an American icon. His music, whether performed with his lifelong friend, Art Garfunkel, alone or introducing the world to LadySmith Black Mombaza has provided a big chunk of the soundtrack of an entire generation. Where would we be without Bridge Over Troubled Water, Mrs. Robinson, The Boxer, Sound of Silence or the entire Graceland album? I'll never forget the first time I saw Paul and the South African dancers on stage and singing Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes. It tickled my soul.

But today, while I listened to Still Crazy After All These Years, I was reminded that I will be forever grateful for that night in 1976 when Paul Simon stepped out on the stage of Saturday Night Live dressed in a turkey costume, singing that song. 

The idea of this wonderful, talented, iconic musician, having enough self-deprecation to see the humor in slapstick comedy made me laugh out loud then and smile every time I think of it since then. And sometimes, just one smile during the day makes a difference. Thank you, Paul Simon.

Here's a link to a video I found on Vimeo of that night in 1976. The quality isn't good, but for those of you who remember seeing it live that night, it doesn't really matter. 

Thanks for stopping by today. I've been gone awhile because of illness and surgery, but I'm doing better. I'll be back again soon.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Family Time, Unplugged

'I just spent the nicest weekend with my family. It was so nice, I just had to stop and tell you all about it. I'm still working on posts about Hawaii, but while the past few days are still fresh in my mind I'm going to write about them.

My brother and his children came up from the Houston area for a visit. We gathered at my niece's house, three generations. My siblings were there (2 sisters, 1 brother,) most of their children and even a few grandchildren. My oldest sister and her daughter live next door to each other on the same 25 acre tract of land. They have a swimming pool at one of the houses and a guest apartment above the other garage, all collectively referred to as "Carrie's Compound." We split up the cooking duty, with each of the "moms" taking a meal or two over the four-day visit. I brought lunch on Saturday, designed so everything could be eaten with fingers, outside around the pool. There was roasted shrimp, thinly sliced ham and turkey, crusty baguettes, mixed berries, grape tomatoes, watermelon and my Grandma's special ginger/molasses cookies. I brought extra of everything except the shrimp so that they would have some snack items later that evening. Not one crumb was leftover.

It was an unusually mild afternoon for a Central Texas June; the mercury stayed around 90 and the sky a little cloudy, making it very pleasant to sit in the shade of the patio and visit. At various times we swam in the pool, relaxed in the hot tub, sat around and talked, played Rumikube, created giant bubbles and generally had a great time. 

The giant bubble maker
The players of the games changed seamlessly, with people coming and going as they needed. The atmosphere was relaxed and comfortable, with none of the tension sometimes endured when families gather. I was struck by how unplugged we all were. No one was talking on the phone, watching videos or playing electronic games. I, personally, am surgically attached to my iPad, but I left it in my purse all day. I will confess that I used my phone to take these photos and send a couple of text messages to my niece in Hawaii to let her know what we all were doing and that we missed her. I'll also admit that our 16 year old checked her texts a few times, but not very many. I was amazed at how long she just sat, talked and laughed with her dad; it warmed my heart. On another note, our 13 year old was grounded off her phone, else she would have been in constant "text" mode. 

My brother and his 16 year old daughter sat together for ages and just talked. She only checked her phone a few times.

Rumikube action; no batteries or cords required.

Today everyone wanted to go see the new Superman movie, so I opted to stay with "The Baby," our 3 year old Andy. He is my brother's youngest son and the delight of our family, coming along when we didn't think there would be anymore babies. Andy and I were alone together for about 5 hours and had the most delightful time. He is a big chatterbox (ahem, my nephew) so I talked, made up stories, read to and sang with him all day. The television, iPads and movies were all there, but when, personally needing a little break, I asked him if he wanted to watch any of them, he said, "No, let's play." That really amazed me, given how much he is fascinated by the iPad, something I wrote about last year when he was still only two. You can read about it here. 

It just goes to prove again to grownups that what children crave the most is not more stuff, but more time together. And not just being there physically, but participating, even when we are tired and want to turn on the television to babysit for a while. I played all afternoon and ended up coming home so energized that I cleaned and leaf-vacuumed our pool before I collapsed for a nap. It made a memory I'll always have. 

I'll say it again, "Who could resist that face?" Not me for sure.

Thanks for stopping by today. I'll be on a gambling trip with one of my friends, celebrating her birthday, for the next few days. Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Remember Pearl Harbor

Today is the anniversary of D-Day. Sixty-nine years ago, June 6, 1944, was the day the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy and began the liberation of Western Europe from the control of Nazi Germany during World War II. To commemorate this anniversary, I am writing this post about Pearl Harbor. I know I'm off by a continent and an ocean or two, but same war, similar tragedies.

Officially the Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona memorial are named The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Last year they completed a multimillion dollar renovation of the Visitor Center there, adding new exhibit galleries, interactive displays and audio components to detail the events of the "date that will live in infamy" and the remembrances of those involved. The exhibit buildings are open and streamlined, with guests moving from one to another, chronologically learning about the day of the attack and remainder of the Pacific War. The USS Arizona Memorial lies out in the harbor, accessible only by boat. Visitors are issued tickets for a specific time to board the boat, with trips running continuously throughout the day. 

When we arrived in Honolulu, one of the first things we did was go online to reserve tickets to view the Arizona Memorial. We quickly found out that all the advance tickets for the days we would be able to go were gone. The only tickets that might be available were those that are distributed each day on a first come, first served basis (FCFS.) We thought we were going to be out of luck and had just about resigned ourselves to viewing the remainder of the exhibits, missing the Arizona. But then, Yay(!), Jeff to the rescue. My wonderful nephew, stationed at Pearl Harbor/Hickam AFB, had taken days off to be with us while we were on Oahu. He had one meeting he had to attend, so, on that day, he went in very early and was able to get the FCFS tickets for us all. What a sweetie. 

We arrived a little more than an hour before our ticket time to wander through the exhibit halls of the Visitor Center. Among other items, the exhibits feature giant, wall-sized murals which show aspects of the attack, complete with Braille. Here is a photo of one of the murals showing positioning of the ships in Battleship Row and the direction of approach of the Japanese bombers. 

Here is a shot of my approximation of the same approach as it is today. The battleship Missouri is docked on the left, the Arizona Memorial on the right and Ford Island in the background.

This shot shows Scott and I in front of one of the murals so that you can get a perspective of how large they are.

Before you board the boat that goes out to the Arizona, you see a 20 minute film (very good) about the attack on the Battleships. It contains a good deal of live footage and photos shot during that day. 

Marsha, Jeff and Scott waiting to enter the theatre.

Battleship Missouri, accessible for tours from Ford Island.
As we enter the USS Arizona Memorial, the group gets quiet, reflective and respectful.  The shattered remains of the sunken vessel are all around. The memorial basically straddles the midship area. The Japanese aerial bomb that struck the forward section of the USS Arizona ignited the forward magazine causing a catastrophic explosion that sunk the battleship in nine minutes.

USS Arizona Memorial (aerial view).jpg
I captured this overhead image from Wikipedia.

 A WWII veteran gazes down upon the wreckage. He and others toss flowers in to honor the dead.

The far end of the Memorial contains a shrine listing the names of the 1177 sailors and marines from the USS Arizona killed in the attack. The ship holds the remains of 1102 of them.

There were 1.4 million gallons of fuel on the USS Arizona when she sank. Over 60 years later, approximately nine quarts still surfaces from the ship each day. Some Pearl Harbor survivors have referred to the oil droplets as "Black Tears." 

President Dwight Eisenhower signed the law to create the USS Arizona Memorial in 1958. However, the public law stipulated that the monument would be built without federal funding because of budget restraints due to the Korean War. The Pacific War Memorial Commission was tasked with raising the $500,000 required it build the structure. Several organizations and individuals helped in the effort to raise the required amount. In 1958, the Territory of Hawaii contributed the initial $50,000. On December 3rd, 1958 the popular television series, “This is Your Life” hosted by Ralph Edwards, featured Samuel Fuqua, Medal of Honor recipient and the senior surviving officer from the USS Arizona. This broadcast kicked off the public fundraising campaign. Over $95,000 was raised for the new permanent structure. Three years later, The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, hosted a benefit concert at Pearl Harbor’s Bloch Arena, raising over $64,000. The Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) partnered with the Revell Model Company to sell plastic models of the battleship USS Arizona. Enclosed inside the kit was donation information on the instruction sheet. This led to contributions of over $40,000. Finally, on September 6th, 1961, freshman Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye secured federal funding, which provided the final $150,000 to complete the construction, so in the end, public money was required to meet the goal. The legislation stated that the Memorial was “to be maintained in honor and commemoration of the members of the Armed Forces of the United States who gave their lives to their country during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941.” 

Several days after this visit, Jeff took us to his office building on Hickham AFB. It now houses the Pacific Air Forces Command, but it 1941 it was the large barracks fired upon while most of the men were sleeping on that long ago Sunday morning. 

The main lobby holds a disply of "Old Glory," the flag which flew over the base during the attack. 

The interior courtyard has been named The Courtyard of Heros, commemorating those that died in the Pacific War. 

Bullet strafing from December 7, 1941 remain preserved in the walls of the building. 

These next photos show the barracks as they are now, and how they were then. 

Hallway today

Same location, a sleeping bay in 1941.

Sailors, relaxing around the radio in 1941.

The same location today.
These and other images of that day have implanted themselves firmly in my mind. I've had dreams of the attack since this visit, placing myself as a civilian living on Oahu, standing paralyzed, looking at the skies as the Japanese planes flew in from the North Shore, down the lush green canyons to Pearl Harbor. In my dream I felt the panic they must have felt and agonized over the deaths of all those young men, horribly awakened to fight for their lives.  The website of The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument says it well:

More than just a significant military battle in world history, the events at Pearl Harbor awakened the local military and civilian residents to the character of war. At the moment bombs began to fall, these men and women were instantly engaged into the depths of the human condition.

December 7, 1941 Losses United States Japan
Personnel Killed 2,390
Navy 1,999 64
Marine Corps 109
Army and Army Air Forces 233
Civilian 49
Personnel Wounded 1,178 unknown
Navy 710
Marine Corps 69
Army and Army Air Forces 364
Civilian 35
Sunk or Beached** 12 5
Damaged* 9
Destroyed 164 29
Damaged 159 74
* Figures are subject to further review
** All U.S. Ships, except Arizona, Utah and Oklahoma were salvaged and later saw action.
Lest we forget.
Thank you for stopping by. Please take a moment today to remember the lives lost on the beaches of Normandy, at Pearl Harbor, in WWII and all other conflicts.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Skunks and Junk

Re-entering the real world after three weeks in Hawaii has been hard, particularly the last few days. I know you're thinking, "Oh poor you." I know. People died in Oklahoma yesterday; many others lost everything they own. I do have some sense of perspective. But this is my blog and I get to use it to whine a little, now and then. This is one of those times.

I wrote earlier about how I was having trouble getting back on my my normal sleep schedule. That has improved a lot, but I'm still find the idea of sleeping until 10:00am appealing. I finally got all the suitcases unpacked and stored away and the dirty laundry sorted into piles -- bleach, lights, reds, darks, dry cleaning -- even though I haven't eliminated all the piles yet. I'm still sorting and editing photos, thinking about how I can share them with you.

My head didn't want to work at all yesterday. I sat down several times to try to write a post but it just wasn't coming together. I had really bad news the night before and I just couldn't get my mind off my friend, Judy. I received an email from her last week, thanking me for the mother's day ecard I sent her and telling me she was out in California to take care of her son Scott, who was going to have minor back surgery. The really bad news we got this week was that Scott died at home, two days after the surgery. Judy was with him and, as you can imagine, she is devastated. They are trying to determine the cause but don't know yet. 

My head and heart are filled with painful memories and, in talking to mutual friends, dread the fact that I know what's ahead for Judy. Judy realizes that too, and told one of our friends to, "Ask Annette. She knows how I'm doing." All I can do is make myself available to her whenever she gets back. The days and nights will be long. 

I tried all day yesterday to shake the feelings. Then about 3:00, the news about Oklahoma starting coming in, particularly focusing on the children in the eradicated elementary school. My heart sank even further until I just had to turn off the television, not able to absorb any more. 

My usual comfort system, playing with the dogs, wasn't working because the dogs weren't here. They were at the groomer. Something else that happened in the last few days was that Ruffles got skunked late Wednesday night. I bathed her once in peppermint shampoo, all I could find in a panic. That helped some. The next day I made the concoction recommended on the internet -- baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and liquid soap. That helped even more. By the time she got home yesterday there was just a trace of odor left and when she came in the door, both she and I started feeling better. Lucy, too. 

Dog therapy, laundry and busy work got me through today and although still sad, I'm coping much better. Enough to go through some Hawaii photos to find a memory that really made me smile the day it happened. We were at Bellows Beach on Oahu for the day. Next to our "setup" was a woman with two little girls. All three spent most of the day digging a big hole in the sand and were having the most marvelous time. I watched them with glee, laughing out loud at times, particularly when the little baby girl would shove sand in her mouth, then turn and laugh at me. 

It made me smile today. I hope the same for you. Thanks for stopping by.   

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Tour Guide

I have many thoughts and photos to share about Hawaii, days filled with picture post card scenes, sobering historical recollections, tropical trees, flowers and, of course, the Pacific Ocean. So I decided to start with the best story of the whole trip. It's about a dog, a tour guide and the Hana Highway.

At the beginning of our second week in Hawaii, Scott and I boarded a cruise ship for a seven-day sail to the other islands: Maui, Hawaii and Kauai. Our first stop was Maui, where we spent two full days. All the recommendations told us at the top of the list of "don't miss" was the 60 mile drive along the coast to the village of Hana. The cruise ship had several tour options available, but they were large groups with built-in "shopping and food" stops, all of which were unappealing to us. I read my Fodor's Guide, did some internet research about private tours and decided to take the gamble; we got off the ship with no idea how we were going to get to Hana. I started making phone calls and, while talking to one of the tour companies, I looked over at the taxi line and saw the driver of the next available car. Something went "ping" in my head. I quickly said, "Let me call you back," and grabbed Scott to go over and talk to the driver. His name was Matt and as luck would have it, he owned his own taxi and did tours on the side. He agreed to spend the day with us and take us to Hana for a flat fee.

Originally from Maine, Matt made the move to Maui a little over five years ago.  The years living in paradise haven't jaded him; he is still really enthusiastic about Maui and interested in everything he sees. His energy spilled over to us and we were game to visit all the places he suggested. I told him I was a writer and would like to hear as many stories as he wanted to tell. That prompted him to make a couple of stops that weren't on the "regular" tour, which turned out to be some of the best visits of the day. 

Our first scenic stop was Puokeipa Lookout, where I took shots of some surfers and stand-up boarders. 

One of Matt's friends posted a YouTube video of this beach loaded with green sea turtles. Check it out if you are interested. (Hint: it's a little long, but if you go to the last minute, you get the best views.)

We drove by the fence "where surf boards go to die,"

and the Garden of Eden Botanical Garden, a private property with trails and drives among lush tropical greenery and blooms. 

Scott, checking out the bamboo

Can you see all the bees?

Tree with carefully-cultivated lichen


The Garden of Eden also offered us views of shooting locations for the movie Jurassic Park.

Continuing on the Hana Road, we took a side road down a small peninsula to the village of Haiku, where villagers are trying to re-establish the agricultural techniques of their ancestors, including growing taro.

Near the shore at the village of Haiku

Taro growing

Taro growing
Next came maybe my most favorite part of the trip, because of the story Matt related to us. When he first arrived on the island, his buddy, who had encouraged him to move here and found him a job in construction, took him all around, showing him the best spots. Off the Hana Highway is a little track that takes you to the village of Nahiku, right on the coast. Along the way you come across a run down, nearly collapsed fruit shack on the side of the road. Pull over there and wait a few minutes for a dog to appear. Give the dog some food and he takes off, wanting you to follow. The dog leads you along a remote trail that twists and turns over and under the tree growth and suddenly opens up to a tropical oasis. There is a waterfall with little pools above and below for you to swim. You would never find this place on your own and the dog barks to you as he leads, encouraging you to hurry up. Matt and his friends had a wonderful day, a unique experience he has never forgotten because you can hear the wonder and excitement in his voice as he tells the story. Feed the dog some more and he takes you back to your car, then disappears to wait for his next customer. Matt told us the story when we started along the road and as we came to the spot, sure enough, there was the dog. Matt was so elated to see him, but we couldn't stop. Scott did manage to get a quick photo. Maybe it's all made up, but my bullshit detector is very finely tuned and I'm seldom wrong. And Matt showed such true excitement about seeing him, that I'm betting the Tour Guide Dog is a true story. My niece has already told me I must write an illustrated children's book about him. 

By now it was lunch time so, back on the Hana Highway, we stopped at the Nahiku Roadside Marketplace. There we had some amazing food, prepared in stands by local chefs. I watched our Chef Jen prepare shrimp pad Thai from scratch. She chopped the vegetables, stir-fried the shrimp and noodles in woks right in front of me. It was maybe the best Thai food I'd ever had. I would have loved to try everything on the menu. Scott and Matt got Kalua pig tacos, with black beans, cheese and shredded cabbage. They were really good, too. Better than anything at Chipotle. There were fruit and souvenir vendors there as well. Chickens roamed the grounds and Chef Jen's little girl played with coconut shells under our feet.  The whole stop was a delightful experience.

Kalua Pig tacos

Matt, enjoying his taco
Chef Jen preparing my shrimp pad thai

Chef Jen's little girl

The best pad thai I ever ate

Ocean views at Nahiku peninsula.

Matt and Scott trading stories

Arriving on the outskirts of Hana, Matt told us another great story. He knew that a girl from Maine, someone he'd gone to school with most of his life, had moved to Hana but he didn't know where. On one of his early trips, he stopped at Hana Farms, a roadside fruit stand which also sells freshly baked banana bread. To his surprise, he looked up and there was his friend, working in the stand. Small world, Maine to Maui. We made the same stop and bought delicious pineapple banana bread and macadamia nut banana bread along with some jars of banana butter and pineapple jelly to try when we got home.

Once in Hana we stopped at Waianapanapa State Park, site of Maui's truly blackest black sand beach. It's possible to swim there and explore the coastal caves, but we passed on that and opted for a walk along the beach, experiencing the different textures of the volcanic sand. 

The Hand, rising out of the sea

 There is a private cemetery in the middle of the park. I took photos of the sign there and would like to find out more about the place. 

Matt had taken his sister to the park when she came from Maine to visit. His sister's fiancee had recently died and she, in preparation for the trip, had read about the legend of the lover's flower. There was once a Princess Naupaka who fell in love with a man who was not royal, so of course, they were forbidden to marry. She had to rejoin her family in the mountains and her lover had to stay on the beaches with those of his class. Before they parted, she gave him a flower with petals only growing on half the stem. He planted the flower and now it grows only on the beaches or up in the mountains, mirroring the separation of the two lovers. We saw the bushes with their small, half flowers, growing along the volcanic shore.

Our final stop would be Haleakala National Park, where we saw the Oheo Gulch and the Seven Sacred Pools. Before getting there we passed the Maui home of Charles Lindberg, who is buried at a nearby church yard. Matt's finacee sells real estate on the island and one weekend they were part of a group invited to see the estate house of Jason Reitman, the director of the movie Juno. The house was for sell and the custom in Maui for these remote locations is to bring a group of people at a time to see them. As part of the open house they had a door prize of a free night at Charles Lindberg's house for two couples. Matt and his fiancee won and were able to spend the night there. He said it was amazing, with rooms filled with all Lindbergh's memorabilia -- the flight, his celebrity and the kidnapping and death of his son.

Water flows through Oheo Gulch, into the seven sacred pools and down to the sea.


 We decided to return along the back side of Maui instead of retracing our steps along the Hana Road. This part of the island is very different. It receives less rainfall, so the grass is brown and the vegetation scrubby. It reminded both Scott and I of the Chisos Mountains in west Texas. Almost uninhabited, we drove miles and miles without seeing buildings or people, just free-ranging cattle. 

Jacaranda Tree in bloom

We drove the Kaupo Road, the backside of Maui or "Upcountry." As we continued, we abruptly crossed back into the rainy portion of the island and the scenery changed radically as well. Oprah Winfree owns a lot of property in this area, accessible only by private roads. This is the area of Maui cowboys and cattle ranching. We saw the most gorgeous tree in bloom, completely purple blooms, the color of wisteria. Matt had never seen it in bloom before so he didn't know what it was, but they were all over this side of the island. I now know is was the Jacaranda Tree.

We arrived back at the ship at about 6:00pm after the greatest day-trip I can remember. Thank you so much, Matt Bryant, for this day, for sharing your stories, taking such good care of us and showing us the dog. It will always be a wonderful memory. Y'all go see Matt next time you're in Maui, 808-280-3485.

Thanks for stopping by today. More Hawaii adventures coming soon.