Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Perfect Day Gets "Perfecter"

This morning, a couple hours before the parade (me and the banjo are riding the "bandwagon" with some floozies from the Oriental Saloon) I am in the dusty streets of Tombstone, enjoying the perfect weather, the brilliantly bright but not oppressive sun, trying to teach two German girls the fine art of "moseying." The mosey is an essential gait to master if you wish to be comfortable in the west. It is done at a leisurely pace, not aimless, but not driven either. I'm pointing out some of the beautiful customs of the Old West. Hats are tipped, strangers greeted politely, children addressed as equals. The German girls are getting into the whole thing. We stop by the Dry Goods store so that they can buy some appropriate apparal for the shows today. Last night they felt very left out because they were dressed in modern clothing. We aim to remedy that, but, this is the west, there ain't no rush.

They are Germans though, their eyes keep leaving the street to check our progress toward our goal. Their strides lengthen, they begin to ignore passersby and purposefully move toward their goal. I gently remind them that there is plenty of time in the day. We ain't burning daylight mien damen.

We settle back into a gentle mosey when from out of nowhere I am grabbed about the waist by two sets of arms. Then the joyous shouting starts "Uncle Minstrel! Uncle Minstel!" I look down to find the Sgt. Major's beautiful twin daughters. Hugs and introductions are made and they girls breathlessly tell me that their father is riding with the 9th Cavalry Color Guard for the first time in today's parade. One of the beauties gives me a very solemn look and says "He's real nervous. He's riding on a borrowed horse and he thinks that it doesn't like him much." I begin to laugh it off and the other girl says "Did you bring your horses Uncle Minstrel? If he could ride Sally or Rosalita it would make him feel so much better." I tell them that I did, indeed, bring my horses. Except it might not be proper, that Color Guard is a very important duty and that the horses they have are trained especially for staying in line and close together. I suggest that there is something I have back at my trailer which will help to make their father less nervous. First however, we have to get the Germans to the store, and, giving a wink to their mother, "I think that they have some good old fashioned Wild West Candy at that same store." The little girls tell me I'm a genius.

We are chattering and having a great time the rest of the way to the store. The girls want to know what I'm doing down here and I tell them about the two shows we're doing at the opera house today, then I ask their mother if they would like to be my guest for tonight's big show. She promises to talk it over with her husband but she can't think of anything else they would want to do tonight.

Clothes and candy are purchased and with only a short stop into the Oriental Saloon for a Sarsaparilla on draught we head to my trailer digs. I duck in to change into my show duds. Nothing outrageous, just a bit cleaner, and brighter colors of my usual jeans, shirt and hat. I'm wearing the pearl grey, gunfighter blocked, Stetson with the coral snake hat band and two eagle feathers. I snatch up my banjo and grab my present for the Sgt. Major out of a drawer.

We head off to the staging area for the parade and the girls drag me at a rapid clip off to where their father and the other 9th Cavalry troops are putting the final spit and polish touches on themselves and their mounts. He beams 200watt brilliance when he sees who is with his girls. He looks perfect. They are wearing their "dress" uniforms, with full medals and I can tell at a glance that the Sgt. Major has seen the elephant a time or two himself. He introduces me to the other members of his unit and we shake hands and go through the required pleasantries. Just when the pauses begin to feel pressured I remember that I have brought him a gift. I tell him that the 9th and the 10th Cavalry were both stationed up in the White Mountains and that their scouts and a good percentage of their complement was made up of full pledged White Mountain Apache troopers. I tell them that my grandfather remembered making a little extra change when he was a boy by shining cavalry boots and always said that African Americans were among his favorite white people, they were in a tie with the Irish, who are only technically white. Then I open my banjo case and bring out a little bundle of red cloth. I tell them that when the Apache and the Buffalo Soldiers rode together the Apache gave battle honors to the Cavalry troopers in the exact same way they had always done. I open the bundle and hand a red-fluff-tipped eagle feather to the Sgt. Major. I tell him that I can see that his Bronze Star has the "V" device and Oak Leaves. I tell him that an eagle feather decorated like this one is the highest honor that an Apache Warrior can give to another.

Then we go over to the Sgt's mount and I braid the feather into the mane, just behind the ears. It looks gorgeous. I tell them that I have to find the people that I'm riding with in the parade but hope to see them all after the show.

As I track down the bandwagon and the floozies and see the owner/producer of the Birdcage there. I suggest to him that the Color Guard and their families would be a great thing to have in the Mayor's box at the afternoon show. He agrees that this would be a wonderful idea and scurries off to work it out with Buffalo Soldiers.

I get "Susannah" (my banjo was given a name by the people that made it instead of a serial or model number) and tune up.

The parade begins and the floozies and I begin to sing

words and music by Daniel Emmett

I come to town the other night,
To hear the noise and see the fight
The watchman was a running around
He hollered "Old Dan Tucker's come to town!"


Get out the way for Old Dan Tucker
He's to late to get no supper
Supper's done, breakfast's a cookin'
Old Dan Tucker's jest a standin' there a'lookin'

Old Dan Tucker was a mighty man,
Washed his face in a frying pan,
Combed his hair with a wagon wheel,
Died from toothache in his heel.


Old Dan Tucker he come to town,
Riding a billygoat, leading a hound,
Hound dog bark and the billygoat jump,
Throwed Dan Tucker on a stump.


Old Dan Tucker, he got drunk,
Fell in the fire and he kicked up a chunk,
Red hot coal got in his shoe,
Oh my Lawdy how the ashes flew.


Old Dan Tucker, he come to town,
Swinging the ladies round and round,
First to the right and then to the left
And then to the gal that he loved best.


Ol' Dan Tucker clumb up a tree,
His Lord and Master for to see,
The limb it broke and Dan got a fall,
Never got to see his Lord at all.


Ol' Dan Tucker went to the mill,
To git some meal to put in the swill;
The miller swore by the p'int of his knife
He never seed such a man in his life.


Dan Tucker begun in early life
To play the banjo and the fife;
He'd play the boys and gals to sleep
And then into some bunk he'd creep.



Friday, October 19, 2007

A Sure Fire Show Stopper

With about an hour and a half to go before our show walk through my violinist and I have been going over some of the tunes. We try to remain true to the era, which means that most of the songs we perform will be well over 150 years old. I have a great deal of respect for songs like that. There were times when singing for my children at bedtime I would get into that whole human continuity thing, amazed that I was part of nearly a thousand years of lullaby when I would sing Bhaidin Fheilimi or some other ancient tune. I often wonder when I look at the music people play now whether or not any of them will still be sung after that amount of time has passed.

Music at that time (circa 1880) tended to be shamelessly maudlin and emotional. They were great weepers and wailers when they gathered to sing. So, here's our showstopper.

Click Here For The Tune

Father, Dear Father, Come Home From The Bar
Words and Music by Henry Clay Work

(spoken introduction)

'Tis the song of little Mary
Standing at the bar-room door
While the shameful midnight revel
Rages wildly as before. (/into, begin music)

Father, dear father, come home from the bar!
The clock on the steeple strikes one;
You said you were coming straight home from the shop,
As soon as your day's work was done.
Our fire has gone out, our house is all dark,
And mother's been waiting since tea,
With poor brother Benny so sick in her arms,
And no one to help her but me.
Come home, come home, come home!
Please father, dear father come home.


Hear the sweet voice of the child,
Which the night winds repeat as they roam!
Oh who could resist this most plaintive of cries,
"Please father dear father, come home."

Father, dear father, come home from the bar!
The clock on the steeple strikes two;
The night has grown colder and Benny is worse,
But he has been calling for you.
Indeed his is worse, Ma says he will die
Perhaps before morning shall dawn;
And this is the message she sent me to bring,
"Come quickly! Or he will be gone."
Come home, come home, come home!
Please father, dear father come home.


Father, dear father, come home from the bar!
The clock on the steeple strikes three,
The house is so lonely, the hours are so long
For poor weeping mother and me.
Yes we are alone. Poor Benny is dead
And gone with the angels of light,
And these were the very last words that he said
"I want to kiss Papa goodnight."
Come home, come home, come home!
Please father, dear father come home.


The chorus of this song is a breeze, very easy to teach to a crowd. I do, however, intend to cheat. When I'm trying to get something like this going I have great success when I "seed" the crowd, with folks from the acts, stagehands, bartenders, the German Girls (I had to promise that we would play Der Lorilei oh my what a sacrifice! Force me to play something that beautiful!) Who pick up the chorus around the room. If there is a quiet voice, or a dry eye when we're done with this one I will be surprised.


Friday Random Ten (on the road edition)

This is so cool! I was up and on the road (with my Posse of a violinist and two German girls, the cowboys are gonna think this is one cool Indin) down to Tombstone well before dawn. I love hitting the crest of the Dragoons at or near dawn with Mozart blasting.

But the coolest of all is that after I got the horses turned out (no they're not at the OK corral) and settled in when I returned to the the front end of the horse trailer, yes, for any of you who might be harboring illusions about my immense attraction to women, the girls are staying in the bus, I get the trailer with the critters. But the cool part is that there is WiFi! WiFi floating around free in the old west! Cool!

I've got absolutely nothing to do before two this afternoon when we have a walk through of the show. I will show the German girls around the place, buy them a Sarsaparilla, maybe a stick of the wonderful candies they make at the General Store. I will stay out of gunfights.

Here's a Random ten, from our little hookup. . .

Sunday Street - - - Dave Van Ronk
The Water is Wide - - - Liam Clancy
The Marvelous Toy - - - Tom Paxton
See, See, Rider - - - Ella Fitzgerald
Me, and My Gin - - - Dinah Washington
How Long Has This Been Going On? - - - Dorothy Dandridge
Turn This Car Around - - - Tom Petty
Our Shangri-La - - - Mark Knopfler
Out For a Smoke - - - The Saw Doctors
Gone For Good - - - The Shins


Be True - - - Bruce Springsteen

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Book Giveaway Time Again!

I just finished a great little book by Bob Harris of Prisoner of Trebekistan a Decade of Jeopardy called Who Hates Whom

He goes region by region around the world and gives a thoughtful and incisive analysis of the conflicts. In the course of the book you learn little tidbits like

Which countries are fighting over an uninhabitable glacier with no real strategic value at an annual cost of half a billion dollars?

Which under-reported war has been the deadliest since World War II, worse than Viet Nam, with a continuing aftermath worse than most current conflicts combined?

Which royal family members were respected as gods, until the crown prince machine gunned the king and queen?

Which country's high school students think that the Nazis had a "good side"?

Which nation's readers recently put "Mein Kampf" on the best seller list?

Which country watches itself with more than four million security cameras?

(hint, the last three countries are all U.S. allies)

So, here's the deal. As with all of my give away contests I promise that the judging criteria will be unfair and arbitrary. I will further state the the judging panel (Me) will prove to be corrupt and easily swayed by off topic pleas. I am also very easy to bribe.

The contest is who ever give the most correct answers to the above questions will get a copy of the book, sent by me. The beauty of the whole thing is that somebody who knows all of that shit already won't be the one who needs to be reading it.

Leave your answers in the comments.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Andrew Sullivan on Watching Larry Craig

I read Sullivan pretty regularly. There are times where he and I certainly part company, but, at our core, we are in the same boat, as essentially libertarian conservatives who found our party co-opted by racists, sexists, and christian extremist whack jobs.

This one, though, is a thoughtful, and humanely generous account of the emotions raised by issues like this.

Like when he says:
And he constructed an identity in opposition to this "lifestyle" early, out of pain and defensiveness and terrible fear. He is now wedded to this life he created - more than to his wife

or this:
If you want an argument for why the cause for gay visibility, dignity and equality is necessary and indeed noble, just watch that interview again.

or especially this:
Craig was seeking in that toilet stall a connection, a shard of intimacy, that the world would not give him, or that he could not give himself. No one should have to live without that intimacy and dignity - no one. Living a life like that - a deeply lonely, compromised, painful interior existence - is a very sophisticated form of hell. No human can keep it up for ever. No human should have to keep it up for ever.

He is a hypocrite; and he made his choices. I am not going to dispute that. His voting record helped sustain the misery for others that he lived with himself. He is for ever responsible for that.

But he is also a victim. And to see such a victim's pain exposed brutally in a public restroom pains me. He needs help. So do millions of others.

Bravo Mr. Sullivan.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cool Halloween Idea

My niece is down with home made Halloween costume stuff. Our little enclave of houses is also into making our own treats and since we all know each other it's not one of those danger things.

But the subject of the post is her costume idea. It's brilliant. She took a shipping box and painted it up to look like it was a box of Cheerios. Then she took a knife handle and made it look like the box was stabbed.

She proudly showed me. I said "But what is it dear?"

She looked at me like I was stupid (I get that look a lot from kids and girlfriends) and said,

"I'm a Cereal Killer."

I collapsed with laughter.


Sunday, October 14, 2007


But it is pure ass hilarious Rudeness from The Rude Pundit

He's talking about all the ways not to fuck Ann Coulter. A noble sentiment indeed.

If you're at work now, wait until you get home, chase the kids away and prepare to laugh yourself silly.