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Entry date: 5-2-2024 – E Pluribus Screw’em – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

At some point in the history of Hillbilly Devilspeak, we had a song called “E Pluribus Screw’em.” I thought it was a clever title. I don’t have any recordings of it, though, and sadly it has vanished into the musical universe. A veritable sacrifice at the table of the riff gods.

 

It was a good one, though, if my memory serves. The basic idea of the lyrics was how the government was screwing all of us every chance it got (er, gets, I suppose, since it is all still happening). Some things never change.

 

Yesterday, Granny and I were talking about this. She’ll be 98 next month and she agreed with me that things are no different now than they’ve always been. The people in power are going to do everything they can to stay in power, even if it means screwing over everyone else. Those were not her exact words, but the message was the same.

 

Sometimes it feels like there is not much we can do about this, but that’s being shortsighted. We can do a lot, even if it is akin to throwing a small pebble into a vast lake. Those little ripples in the water can do a lot.

 

This is why I work with children. If I can help them question the world around them or see things a bit more from their own perspective, I’ve made little ripples in that big body of water. If I make enough of them, I might even start a small wave.

 

Goals.


*****

 

I’m very thankful for these visits and chats with Granny, by the way. My dad reminded me that April 30 would have been my grandfather’s 110th birthday. What I wouldn’t give to have some more conversations with him. I feel like I could learn so much from him now that I was not ready to learn when he was still alive. If there is an afterlife, though, I’m sure he knows that I still have lots of love for him in my heart and I always will. I know now how lucky I was to be his grandson.

 

I’ve written it before, and I’ll write it again: Love is the best thing there is.

 

Each day that passes, I am more and more convinced that if we remind ourselves of this very fact now and again, we will be so much happier. I don’t have to like someone to let love guide me in how I treat them. I don’t even have to be anything more than respectful.

 

Love is the best thing there is and because of this, I can sit here now and feel at peace, even with all the bullshit in the world.

 

*****

 

Cocaine Baby inappropriately touched students in PE yesterday, so he was out of my hair for most of the day. At the very least, he was good for the hour I had him. Hopefully there was no knife play after school. I’ll know soon if there was.

 

*****

 

There is something so freaking beautiful about “Nostalgia in Times Square” by Charles Mingus. I love the song so much and I also love the record, Jazz Portraits-Mingus in Wonderland, too. As a bass player, it’s one of the elegant mountains you have to climb with your soul. Just don’t forget your oxygen mask because it’s pretty high up there.

 

“Nostalgia In Times Square” has this totally New York thing about it. It seems like it is the sound in the background of many a montage where someone is trying to score heroin in New York in the 1950s and 60s…or maybe on some massive booze bender.

 

It reminds me of reading William S. Burroughs. I’m guessing Mingus and Burroughs crossed paths at some point. I like to imagine the two of them slyly regarding each other and maybe sidling up to another and going, “Hey, man. You’re pretty far out.”

 

Neither of them probably talked that way.

 

Mingus was a fascinating guy, though, and I bet most Arizonans don’t know he was from Nogales. I was pretty stoked when I found that out. Lots of good bass players from this state.

 

Jazz Portraits-Mingus in Wonderland starts off with “Nostalgia in Time Square” and as good as the bass is on this song, it’s really the saxophone work, both tenor and alto, by Booker Ervin ad John Handy, respectively, that make the early part of the song so memorable.

 

In fact, you’re hit with the sax right off the bat when you drop the needle on the record.

 

Mingus was the type of composer who was seemingly fine with giving other people a chance to shine on his songs. As a long time bandleader and also a partner in Debut Records, it seems like Mingus was a guy who did not crave the spotlight as much as some of his contemporaries.

 

There are only four tracks on Jazz Portraits-Mingus in Wonderland, but they are all substantial in both length and depth of feel. I often play this one in the mornings at work. The kids seem to chill out quite a bit with it on, but also seem to like it. We can listen to the first three tracks, too, between the time the classroom door opens and announcements come on.

 

Many of the students kind of know “Nostalgia in Times Square” by now. I have one who really seems to dig it and when there is that little drum and bass part right around the 9-minute part, he seems to be quite happy. The song does come back in with a pretty righteous groove and swing pretty hard at the 11:20 mark.

 

“I Can’t Get Started” is also pretty great, too, and sax dominant. I’m not an expert on the sax by any stretch of the imagination, but Handy’s work here is incredible before giving the reins back over to Mingus to do his thing on the bass. I also need to recognize Dannie Richmond on drums, which are absolutely perfect throughout.

 

I’ve read that many people consider this to be a great “bop” record. It certainly has moments that are great for bopping around. Readers of the daily blog will recognize the name, “Cocaine Baby.” I’ve caught him cutting a rug (dancing, not literally cutting the rug, although I wouldn’t put that past him) during “No Private Income Blues.”

 

Mingus fully shines on the third track, but really, everyone on the record, which also includes pianist, Richard Wyands, shines on “No Private Income Blues.” A bit longer than “Nostalgia in Times Square” at just under 13 minutes long, it never gets boring or old. How cool would it have been to be there that night in 1959 when this was recorded live at an art gallery in New York.

 

Time travel…where are you? I would totally travel back in time to catch this set live. Mingus is ruling around the five-minute mark here and just continues to soar.

 

“Alice’s Wonderland” is lush and classic and half-drunk sounding, too. It’s the last track and I won’t go as far as saying it’s the best because it isn’t, but it’s pretty rad. There is a sadness to it that kind of captures the spirit and feel of “Wonderland.” There is some whimsy and adventurousness to the song, too, but it’s mostly a little bit melancholy.

 

Charles Mingus was a goddamn national treasure and his music remains to be as such.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



Capybara's listen to Mingus

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